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My Westpac anniversary, globalisation and women in business

01 August 2014

August 2 marks my 30 year anniversary with Westpac. For some people that might seem like a long time in one place but it’s not. Not because my career has always been perfect but it has always taken me from one challenge to the next, filling my life with possibilities and difference.

Having just come back from a short break - a staycation where I spent my time puppy training - I found I did switch off from work, absorbing and reflecting on what was happening around me on a much wider level.

Solly The Spaniel In The Car

As a family we’ve always had dogs, but I must admit I’ve been used to having my girls at home doing the training. I have to say, a puppy is like having a naughty child - so don't be fooled by the above shot. Just the other morning I stepped out of the shower and onto the cold bathroom tiles. Solly (above) – short for Solomon - had stolen the bath mat and was blissfully gnawing on it in the lounge room.

Solly’s naughty, but he’s a powerful people magnet. (If you’re single, I get why walking a puppy is a fabulous social lubricator.) Everyone stops for a pat and a chat. I myself met this little fellow the other day; he would have been 4 or 5 years old and he came running down his front path saying to me: ‘Oh my goodness you have a puppy. Where do you live?’

I told him a couple of streets away and he said, ‘No, exactly where do you live because I want to come over and play.’

I said well what about I come past here on my walk and you can see the puppy then. Politely he asked me to wait a moment while he went to get his mummy and daddy.

I heard him run into the house and say ‘mummy and daddy this will be the most important thing you have ever done in your life, can you please come with me I have something to show you.’

Out they came and as soon as they saw Solly, they said, ‘We should have known it was a puppy. He’s been pestering us for a puppy.’

New connection formed I continued on my way and thought to stop for a cup of coffee. I love a communal table, so it wasn’t long before I was chatting to two young women who’d just clocked off work. Ambulance officers, they were telling me about their jobs, the training to become a paramedic and why the long-standing dispute (two years and counting) with the Victorian state government over pay rises is so important. Paramedics in Victoria I learned are paid up to $30,000 less than their counterparts in other states and at the top level earn about $75,000. For such a vital job - saving lives – it seemed to me out of balance. When another young girl at the table we were all sharing began discussing with her parents an upcoming overseas trip my two young paramedic companions looked wistfully at one another. Their wage wouldn’t stretch to travel yet.

It got me thinking about travel and how lucky we are in Australia. Unrest and violence in other parts of the world can seem so very far away. Gaza, Syria, the Ukraine can feel divorced from life and then through a stroke of fate, Australia is forever bound to a conflict because of one tragic action. Snatched from the sky by a missile, the loss of MH17 and all on board binds us to the Ukraine conflict. Everything has a ripple effect. You never know when that ripple will touch you or someone close to you.

Globalisation comes with mixed blessings. For me, it should be about doing and being part of positive actions, auspicing such things as the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence awards. (There’s just a week to go before nominations for this year’s 100 close (August 10), so don’t miss your opportunity.)

Then in September (17-19) I set off for the Global Banking Alliance summit in Washington - the only banking conference of its kind to focus exclusively on the power of the Women's Market.

From there I head up to New York to take part in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Westpac and Women’s Markets have been invited by CGI to join them in the work they do, especially to speak about women’s financial inclusion and women’s economic representation.

Steps for women in business

As the benchmark-setting institution, Westpac’s regularly asked to attend and speak at conferences on the issue. Recently, with the support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs I was invited to be a keynote speaker at an investor event to be held in The Hague in the Netherlands in late October. The event will gather together the investor community to inform, inspire and mobilise them to invest in female entrepreneurs. We will share the valuable knowledge and broad experience we have as a bank with this untapped market.

I also want to encourage women to travel and widen their experience in business and bring that experience and success back to Australia, which is why on reflection we need to leave the safety and comfort of our own homes.

Of course, in all this thought one of the real motivators for me is the chance to meet my idol, Hillary (below with husband President Clinton), at the CGI event in New York. It will be awesome and I’m sure I will be nervous. Perhaps I’ll take Solly to ease the way.

Bill And Hillary Clinton



  • wendy simpson

    wendy simpson 5 years ago

    Hi there Ruby members, what an amazing journey our Ruby founder has been on over the last 30 years. Larke we salute you, we trumpet from the roof tops all that you have done for women in Australia and now in the world as you spread your influence globally! Enjoy Washington!