Published October 12, 2021
You may have missed the news in late August that there is finally a woman seated at the board of every ASX200 company. I don’t blame you if you did; COVID-related restrictions, vaccine rollouts and roadmaps out of lockdowns were dominating the domestic news at the time (and still are today) – but that doesn’t diminish the significance of this important milestone.
To me it’s less about what it means for now, and more about what it means for the future. Driving equality speaks to my core, my purpose, and gets me going every day.
I’m a big believer in people having to see something to believe it. And for women out there in the workforce, this is proof of what can really be achieved. Representation is so crucial. Seeing women as equal in business, and in government, is the first step for seeing women as equal throughout all parts of society.
But it’s not just women who benefit from this equality. The UN Foundation calls gender equality an “aspiration that benefits all of society, including girls and women”. According to the Victorian government, equal communities are “safer and healthier”.
The economic benefits also impact all of us. Australia’s gross domestic product would grow 11 per cent if we could close the gender employment gap alone. The gender gap between tertiary education and the workforce costs us $A8 billion. There’s clear science behind this.
This is why I’m honoured to join Chief Executive Women (CEW), a group of more than 1,000 trailblazers which has for decades pushed for equal representation in Australia. It’s a group I hold in such high esteem.
These women are an inspiration for myself and others, and I’m proud to become a part of it, alongside my ANZ colleagues Emma Gray, Group Executive, Data and Automation; Kate Gibson, Managing Director, Consumer Banking; and Katherine Bray, Managing Director, Retail. This is a significant achievement for all of us, particularly in such a male-dominated world like banking.
It’s a tremendous honour to be a part of CEW. And it reinvigorates my passion to further drive the equality agenda, particularly at the highest levels of our organisation.
For the first time in a long time we are seeing significant movement in favour of equality. We saw a jump in the past when the 30% Club launched in Australia which placed a significant focus on gender equality on boards, or before that, when the Male Champions For Change initiative kicked off. These were – and are still – fantastic achievements and initiatives. But over time the focus waned, and stats went backwards. We can’t have a repeat of history.
In my role at ANZ I have strived to create a culture of transparency, equality, innovation and continuous improvement. This approach has yielded meaningful results including, importantly, strong women-in-management statistics, a strong “speak-up” culture and strong financial results – all intertwined with one another.
We’ve done this by shifting the thinking around recruitment and ensuring, without exception, there is a gender-balanced panel of equal-seniority individuals and a shortlist of equally strong candidates – no token females.
We’re not quite there yet, but I definitely think ANZ is on the right path. I know when I look at our board, our next layers down, we’re getting there. We’re certainly ahead of some other companies and industries – I still attend meetings outside ANZ when I am the only female there.
I think ANZ has a lot to be proud of in this regard. To be honest, I joined the bank more than 12 years ago because it had a reputation for being a good place to work for women, and I recently read on ANZ News that Gibson joined with the same reputation drawing her in.
Driving gender equality at work became a top priority for me when I assumed the role of CEO for ANZ in Laos seven years ago. At that time, my son was three years old and my daughter was just nine months.
In my time there I resolved that when my kids entered the workforce as young adults, I would be able to look them in the eye and say I did everything in my power to make the workplace balanced and fair.
During my time in Laos, I became a signatory to the UN Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). I saw firsthand the benefit of investing in women, and in women entrepreneurs in particular, in uplifting communities out of poverty. There are plenty of studies that show when you invest in women and support them in businesses, it has an exponential impact on community, economic growth and stability.
In emerging markets like Laos, the benefits of equality are more apparent. Unfortunately, just as apparent is the detriment to society when equality doesn’t exist. Those same benefits and detriments exist here in Australia - but are somewhat more masked, or easier to dismiss. Therefore, leaders in private and public sector need to lean in more to solve this problem and take an active role, whatever their position may be.
The reality is we must continue to change – even if some find it hard.
As a business leader, how could it not be top of mind? There has been an endless number studies done that show when businesses have a gender-balanced leadership team – not just workforce, but leaders at the top making the strategic decisions – their businesses increase profitability when compared to companies that do not have gender-balanced leadership.
It’s better for your bottom line. It provides a better representation of the community that you serve. It’s a sound business decision as much as anything else – and it’s also the kind of company that I want to represent.
As a proud member of CEW, I’ll continue to ensure this is something that is seen – and resolved.
Tammy Medard is Managing Director, Institutional Australia & PNG at ANZ
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