Why We Need More Women on Boards
Former IOSCO chairperson Jane Diplock explains why gender diversity in corporate leadership is profitable.
Jane Diplock AO is a professional international company director. She currently holds non executive directorship positions on the International Integrated Reporting Council Board, SGX Limited and Australian Financial Services Group Pty Limited. She is a member on a number of other Boards and Committees internationally. She has previously been Chairman of IOSCO, International Organisation of Securities Commissions for 7 years and Chairman of New Zealand Securities Commission for 9 years.
Before being appointed Chairman of New Zealand Securities Commission Jane was the National Director, Infrastructure and Strategic Planning, and New South Wales Regional Commissioner with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. She previously held senior executive positions with Westpac Banking Corporation, and was Managing Director of the New South Wales Technical and Further Education Commission. She has chaired and been a member of a number of boards and committees in the public, private and not for profit sectors.
Professional qualifications: Barrister and solicitor of ACT Supreme Court and High Court of Australia; barrister of New South Wales Supreme Court; fellow of Institute of Public Administration Australia; Chevening fellow at London School of Economics.
Work history: Elected chairman of executive committee of International Organisation of Securities Committees May, 2004. Appointed chairman of NZ Securities Commission 2001 for five-year term. National director Infrastructure and Strategic Planning and New South Wales regional commissioner with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. Director-general of the Department of Training and Education Coordination. Managing director of NSW Technical and Further Education Commission. With Westpac for six years, starting 1988.
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
"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," explains former IOSCO chairperson Jane Diplock.
A new method promises to capture an elusive dark world particle.
- Scientists working on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) devised a method for trapping dark matter particles.
- Dark matter is estimated to take up 26.8% of all matter in the Universe.
- The researchers will be able to try their approach in 2021, when the LHC goes back online.
Researchers hope the technology will further our understanding of the brain, but lawmakers may not be ready for the ethical challenges.
- Researchers at the Yale School of Medicine successfully restored some functions to pig brains that had been dead for hours.
- They hope the technology will advance our understanding of the brain, potentially developing new treatments for debilitating diseases and disorders.
- The research raises many ethical questions and puts to the test our current understanding of death.
The image of an undead brain coming back to live again is the stuff of science fiction. Not just any science fiction, specifically B-grade sci fi. What instantly springs to mind is the black-and-white horrors of films like Fiend Without a Face. Bad acting. Plastic monstrosities. Visible strings. And a spinal cord that, for some reason, is also a tentacle?
But like any good science fiction, it's only a matter of time before some manner of it seeps into our reality. This week's Nature published the findings of researchers who managed to restore function to pigs' brains that were clinically dead. At least, what we once thought of as dead.
What's dead may never die, it seems
The researchers did not hail from House Greyjoy — "What is dead may never die" — but came largely from the Yale School of Medicine. They connected 32 pig brains to a system called BrainEx. BrainEx is an artificial perfusion system — that is, a system that takes over the functions normally regulated by the organ. The pigs had been killed four hours earlier at a U.S. Department of Agriculture slaughterhouse; their brains completely removed from the skulls.
BrainEx pumped an experiment solution into the brain that essentially mimic blood flow. It brought oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, giving brain cells the resources to begin many normal functions. The cells began consuming and metabolizing sugars. The brains' immune systems kicked in. Neuron samples could carry an electrical signal. Some brain cells even responded to drugs.
The researchers have managed to keep some brains alive for up to 36 hours, and currently do not know if BrainEx can have sustained the brains longer. "It is conceivable we are just preventing the inevitable, and the brain won't be able to recover," said Nenad Sestan, Yale neuroscientist and the lead researcher.
As a control, other brains received either a fake solution or no solution at all. None revived brain activity and deteriorated as normal.
The researchers hope the technology can enhance our ability to study the brain and its cellular functions. One of the main avenues of such studies would be brain disorders and diseases. This could point the way to developing new of treatments for the likes of brain injuries, Alzheimer's, Huntington's, and neurodegenerative conditions.
"This is an extraordinary and very promising breakthrough for neuroscience. It immediately offers a much better model for studying the human brain, which is extraordinarily important, given the vast amount of human suffering from diseases of the mind [and] brain," Nita Farahany, the bioethicists at the Duke University School of Law who wrote the study's commentary, told National Geographic.
An ethical gray matter
Before anyone gets an Island of Dr. Moreau vibe, it's worth noting that the brains did not approach neural activity anywhere near consciousness.
The BrainEx solution contained chemicals that prevented neurons from firing. To be extra cautious, the researchers also monitored the brains for any such activity and were prepared to administer an anesthetic should they have seen signs of consciousness.
Even so, the research signals a massive debate to come regarding medical ethics and our definition of death.
Most countries define death, clinically speaking, as the irreversible loss of brain or circulatory function. This definition was already at odds with some folk- and value-centric understandings, but where do we go if it becomes possible to reverse clinical death with artificial perfusion?
"This is wild," Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, told the New York Times. "If ever there was an issue that merited big public deliberation on the ethics of science and medicine, this is one."
One possible consequence involves organ donations. Some European countries require emergency responders to use a process that preserves organs when they cannot resuscitate a person. They continue to pump blood throughout the body, but use a "thoracic aortic occlusion balloon" to prevent that blood from reaching the brain.
The system is already controversial because it raises concerns about what caused the patient's death. But what happens when brain death becomes readily reversible? Stuart Younger, a bioethicist at Case Western Reserve University, told Nature that if BrainEx were to become widely available, it could shrink the pool of eligible donors.
"There's a potential conflict here between the interests of potential donors — who might not even be donors — and people who are waiting for organs," he said.
It will be a while before such experiments go anywhere near human subjects. A more immediate ethical question relates to how such experiments harm animal subjects.
Ethical review boards evaluate research protocols and can reject any that causes undue pain, suffering, or distress. Since dead animals feel no pain, suffer no trauma, they are typically approved as subjects. But how do such boards make a judgement regarding the suffering of a "cellularly active" brain? The distress of a partially alive brain?
The dilemma is unprecedented.
Setting new boundaries
Another science fiction story that comes to mind when discussing this story is, of course, Frankenstein. As Farahany told National Geographic: "It is definitely has [sic] a good science-fiction element to it, and it is restoring cellular function where we previously thought impossible. But to have Frankenstein, you need some degree of consciousness, some 'there' there. [The researchers] did not recover any form of consciousness in this study, and it is still unclear if we ever could. But we are one step closer to that possibility."
She's right. The researchers undertook their research for the betterment of humanity, and we may one day reap some unimaginable medical benefits from it. The ethical questions, however, remain as unsettling as the stories they remind us of.
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