Today marks the 104th International Women's Day, a day where we celebrate the social, political, cultural and economic achievements of women across the world, while also highlighting the significant inequalities they face. As passionate supporters of the cause, we spoke to some influential women in the financial services industry and asked them to pay tribute to the women in their lives who have made a difference.
Alexis George, Group Executive, Wealth Australia at ANZ.
A woman who has, and continues to, inspire me is Carolyn Colley, now Chief Operating officer and Founder of Faethm, a startup. We started working together over 20 years ago and I hated the role I was in. Carolyn gave me a piece of advice that I hope I always live by, "you better start loving this role and be the best you can, or you will destroy your reputation and your career."
It was a junior role, but from that day on I have always tried to do the best I can in whatever I'm doing. To this day she remains my friend and confidante. I can always depend on her to be honest and up front [and] she challenges me in ways many others do not. I always know she has my best interests at heart even if I don't agree. She is always there, for any woman, with a word of advice and, most importantly, active and real support.
"I can always depend on her to be honest and up front [and] she challenges me in ways many others do not. " - Alexis George
Nicolette Rubinsztein, Independent Director at UniSuper and Class.
Rosemary Vilgan is a woman who has made a lasting impression on me. She was chair of the ASFA board when I joined. She was supportive and encouraging, but I was most impressed with her ability to look at the big picture and constantly push the industry to improve.
Connie McKeage, CEO at OneVue.
Brenda Shanahan started out in broking, a very competitive male dominated industry and subsequently moved to actuarial services and then to broader financial services. She now Chairs the Aikenhead Centre for Medical Discovery (ACMD) and has really made a difference to St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne.
No matter what Brenda undertakes, she does it with panache. She taught me that the great thing about making money is being able to give some away - especially to causes worthy of support. She is her own person, a person of integrity and one of the most genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of dealing with. She is an avid supporter of other talented women and I have been the recipient of her generosity and incredible insight. She has made me want to pro-actively do more for other women in the industry and encouraged me to follow my passion.
"She has made me want to pro-actively do more for other women in the industry..." - Connie McKeage
Kate Howitt, Portfolio Manager of Fidelity Australian Opportunities Fund.
Cath Allfrey was already a senior and respected investor when I first moved onto the buyside. Early on, and despite me technically being a competitor to her, she gave me tips and guidance that really helped me to find my feet. She continues to be a source of inspiration to me for her results, her down to earth approach, her staying power, her lack of ego and her general force-for-goodness!
Annick Donat, CEO of Madison Financial Group.
Vanessa Stoykov, CEO of Evolution Media, for her resolute belief in the ‘sisterhood’ and supporting women leaders. Her ability to tell a story with authenticity, courage and empathy, is going to help us find a different way to promote the value of advice. Connie McKeage, CEO of OneVue, for encouraging me to wear my “big girl boots”, and despite her incredible success and busy schedule, she makes time to be a voice of reason and sounding board and Siboney Corrales-Palacio, Financial adviser at Macquarie because whenever I spend time with her, I am reminded that what we leave behind for the next generation of extraordinary women is fundamentally important to their success and future.
"What we leave behind for the next generation of extraordinary women is fundamentally important to their success and future." - Annick Donat
Elana Rubin, professional director.
Carol Schwartz is a brave and tireless campaigner for gender equality. She provides strong visible leadership about what is possible and that one can aspire to any role. She is incredibly generous with her knowledge, insights and networks. She supports young and emerging talent, disrupts male dominated industries & roles, and importantly believes that collective action is needed to achieve gender equality in society.
Anna Booth was a senior trade union leader who mentored many women working in non-traditional industries. Anna was often the sole female in a room of males but she consistently raised issues that were important to working women. She was an approachable, collegiate and visible female leader and showed resilience as she campaigned to improve the working conditions for low paid female workers.
Debby Blakey, CEO of HESTA.
I owe so much to the women who have gone before me in this industry – and in the world of work more generally. Some are well-known, some are famous, but many women led the way, changed perceptions and challenged boundaries - without acknowledgement, recognition or accolades.They were critical to the transformation we’ve seen in the opportunities that are present today for women. And laid the foundation that will change the future opportunities that will present for my daughter and my nieces – and, for my grandchildren and beyond. We still have a long way to go on gender diversity and equal opportunity, but I would like to pay tribute to those many women who pioneered and led the way. I am deeply grateful to them. As we push for change, I’m inspired by the words of inspirational suffragette and civil rights activist, Ida B Wells. Despite being born into slavery, she never lost her faith in the possibility of achieving a better future saying: ‘the way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them’.
Debbie Wilkes, Co-founder and Director at Industry Moves.
A woman who has had a profound influence in my life, both personally and professionally, is my business partner Katrina Mathieson. We have worked together on and off for over 20 years and she has all the skills to make my big ideas come to life. She never ceases to amaze, inspire and support me - and make me laugh, which is so important. What she shares with me, along with the other fabulous women in the Industry Moves team, are strong ethics in business and in life. It’s the best team I’ve ever worked with in my long career in financial publishing.
Of the 3,556 appointments that Industry Moves has reported since July 2012, only 26% have been awarded to women. There has been little change in the gender balance over the last 5 years. So far in 2018, just 23% of the reported executive appointments have been given to women. Let's hope we can report on figures that represent a more gender diverse industry by the next International Women's Day. You can view our full 2017 report here.