- In 1999, Sue Sheldon CNZM FCA was the first woman appointed as president of the New Zealand Institute of Chartered Accountants.
- As a company director and board chair she has helped shape NZ business.
- She says increasing diversity among business leaders and in the boardroom is close to her heart.
I was born in Lower Hutt, Wellington, while my father was studying for a law degree at Victoria University of Wellington and working on weekends for the Defence Force as a pilot in the Territorial Force volunteers. He was killed in an aircraft accident when I was age one and my mother raised two small daughters on her own in Nelson, our family home. My grandparents were very influential in our early lives, providing great support to my mother as a young widow.
My mother remarried when I was six and later presented us with a little brother. Holidays consisted of camping or a rented bach in Golden Bay, Kaiteriteri or the Marlborough Sounds with plenty of beach and swimming.
Picture: Sue (at left) with her sister in Nelson.
1960s – 1979
My primary school years were spent at Stoke School in Nelson, where I was sent from Standard 3 to Intermediate, which made me a very young student for the rest of my education.
Our family moved to Christchurch at the beginning of my high school years and I attended Hagley High School. Following seventh form, I studied at Canterbury University for a B.Com and was 19 when I completed my degree.
When I was in the sixth form I was offered the opportunity to start working at Pickles, Perkins & Hadlee in Christchurch – a nine-partner firm that, after many mergers, became KPMG in Christchurch.
It was a great way to learn the nuts and bolts of practical accounting in the late 1960s, including balancing multi-column cash books by hand. Great reconciliation skills were developed! I moved through a couple of local CA firms then into practice with my then-husband in 1979.
1993 – 2018
I was elected to the council of the NZ Society of Accountants in 1993. This was the year the profession underwent major structural change in New Zealand and emerged as the NZ Institute of Chartered Accountants (NZICA). Over time, I worked on committees covering Discipline, Professional Standards, Accounting Standards and Admission, and then the Executive Board.
Picture: Sue Sheldon as NZICA president in 2000.
In late 1999 I took on the role of NZICA president, the first woman appointed to that position since the professional accounting body started in 1908. I finished my last role for CA ANZ in 2018.
Picture: Being ‘roasted’ at the end of her NZICA presidential term, with Mark Hadlow playing fast and loose with the presidential chain. “Might be the only time my son has worn a tux!” Sheldon says.
In 1997, I was asked to take up an appointment as a director of Christchurch International Airport. Since I generally have the attitude “Can I do this? Why not?” I accepted. It was the beginning of a move into full-time governance in which I have some very interesting roles. Highlights have been large start-ups Meridian Energy and Chorus and the chairmanship of Freightways.
Over the past 24 years I have held many directorship and chair roles across the listed, state-owned enterprises, government and private sectors.
My involvement with NZ Global Women – on the board and as chair – has allowed me to work to work with corporate business on the need to increase the influence of women in senior management and governance.
Improving diversity and inclusion are issues close to my heart – I have often been the only woman around board tables, which research shows does not lead to optimal business outcomes.
“Improving diversity and inclusion are issues close to my heart – I have often been the only woman around board tables, which research shows does not lead to optimal business outcomes.”
2007 – 2021
Picture: At the CA ANZ Life Membership presentation in 2018.
In 2007, I was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to business, and in 2018 CA ANZ appointed me a Life Member together with Liz Hickey FCA; we were the first women to be given this status.
In June 2021, I was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Finance and Business Award at the 2021 New Zealand CFO Awards. I feel very privileged to have been recognised by both the accounting profession and the community.
Picture: At the 2021 New Zealand CFO Awards.
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