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Jane Diplock: Men don’t necessarily visualize women as being at the top.  Their mental image of the leadership of their organization is often a clone of themselves.  One example is the first board that I was actually appointed to, which was The Board of the Snowy Mountains Engineering Authority.  This was a group of engineers who had been instrumental in building the Great Snowy Mountain scheme in Australia and they had then become a company owned by the Commonwealth of Australia, and I was the first woman that was appointed to the board.  And at my first board meeting, a senior member of the staff -- perhaps reflecting some of my fellow board members’ anxieties -- came up to me and said, “Look, girlie, what would you know about engineering anyway?  How come the Commonwealth has appointed you to be a member of this board?”  Which was incredibly rude, but it was also a reflection, I felt, of what a lot of the senior management were thinking.  What on earth could she bring?  And I felt then that I had to, in a sense, work much harder to justify my contribution, whereas I suspect a man in the same position wouldn’t have had those sorts of challenges. 

We used to talk about it being the right thing to do to have equal number of women on boards. Then after a series of research efforts by people like the Conference Board of Canada and others, it was not only the right thing to do, it was the bright thing to do because what we’re seeing is that the bottom line is improving.  So you’ve got it’s the right thing to do, it’s the bright thing to do  – and then interesting research that was done in Australia has proven that if we actually had full female participation, we would improve the country’s performance by 12 percent, the productivity of the country.  Now suddenly, that gets even the most, let me say, misogynist person interested in the fact that this might actually have an economic effect.  It’s this productivity argument that has – is moving – some of the people . . . even if they don’t even want a woman on their board, they don’t like women on their boards, they’ll understand that it perhaps is getting to the point where it should be their fiduciary duty to do that for the productivity of their enterprise and for the productivity of the nation.

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd

 

 

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