Meet Catherine Livingstone: Everything you need to know about the likely new head of the BCA

With Tony Shepherd stepping down from the Business Council of Australia, all eyes have been on who will replace him atop the nation’s most powerful business lobby, which represents Australia’s 100 largest employers.

Tomorrow, at the BCA’s annual forum, we should have a name. Both The Australian Financial Review and The Australian are tipping Telstra chair Catherine Livingstone to be appointed to the position.

Livingstone is without doubt Australia’s most powerful female corporate director. She rose to prominence as chief executive of bionic ear icon Cochlear and successfully floated the company on the ASX 18 years ago.

Since stepping down, her influence hasn’t decreased in the slightest. Today she sits on the boards of Macquarie Bank and Worley Parsons, as well as Telstra.

In 2012, SmartCompany sister site Crikey surveyed the most powerful directors in Australia, and put Livingstone at number two, behind only David Gonski. At the time, she oversaw $66 billion in shareholder value.

Livingstone declined to be interviewed for the profile, but plenty of her fellow board directors spoke highly of her.

Stephen Crittenden, who serves alongside Livingstone on the National Museum Trust (one of three not-for-profit/government appointments), described her as quiet, determined and possessing a “brain the size of a planet”.

Vas Kolesnikoff, then chief executive of the Australian Shareholders Association, described Livingstone as Australia’s most highly influential female director.

“She’s extremely measured, which I have heard some describe as boring — that’s probably a good thing,” he said.

If Livingstone is appointed to the Business Council of Australia, which seems highly likely, she’ll no doubt bring a change of approach from the high-profile Shepherd.

She’ll also be the first woman appointed to the role – a position Livingstone has no doubt become accustomed to after a career of scaling Australia’s corporate heights.


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