Male executives get behind push for more female conference speakers

Female business personnel looking to further their careers will now have an extra chance to become “visible” in corporate life, as a group of 22 top male executives have pledged to push for more women to speak at conferences.

The men who have signed the “panel pledge”, including Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and Telstra’s David Thodey, will ask event organisers before signing on which women are going to speak at the event before agreeing to participate.

Sex Discrimination Commissioner with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Elizabeth Broderick, works with a group of high-profile men as part of the Male Champions of Change group, and has secured their support for the initiative.

Broderick says having more female speakers at conferences will help women in business achieve more senior roles.

“These men are under huge demand to speak at events and if they could use their influence to help women’s visibility that would be great.

“The fact is, to succeed in business you need to have a profile and visibility, and one of the things the male champions have understood is it’s harder for women to have these opportunities,” she says.

Broderick says this latest initiative by the Male Champions is just one of many, with more set to be announced later this year.

Already the men have agreed to “go beyond” the ASX corporate governance requirements when it comes to gender reporting.

Broderick says she’s already received a number of calls from event organisers asking for tips on how to find more female speakers.

“The tips I give them is to speak to the men they’ve identified in the industry and say they’re looking to access female speakers and see if they’re aware of people who would be suitable. Also, do some good research.

“I don’t agree that it’s not possible to find women anymore. I might have said this five years ago about some industries, but we have people across every single industry in this country which are female,” she says.

Broderick says if an organiser is struggling to find women it’s a matter of “looking harder”.

Council of Small Business of Australia executive director Peter Strong says he applauds the initiative, and at the recent NAB/COSBOA small business summit, finding female presenters was a priority.

“It was something in planning the summit we talked about a lot. We noticed many of the men being MCs, so we found some talented women.

Strong says there are around a million female business owners in Australia, but he says this doesn’t account for the number of women who run the administrative side of businesses.

“Women often do the work in the background, but don’t take the credit for it. It’s an area where there needs to be more done,” he says.

The following men have pledged their support:

  • Glen Boreham, director
  • Gordon Cairns, director
  • Stephen Fitzgerald, director
  • Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive
  • Elmer Funke Kupper, ASX managing director
  • Kevin McCann, Macquarie Bank Chair
  • Lt Gen David Morrison, chief of army
  • Ian Narev, Commonwealth Bank chief executive
  • Ralph Norris, Non-Executive Director
  • Grant O’Brien, Woolworths chief executive
  • Martin Parkinson, Treasury Secretary
  • David Peever, Rio Tinto, chief executive
  • Michael Rennie, McKinsey managing partner
  • Stephen Roberts, Citi, Australia and New Zealand chief country officer
  • Stephen Sedgwick, Australian Public Service Commission public service commissioner,
  • Mike Smith, ANZ chief executive
  • Andrew Stevens, IBM Australia and New Zealand managing director
  • Giam Swiegers, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Australia chief executive
  • David Thodey, Telstra chief executive
  • Ian Watt, Prime Minister Secretrary and Cabinet
  • Geoff Wilson, KPMG chief executive
  • Simon Rothery, Goldman Sachs chief executive


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