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Connexus : Issue 40
advises companies to star t answer ing some basic questions about the makeup of their business. “A re women underrepresented on your board? Is the pipeline for women blocked? In other words, if you look at the percent age of people who get promoted, do women proportionately do better or worse than you might expect?” she asks. “ Until you know there’s a gender pay gap, that women are underrepresented, that women ‘fall off the truck’ in middle management or before and fail to reach senior executive levels, you’re not in a position to do anything about it.” Joining Medd on the Abacus for um’s diversity panel were representatives from the mutual and banking sectors: Theresa Mason, head of sales and marketing and a director at Teachers Mutual Bank; Sonia Casanova, a director at Country First Credit Union and Abacus; and Christine Yates, head of Australian debt markets at National Australia Bank (NAB). They each shar ed their exper iences of gender diversity in the workplace. When Mason started at Teachers Credit Union 25 years ago, there was only one female director. But watching how the board interacted with that director made her r ealise that diver sity was a good thing. “ For ty-four per cent of our board is now female, and our management and executive teams also have healthy percentages of females,” she says. “ But there’s always room for improvement, so we’ve introduced a program called Talent Smart which provides oppor tunities for coaching, mentor ing, work shops and conferences. Young women can look at what’s happening in the market and bring some of that knowledge and exper ience back to Teachers Mutual Bank.” At NAB, it all comes from the top, says Yates. “Our group CEO, Cameron Clyne, is passionate about talent, and part of that is looking at the gender mix.” NAB also has training to over r ide ‘unconscious bias’. “ They make us really think about recruiting specifically for skills gaps, as distinct from ‘You’re a good guy, I trust you, I’ve worked with you before’ – which is often the default position many of us have when it comes to recr uitment.” Casanova says it’s no accident that she chose the mutual industry to start her board career. “Our industry is very welcoming to female directors and executives. I’d encourage women looking for a board career to consider mutuals.” Strength in numbers The diversity panellists were divided on the issue of introducing targets and quotas to increase gender equity in the workplace. Medd says WOB is in favour of targets, but quotas will come into play if insufficient progress is made. Yates says she has changed her mind from thinking quotas are “terrible” to believing they are needed “because all our good intentions haven’t driven enough change over the last 25 years”. Mason favours targets and goals. “ They are something to strive towards. When you achieve them, the issue of quotas goes away.” While Abacus strives for best practice across the sector, the lack of women in senior positions concer ns Casanova. “ Focusing on gender diver sity will give our industr y a strategic oppor tunity to grow,” she says. She is a champion of the industr y advocacy network Women in Mutuals (also a LinkedIn group). “It’s a great forum for shar ing, and anything that makes our executive staff and directors better – whether they are male or female – is a good thing for our industr y.” Cyndi Tebbel is a freelance writer. www.abacus.org.au 23