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Women of Influence and Male Champions of Change

30 May 2014

Getting More Women To The Table

On the 4th of July the Westpac AFR 100 Women of Influence nominations open for 2014. For two years now we’ve been bringing to light Women of Influence in this country, providing them with a national platform from which to voice their thoughts and ideas. The awards bring diversity of opinion and experience to Australian business culture.

Giving these women a voice has not been difficult. They are leaders in their fields and worth listening to. They have contributed much to the leadership and diversity debate in their workplaces, communities and at home and that’s just some of the compelling reasons behind why we’re continuing to develop and grow this very special group. It’s also why I’m calling on all Australians to think about the women they know and the influence they have in their communities, at work and in society. I can’t urge you enough to take the time to nominate them and yourselves. I know 200 women is a great number but it’s just a drop in the ocean when I think about the potential still out there, quietly working and waiting to be unearthed and acknowledged.

My mantra is one I know I share with a lot of women leaders: seize opportunities when they arise.

Firstly, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Secondly, they may never come again.

I am not saying it won’t be daunting. It takes courage and confidence but, I’ve always found, it's worth the effort. I'm quite satisfied that I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't taken the opportunities I have. Chairing the Global Banking Alliance, for example; believing and sticking with developing women’s markets within Westpac; driving programs such as the 100 Women of Influence awards and our Mary Reibey scholarships and prizes for women in business and not-for-profits. Ultimately, these opportunities have played their part in leading me to where I am today. I also believe they’ve provided others with the opportunities they need to move forward.

Perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for me has come in championing Ruby and the Ruby Connection. It has provided a platform from which we can really drive change around diversity and women in leadership, as well as for women in business and women’s financial knowledge and understanding.

At a recent panel on which I sat, the idea about championing change led me to think about the initiative Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick began back in April 2010. She brought together a group of CEOs and Chairpersons to form the Male Champions of Change group. The group “aims to use their individual and collective influence and commitment to ensure the issue of women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda”. It’s been four years now and I’m interested to hear what has been happening and what they have achieved.

I know in March this year the Male Champions collaboration with Chief Executive Women was launched. They have established a model called The Leadership Shadow which a number of organisations have trialled. The model suggests actions and behaviours that are most likely to support progress for women into leadership. It also recommends questions that can be asked as self-evaluation or feedback.

Everything helps, I agree. However, I wonder if it’s time to lift the bar again? Are we ready for a new strategy and have these men stepped outside their comfort zones and really done something? I am dying to see their results because this truly is an issue for everyone. Men and women need to be on board and pushing for change.

The way I see it, we don’t just need equality of gender representation in our workplaces but when it comes to diversity of work, we need to know women are spread across the whole spectrum, reaching positions of power, and that men don’t still ‘rule the roost’.

The opportunities are there for us all to make a difference. Let’s take them.

Male Champions Of Change

In case you’re interested, and want to ask the members of Male Champions of Change (pictured above with Elizabeth Broderick) what they are doing, here they are:

Glen Boreham, Non-Executive Director

Gordon Cairns, Non-Executive Director

Stephen Fitzgerald, Non-Executive Director

Alan Joyce, CEO and Managing Director, Qantas

Elmer Funke Kupper, Managing Director and CEO, ASX Limited

Kevin McCann, Chair & Non-Executive Director

Lieutenant General David Morrison, Chief of Army, Australian Defence Force

Ian Narev, CEO, Commonwealth Bank

Sir Ralph Norris, Non-Executive Director

Grant O'Brien, Managing Director and CEO, Woolworths Ltd

Martin Parkinson, Secretary, The Treasury

Michael Rennie, Managing Partner, McKinsey

Stephen Roberts, Chief Country Officer, Citi, Australia

Stephen Sedgwick, Public Service Commissioner, Australian Public Service Commission

Mike Smith, CEO, ANZ

Andrew Stevens, Managing Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand

Giam Swiegers, CEO, Deloitte Australia

David Thodey, CEO, Telstra

Ian Watt, Secretary, Prime Minister and Cabinet

Geoff Wilson, Asia Pacific Regional Chief Operating Officer, KPMG

Simon Rothery, CEO, Goldman Sachs