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Secretary, 2nd most influential woman in the world

09 September 2012

Secretary of State, it has this very ‘feminine’ ring to it and yet Hillary – the 67th Secretary – is only the third woman to hold the position. (The others are Madeleine Albright, appointed by Hillary’s husband, Bill, when he was President, and Condoleeza Rice, appointed by George W. Bush.)

Mrs Clinton’s on my dinner party list because she’s living proof integrity and reputation count, and that being resilient and delivering on what you promise earns you respect. 

Our recently retired board member, Carolyn Hewson, would be another guest. Carolyn was found by The Age newspaper’s project to: “chart the networks and influences that direct – quite literally – our largest, most important companies,” to be the second most influential person at board level in the country, and her resilience and integrity as a director is unquestioned around those tables.

Back to Mrs Clinton. She attended the Pacific Islands Forum in the region recently, the first time a US Secretary of State has come to the annual Forum. Her interest in the area and its problems, however, is not new. A couple of years ago she expressed a desire to work with Australia to turn back the tide of violence against women in the Pacific Island region. Now, she’s been here to actually witness the launch of a major Australian initiative by our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, of a massive aid package to fund a new decade long program to boost the role of women in the region. Mrs Clinton is being true to her word. She is well aware of the evidence gathered by organizations, such as the UN and the World Bank, on the positive impact for economies and societies of investing in women and girls, and is convinced of its efficacy.

Second on the 2012 Forbes List of the world’s Most Influential Women (German Chancellor Angela Merkel sits in first place), Mrs Clinton’s conviction and undying commitment to redressing the balance for women and girls in society and maximizing the potential of the female population at every level is well documented. 

She is also very aware of the part Westpac plays in promoting women’s access to finance and creating opportunities for women entrepreneurs both here in Australia and through the work we do globally, especially in our role with the GBA. In an APEC Women and the Economy Forum address in St Petersburg in Russia back in June this year, she referenced the work Westpac does building inclusive lending platforms (they’re the ones that allow women access to finance and capital), saying: “…Westpac Bank has increased their bottom line by 2.5 billion Australian dollars in 2009 by focusing on women as borrowers.”

I also met with Mrs Clinton’s advisers when I was in Washington earlier this year for my final meeting as chair of the GBA. They wanted to discuss the benchmarks Westpac is setting in the access arena and how that ‘best-practice’ is being used by GBA member institutions globally to increase inclusive borrowing strategies and financial access for women in their own countries. 

That same knowledge transference is also the reason I’m off to Tokyo in October. I’ve been invited to attend the 2012 IMF/World Bank Group Annual Meetings in Japan and share our knowledge, especially at the Women and Business events. 

The word is out and spreading like wildfire.

I hope I don’t sound like a skite but I just have to say I get this fantastic buzz and feel so proud to think Westpac and Australia are being acknowledged on the world stage and playing such a major part in developing the female economy. Expanding networks and spheres of influence while running the gender lens over your opportunities is so important for delivering wider economic and social benefits. 

It reminds me of the important part Ruby plays in providing you and me as members with the connectivity we need to grow. 

And, just so Ruby can support you to do an even better job, we’re busy refreshing, reworking and increasing access to her and what she has to offer our current and future members. We’ve got a mobile site for smart phones coming – making Ruby easier to read and use on the go. There’s new content, including a special offers area; upgrades to existing content and exclusive member status, and it will all be online in just a few months’ time.

September marks the beginning of our Ruby Learning Series. Held across the country and tackling your Superannuation questions and worries, you can find them on Ruby events under the title: “A man is not a financial plan”. The seminars are filling fast and are guaranteed to lift your financial knowledge and help foolproof your future. If you miss out this time, we have more events planned in the future and you can always have a look on our Davidson Institute site. We have all manner of helpful tips on Super and online courses you can hook into there. 

October is breast cancer month and again there are a number of initiatives we’ll be launching with the National Breast Cancer Foundation and its Register4 project. As more and more women and men join the project’s database – expanding the network and sphere of influence – more and more benefits for research and finding a cure are uncovered. For the scientists involved in the projects, the database makes the task of finding research subjects much simpler. In fact, the strategy has been one of the unsung successes of the initiative, supplying them with a consistent river of people who are ready and willing to get involved. I can’t tell you just how important that is in life, at work, and in business, but I can tell you it’s the root of all success.

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