Lessons from a Corporate Failure, Sexism and Quotas

Few have not been shocked by the revelations of financial impropriety emerging from the solemnly but descriptively named Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, being led by Justice Kenneth Hanes AC. In terms of the dollar amounts involved in the mistreatment and misleading of customers, AMP has been a minor player compared to other institutions. But it remains in the glare of press attention and public approbation for its efforts to cover up its misdeeds in reports to ASIC. All this has led to the forced resignations of the AMP Chair, Catherine Brenner, the CEO Craig Meller and the Chief Legal Counsel Brian Salter. Following Catherine Brenner’s departure, the three-remaining female AMP board

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Three reasons why impropriety in financial institutions are no surprise and nothing will change

1. Homo Economicus or economic man mindset The Australian review of the banking and finance industries, under Justice Kenneth Haynes, will almost certainly recommend changes to corporate culture, as has become the norm in similar reviews in recent years. Culture is a complex set of relationships, norms and attitudes that are hard to change. At the root of culture is the mindset of what motivates humans, themselves and clients, which for people in the financial industry is homo economicus. This is a mindset that views humans as rational, self-interested agents who pursue measurable financial outcomes or near equivalents, like status or power, which are believed to contribute to financial rewards. Ethics, social responsibility and other considerations that are hard

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Well-meaning but still sexism: Why the Liberal party needs enforceable targets for female representation

Even though his party’s percentage female representation has fallen into the low 20’s, Liberal backbencher Craig Kelly opposes quotas for female positions in the pre-selection of candidates. Why? Not just because he believes that substandard women will be selected under quotas but, also, as he announced in an interview, “I have spoken to female parliamentarians who find it hard to leave their children on Sunday nights to travel to Canberra.” Kelly’s view is one that is widely held by members of parliament and is openly expressed by Liberal members. His and their views are antiquated, inconsistent with the evidence, and out of step with the more enlightened view of diversity and inclusion held by many in the business community.

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Cultural diversity targets in corporate leadership are merely lip service.

Cultural diversity targets in leadership have failed to be met according to Leading for Change, an examination of corporate cultural diversity in Australia by Australian Human Rights Commission, University of Sydney, Asia Society Australia and Committee for Sydney. The 2018 follow up to the original 2016 report showed ‘there was not significantly more cultural diversity at the group executive level (C-suite) of Australian organisations’. Organisations included ASX 200 companies, federal ministries, federal and state government departments and universities. According to the report “97% of chief executives have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. This is a dismal statistic for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism”. Of the Australian population, 24% are non-European and Aboriginal, yet in the study

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Mary Magdalene: A Victim of Backlash?

Anyone familiar with the story of Jesus will know of Mary Magadalene, the fallen women forgiven and raised up by Jesus. A childless prostitute who provides a contrast to the purity of Mary, the Virgin mother of Jesus. One to demonstrate God’s forgiveness, through Jesus, and the other the exemplar of the chaste good women to which all girls should aspire. None of this comes, literally, from the Bible, but was started in the sixth century by Pope Gregory the Great who refers to Mary M. as a penitent prostitute possessed by “seven demons” that were exorcised by Jesus. This is the Mary M. portrayed in paintings, religious teachings and popular characterizations, as in director Mel Gibson’s portrayal in

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Sex and Emotions

Not that sex! Sex as in woman and man, and the question “are women more emotional than men?” Conventional wisdom, pan cultural stereotypes, and readily available examples, all tell us that women are more emotional than men. But are they? Women score higher than men on neuroticism trait scales, which ask respondents about their tendency to experience negative emotions “in general”. But, studies that assess the actual experience of negative emotions, such as distress, frustration, anger, sadness, etc., in response to actual situations, such as crises, setbacks, goal blockages, etc., find no differences between men and women. Why would men and women report different levels of emotionality when reflecting on the frequency of experiences over some unspecified periods and

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The Precarious Glass Cliff

So you’ve made it past the glass ceiling. But what of the glass cliff? Back in 2003 a Times article in London reported that top companies with women on their boards of directors experienced decreased annual share price compared to companies with boards with less, or even no women. Sounds suspicious? Michelle Ryan, Professor of social and organisational psychology at the University of Exeter, investigated and instead found the reverse – organisations that were already in crisis were more likely to appoint women to their boards of directors. Ryan and her colleague Alex Haslam named this precarious position the ‘glass cliff’. Were women being set up to fail, intentionally or unintentionally? Researchers hypothesised that women were more likely to

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How a simple act of inclusion saved BlueScope hundreds of thousands of dollars

Acts of real inclusion happen in the most unusual places. This one was on a Coke Ovens Battery, and it saved BlueScope thousands of dollars in costs each year. As David Bell, general manager of BlueScope’s Port Kembla operations tells it, the efforts of a manager to understand and act on the ideas of an engineer from a non-English speaking background has already produced documented savings of over $1million between their Baghouse and Oven Filling Optimisation operations; with projected savings of $300,000 in the Battery Heating and Charging Unit. Over the last decade, a glut of surplus steel coming out of China has flooded global markets putting downward pressure on global steel prices and margins. These pressures have meant

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