More women than ever are coming forward to talk about their efforts to make changes in their chosen fields, and set an example for a new generation of leaders in Australia.
Now in its third year, The Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards showcases the country’s highest-achieving women this year. Some are well known, others are forging a leadership path out of the public eye.
The 100 winners have been selected across 10 categories – board/management, innovation, public policy, business entrepreneur, diversity, young leader, global, social enterprise or not-for-profit, philanthropy and local/regional.
The winners have been chosen from a broad field which includes scientists, doctors, creative directors, journalists, executives and humanitarians, whittled down over the past six weeks by a nine- member judging panel.
An overall winner will be announced at an awards night on October 22.
Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly says the breadth and calibre of the nominations of the 100 Women of Influence for 2014 was remarkable.
“It is such a privilege to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions these women are making to Australia,” Ms Kelly said. “The 2014 winners will join the now 300- strong prestigious alumni of these awards.”
NSW dominates this year
NSW has dominated this year’s 100 Women of Influence with 49 women, including well-known names such as Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick, and Australian Law Reform Commission president Rosalind Croucher.
Victorians accounted for 29 of the women recognised, while South Australia produced a winner in the diversity category, Telstra general manager Lauren Ganley. Western Australia has five winners and Queensland has 10 winners.
In the board and management category the winners include Transfield chairman Diane Smith-Gander; Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz; Jetstar CEO Jayne Hrdlicka; board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia Kathryn Fagg; and HESTA Super Fund CEO Anne-Marie Corboy.
Air Commodore Catherine Roberts, who is director-general of the joint strike fighter acquisition and sustainment program at the Royal Australian Air Force, is one of six women to hail from the ACT, and is also a winner in this category.
Other defence industry winners include global category’s Captain Jennifer Wittwer, director of the Defence Department’s national action plan for women, peace and security.
Westpac head of women’s markets, Larke Riemer, said the awards were driven by a need to search out and acknowledge the work of new leaders, not necessarily those who are already the best known, but women who are “hidden gems”. The level of talent being uncovered gives Ms Riemer, and the baby boomers of her generation, the reassurance to say “we don’t have to be anxious about the women coming through after us”, she said. ‘Brilliant women’
“There are such brilliant women out there,” she said. Former AFR BOSS magazine editor Narelle Hooper said the ripple effects of the awards were growing. “The awards really have tapped a mood for change in Australia,” Ms Hooper said. With an increasing number of nominations coming from across Australia, Ms Hooper, co-chair of the judging panel with former Financial Review journalist and author Catherine Fox, said this year’s competition had revealed some impressive examples of women’s leadership across business and society.
Almost a third of the 100 winners this year are self-nominating entrants.
Ms Hooper said it was a positive trend to see women increasingly willing to step forward and nominate themselves, because it meant other women and men could benefit from hearing their stories and experiences.
Nominations from men
“We’ve also been pleased this year to see an increase in the number of men nominating entrants – CEOs, company chairs, colleagues, husbands, partners, wanting to see the women recognised – and giving a good many a nudge,” she said.
The 2014 judging panel included Allens chief executive partner Michael Rose; Melbourne Business School professor of management Robert Wood; non-executive director Sam Mostyn; former banker Carolyn Hewson; the inaugural WOI award winner and chief executive of the Foundation for Young Australians, Jan Owen; Westpac board member Alison Deans; and Westpac executive Christine Parker.
Ms Riemer, who assists with the initial selection of nominees, said the quality and calibre of entrants across all categories from the outset had been extraordinary. “And every year it just gets better and better,” she said.
“For me, last year the innovation category shone through with these women doing absolutely incredible work that I had not heard about,” she said. This year, Ms Riemer said, it was the public policy category which had attracted some standout nominees.
Federal Department of Finance secretary Jane Halton; commentator, lobbyist and UTS professorial fellow Eva Cox; ACTU president Ged Kearney; and City of Sydney chief executive Monica Barone are among the nominees in the category.
“We all rave on about how there’s not enough government ministers who are women,” Ms Riemer said. “But we forget the public servants and there are so many amazing women and the fact we had so many nominated. Women making a difference “So we should have heart, because there are women out there making a difference in government.”
Last year’s overall winner was Professor Adele Green, an internationally renowned skin cancer researcher. Professor Green was the first to identify the skin cancer epidemic in Australia using a landmark study of the Queensland town of Nambour.
The inaugural winner in 2012 was Jan Owen for her work with the Foundation for Young Australians.
This year’s 100 Women of Influence awards, including winners of each of the 10 categories and the overall winner, will be announced on October 22.
NSW Premier Mike Baird and WA Senate Minister assisting the Prime Minister for Women Michaelia Cash will be at Sydney Town Hall for the awards night, along with Gail Kelly and Fairfax Media chief executive Greg Hywood.