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Diversity's Pin Up Girl

13 December 2012

I’m going to admit, though, Hillary Rodham Clinton is the closest I’ve come to getting out the sticky tape. If I was to be a card carrying Democrat, she’d get my vote. To me, she’s the ‘poster girl’ for my generation. In fact, Hillary’s the pin-up girl for any diversity fan, and even though her resignation from politics will leave a vacuum, on a wider, global level, it’s exciting to think about what she’ll do next.

Certainly, Mrs Clinton (as one of the most influential people on the world stage, especially when it comes to Women’s Rights, and as one of the most popular public figures in America) has any number of possibilities ahead of her.

She’s been First Lady, a Senator, and Secretary of State. In this last role, she’s visited more than 100 countries in four years – a punishing schedule by any stretch of the imagination. (President Obama has visited 32 countries.) As Secretary of State, Hillary saw it as her job to prepare America’s standing in the world and to inform global perception – and to do that effectively means building personal relationships.

She says she’s done with politics. (Even though the talk is that many of her supporters want her to run in 2016, when she will be 69.) Whatever her decision, those who know her say she never does anything by halves, which, if she does decide to concentrate on non-profit work around women’s rights, will be an amazing addition to the momentum already up and running.

For example, the Global Banking Alliance, and its work with women and access to finance, already has her endorsement and the State Department’s pledge of ongoing support. That’s fantastic news for the female economy, which I have to say is finally getting the recognition and understanding it has long deserved.

On a more local level, the amount of engagements I’m asked to attend around similar issues keeps growing. Westpac’s commitment to women’s markets and this space has meant I get requests all the time to come and speak and provide insights into the stretch of the female economy and how business and individuals and institutions can best engage with and reach it successfully.

That’s good news for men, women and business, but it needs to be handled correctly.

My opinion on how to handle it remains firm. Women don’t want to be treated under a separate entity, carrying a title such as women in business, and they certainly don’t want ‘pink’ products. What they are after is the opportunity to network with others in business – or whatever the space – in an integrated and diverse setting. No one wants to be relegated to the ‘ladies’ lounge’.

And this is where I believe we have created the perfect vehicle, developing and establishing a brand within our corporate structure which is focused on women but which is non-exclusive. That brand is Ruby and its continuing success has come from the fact we’ve bedded the brand into the business – not separated it out and created a ghetto.

It’s not about reaching women or reaching men, it’s about reaching and connecting with key decision makers. In the end it’s about setting up channels of communication that flow back and forth between all parties. It’s about treating each other with the respect we would demand for ourselves, no matter our age, stage, gender, race or abilities.

I am on the diversity board for the top tier law company, Allens Linklaters, where I have been learning and experiencing a great deal about another massive area in diversity: Australia’s indigenous culture and the issues around inclusion and opportunity indigenous Australians face. Mostly, and I think this is the case for many of us, what we experience of the world’s oldest living culture – and the culture we have the privilege of existing with in this country and the opportunity to really embrace and understand if we wished to – is through what we read and see in the media… and that is invariably negative.

I’m 100 percent sure this negativity is given far too much air-play. I believe this because, firstly, I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person and even though I know there are terrible injustices and great social problems in indigenous communities, I know there are as many fantastic, inspiring and positive individual and community stories out there as well. We just don’t get to hear or see them.

And I know all this because I sit with Professor Michael McDaniel, the Director of Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, at the University of Technology Sydney, in the Allens diversity board meetings and he is an inspiration. Every time I come away from time spent with him I feel a sense of calm and respect, which is why I am so excited about the potential and influence of the project he is chairing next year.

Corroboree is a 10-day festival event slated for November 2013. It will celebrate the richness of indigenous cultures and reveal a new way of seeing Sydney. The program is inspiring, and like our 100 Women of Influence, all of whom are featured here on Ruby, and which I urge you to go and read about, it will give us new, positive stories and role models to contemplate and model ourselves upon.

It’s a big year 2013. Westpac will be just 4 years away from its 200th anniversary, celebrating our status as the first bank and business in Australia. We also have our own Federal Election coming up. Looking at the recent US election, where they have just achieved the biggest number of women in government ever – with 20 women gaining places in the Senate and 61 in the House, and where more women won their races for governor than at any other time in history and where for the first time women are the majority voters in the country – I hope we can keep up the pace in Australia and add further to the momentum. We might be ushering in the Asian century but we are also at the forefront of the ‘century of women’.

Christmas and New Year are upon us… AGAIN.

I swear, the years move faster and faster. This silly season I am off with my daughters to spend time reading, factoring up with 30+ (I heard 50+ won’t be available until mid January), enjoying good food and wine down on the beach. We are again keeping it local and keeping it slow. It’s been such a busy year and if I’m to prepare and be ready for 2013 I will need to rejuvenate. I am looking forward to connecting with you all in the New Year having emerged from my cocoon regenerated and beautifully coloured.

Stay safe and have a Happy New Year.

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2 comments

  • Claire Howells

    Claire Howells 6 years ago

    "It’s not about reaching women or reaching men, it’s about reaching and connecting with key decision makers. In the end it’s about setting up channels of communication that flow back and forth between all parties". Larke,a powerful statement! As women strive for excellence it is imperative not to swing the pendulum of equality past the midpoint and defeat the very purpose of diversity and inclusion. As I manage diversity for a financial institution in the USA, keeping the balance on EEO, outreach, client and employee satisfaction all come into play. Indiginous americans experience similar inclusion issues to indiginous australians, and there remains much to be considered. Regardless of the categorizations and statistics that are reached admist all the analyzing and pursuit of equality and opporutnity for all ... my opinion is that an approach founded on the fundamental core value of respect for the worth of the one is essential to success. Every individual has unique skills, talents and intelligence that they and they alone can contribute; approaching employees and customers with this mindset is a catalyst that will augment any program, projecting it further along the path of customer, employee and individual success.

  • Remis John

    Remis John 6 years ago

    This was one of the best new year eve, since the world didn't ends. So big reason to celebrate.