Dame Rosanne Meo (O’Loughlen)

2013 Dame Rosanne Meo (o’loughlen) V3

Following a successful career in the male-dominated NZ Forest Products Corporation, in 1991 Dame Rosanne Meo was elected the first female president of the Employers' Federation. In her time as a public director, Dame Rosanne chaired Television New Zealand and sat on the board of Mercury Energy, Sky TV, Ports of Auckland, Forestry Corporation, and Baycorp.

In the 1993 Queen's Birthday Honours, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to business management. Her lifelong mantra, "anyone can do anything," has taken her to the top of the corporate business world, but it was her work using that leadership experience to assist several not-for-profit companies to success that saw her honoured in 2012 as Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business.

In 2016, Dame Rosanne received the New Zealand Women of influence Award for lifetime achievement. She is passionate about correcting the gender imbalance where women hold less prominent roles than men in the New Zealand business world. Even as a solo mother, she believes it is possible to combine motherhood and a successful career while achieving satisfaction and enjoyment from both. New Zealand recently ranked 10th in the world for the number of women on boards with 17.5%, and Dame Rosanne feels there is still a long way to go. 

Looking back at your years at Baradene, was there a defining moment or someone who influenced you to be the woman you have become?  

There is no doubt that Baradene had a great influence on me. Like my sisters, Louise and Margaret, we had all of our schooling there and the nuns were amazing as a community. In spite of the rigours of a closed order, as Sacre Coeur was then, their personalities, their spirituality and their social attitudes shone through and provided both inspiration and gave you a sense of being able to achieve ... and defy the odds.

You are well known for your philanthropy and charity work - do you think this can be referenced back to your Baradene College days? 

Both family and the values from the school coupled with the strength of spirit in my family, the O'Loghlens. I think it made us all quite individualistic and not easily daunted, but with strong social values. Our Father's Irish Catholic background and Mother's Dalmatian and Scottish background made us very grounded, and that, combined with a radical activist grandmother, ensured we were socially aware. Many of the nuns had similar backgrounds, and their religion and Cor Unum ethos did.

What advice would you give to a young woman in 2017 about to enter the business world? 

Firstly remember that we are privileged to have families that have enabled us to be schooled at Baradene and that, for many, that has meant some sacrifices. Just believe in yourself and what you can achieve. Be discerning, however, about what it is that you want in life, and be sure you find a balance between what you are as a woman, as a mother, if that is what you choose, and as a New Zealander. This is an amazing country, and we are fortunate in what we have, but we must continue to strive for more for all New Zealanders if it is to mean anything! The achievements of the School today are impressive, and the leadership of the School should give each of you a pathway forward.

Are you able to share an amusing or memorable moment of your time at Baradene?

So many memories from hiding up the stairs near the Crucifix and skipping classes by hiding in the Library. The first School Ball. The horror of "no mention" at Weekly Notes! But perhaps my most memorable chuckle still is about my French accent. I loved learning languages and French in particular, and Sacre Coeur links to France inspired me. So Mother and Dad arranged for me to go up to Tahiti to stay with friends to improve my French in school holidays. They reported back that I was doing alright but that my accent had a touch of Irish from the lovely nun who was teaching me. In my last year of School, Upper 6th as we called it then, I persuaded Mother Mahar to let me go into University to study prelim Italian. Off I would drive from school, rapidly change out of my uniform in the car. Go to lectures and then change back into uniform. Don't know who spotted me, but Mother Mahar did later tell me that she knew. Of course, it's a family joke that I was studying languages "because I was going to be the only one in the family that never went into Business!"

Dame Rosanne was the first-ever recipient of the Baradene College Alumnae Meritae Award.