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Power weeks

07 March 2011

What a difference a week can make... We've played a part in some fantastic initiatives recently, locally, nationally and internationally we're world leaders. Some of the events have been with Westpac CEO Gail Kelly in person. Others, I've had the good fortune to be part of as a representative of Westpac.

The 10th Anniversary Summit of the Global Banking Alliance in Washington DC is an important one that's just wrapped up. Hosted by the IFC, member banks and others interested in seeing what it is the GBA does (and who now want to join) were held at IFC headquarters 2121 Pennsylvania Avenue for three days. As the chair of the GBA I was busy: mediating panels, organising speakers, chairing the AGM and convincing those banks who'd come for a look to join up. (We were successful in convincing many of them to get on board.) And at the annual dinner and awards night held at the Mandarin Oriental, Loretta Napoleoni - acclaimed economist and author, recent Melbourne Writers Festival guest, and a good friend of mine - spoke on \"Terrorism and the Economy, 2010: How the war on terror is bankrupting the world.\"

The best

But it wasn't all 'terror', Westpac was awarded Best Practice Worldwide for its work in women's markets and acknowledged for its 10-year commitment to the GBA. And next year, Syd-en-ey will host the Summit. Something I'm really looking forward to and which I got a kick out of announcing at the dinner with that extra special Juan Antonio Samaranch syllable.

All of this comes hot on the tail of Gail's signing in August of the Women's Empowerment Principles, a UNIFEM and UN Global Compact initiative. Thirty-eight other CEOs signed the Statement of Support, which unites chief executives from companies around the world in a commitment to lessening inequality between men and women.

40% rules

And that brings me back to something closer to home and Gail's announcement on October 11 at a major Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce business lunch with The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Prime Minister, and Catherine Livingstone AO, Chairman, Telstra, of Westpac's plan to increase the percentage of women occupying senior management roles in the organisation from 33% to 40% by the end of 2014. Getting us to that requires more than words and is being backed by initiatives such as offering 13 weeks' paid leave and superannuation contributions for unpaid leave for an additional 39 weeks. Diversity rules...

So I wasn't surprised when I stepped back into Australia after the GBA on October 25, to find myself (dosed to the eyeballs for a chest infection I'd picked up somewhere between the States and Sydney) marching up from Westpac headquarters in Kent Street through Martin Place to the launch of the NBCF's Register4 project. (I'd been part of the 20 person advisory panel for the project.)

Led by Gail, and all of us in Westpac-designed, pink, 1 in a million T-shirts (which I had a devil of a time matching back to my wardrobe), 1000 Westpac employees converged on the event compared by Kerri-Anne Kennerley and featuring NBCF Ambassador Sarah Murdoch.

Many Westpac Group employees based in 60 Martin Place and 275 Kent Street who walked with Gail have been directly affected by breast cancer and had their own reasons for being there.

Julene Lee, Team Coordinator, Economics, WIB, has been a long time contributor to the Cancer Council: \"As a cancer patient myself I have seen first hand what women go through. I've also lost a relative to breast cancer and have two friends recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

\"This insidious disease is debilitating and needs more funding for the researchers looking for a cure.\"

Di Tuit, Customer Experience Manager, BT Financial Group, has her own story: \"My fabulous mother is a breast cancer survivor and her strength and tenacity during her treatment was inspirational.

\"Unfortunately her sister, my gorgeous aunt who was incredibly special to me, was not so fortunate and lost her battle with the disease after many years of bravery and hard knocks. Any research initiative to find a cure for breast cancer is one I'll wholeheartedly support.\"

So, on a grey Monday we were all a sea of positive pink for this great cause - the prevention and eventual eradication of breast cancer.

Sounds like a big ask, but Register4 believes in the collective power of women and men. Here are just some of the facts, for more, visit the website (see links below).

What is Register4?

Register4, an initiative of the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), is an online community that brings you together with breast cancer researchers for the joint purpose of finding answers faster.

Ultimately, we believe Register4 can significantly change the course of breast cancer research in Australia. It may also answer questions about other diseases too. It's free to join. You just need to be 18 or older to join to volunteer for our breast cancer research projects.

Why should I join Register4?

We all fit a lot into our busy schedules. But it's not every day we get the chance to do something amazing that has the potential to save lives. Imagine if there was something special about you that held the answers to a future free from breast cancer? Wouldn't you want to help?

I don't have breast cancer. Can I still join Register4?

Of course, breast cancer impacts on the lives of everyone. All women aged 18 or over are invited to join.

Can men join Register4?

Absolutely. While less than 1% of all breast cancer cases occur in men, anyone aged 18 or older is encouraged to join Register4. Our vision is for Register4 is to eventually answer questions about a range of health issues, such as prostate cancer, diabetes and mental illness. Naturally, this will create further opportunities for men to participate.

Why do we need a national research register?

Breast cancer is still the most common cancer affecting Australian women, and over the last few decades its incidence has been on the rise.

More research is needed so we can pinpoint better preventative measures and help find a cure. However, the issue is that researchers often speak of how long it can take to find the right people to participate in their work. (It can sometimes take years!) The more women who join Register4, the fewer delays and the faster researchers can get to work.

What does Register4 hope to achieve?

Our ultimate goal is to prevent and cure breast cancer. We want one million women to join Register4's online community - a massive database of passionate people that will facilitate and fast-track breast cancer research.

Ambitious? Yes. Achievable? We believe so.