Male leaders build momentum for women in business

April 2010 – 

A new leadership group of male CEOs and Chairmen, from a diverse set of Australian companies, has been formed to elevate the issue of women’s representation in the corporate sector on the national business agenda.

The leadership group, established at a meeting with the Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick, in Sydney during the week, will use their collective influence and personal commitment to develop and drive strategies to progress gender equality in the Australian corporate sector.

The formation of the group was prompted by the ASX Corporate Governance Council recommendations on diversity, which require each listed entity on the ASX to adopt and disclose a diversity policy that includes measurable objectives relating to gender.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Elizabeth Broderick applauded the formation of the group, saying it was an enormously important development.

“The commitment and enthusiasm of these men will be one of the most significant factors in achieving success and building momentum toward the adoption of the ASX Council reforms, which are due to be implemented in January 2011,” Commissioner Broderick said.

The group is comprised of:

  • Glen Boreham, Managing Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand
  • Gordon Cairns, Non-Executive Director, Westpac and Origin Energy Ltd
  • Robert Elstone, Managing Director and CEO, Australian Securities Exchange
  • Stephen Fitzgerald, Co-CEO and Managing Director, Goldman Sachs JBWere
  • Michael Luscombe, Managing Director and CEO, Woolworths Ltd
  • Kevin McCann, Chair non-Executive Director of various Boards including Origin Energy Ltd, Macquarie Bank Ltd and Australian Institute of Company Directors
  • Stephen Roberts, CEO of the Citi Institutional Clients Group, Australia and New Zealand
  • Giam Swiegers, CEO, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, Australia
  • David Thodey, Managing Director and CEO, Telstra Ltd.
  • In a statement made following the meeting, the group said:

“Strong leadership is crucial to progressing gender equality and increasing the number of women at the decision-making level. We have come together as a group of senior businessmen to provide national leadership; to use our personal influence to drive change; to act as an advisory group and to support the work of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner.”

“Any business that wants to fully understand the marketplace needs to ensure it has the right mix of people, skills and experience in decision-making positions. If you don’t have a diverse workplace, you run the risk of being less competitive. In other words, gender diversity is good for business.”

“There are a range of important initiatives already underway by key stakeholders, including the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Business Council of Australia. By acting together, we hope to embed a culture of diversity and change the face of the business environment.”

“It is hoped that foreign multinationals and professional services firms operating in Australia will also adopt disclosure policies in their own stakeholder communications.”

Commissioner Broderick said that the importance of gender equality in senior business decision-making should not be undervalued: “Everyday, boards and corporate decision makers are influencing our lives – from the decisions that are made about the products we consume, how we live, what we eat, how we are entertained and what services we can access – so it is imperative that this sort of decision-making has equal representation from both genders.