Westpac Case Study

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Australia’s oldest bank, Westpac is the first of Australia’s largest companies to appoint a woman as CEO.

Since it was established in 1817, Westpac has grown to currently employ over 46,000 people working at Westpac Group and serves around 12 million customers, across multiple brands, including Westpac Retail and business Banking, Westpac institutional Bank, St. George Bank, Bank of Melbourne, BT Financial Group, BankSA and Westpac New Zealand.

Westpac has a strong heritage when it comes to women’s participation and leadership in the workplace. By the 1990’s, and well ahead of its competitors, the bank had appointed a number of women to senior leadership roles.

By 2010, it had become evident that major cultural change around gender had floundered. There was a perception that a number of high-profile female senior executives had moved on, the data made it clear the numbers of women in leadership positions at Westpac had not improved and competitors had caught up to the bank’s early lead. The 2010 Culture Survey results revealed the bank was losing ground and it was the verbatim comments in that survey that brought it home to Gail Kelly, “I am not sure that, as an organization, we care about this issue as much as we used to”. It was time for action.

CEW’s case study on Westpac is the newest addition to our series devoted to understanding how Australia’s leading organisations are moving closer to gender equality. this is an important resource for anyone who is serious about more women reaching senior leadership roles.
Diane Smith-Gander, President, Chief Executive Women
westpac key points
We will achieve that goal. history will recall that we achieved 50% by 2017 and I know because I’ll write that history.
Brian Hartzer - CEO Westpac
I’m a trader. So I understand diversification better than anybody from a business perspective. It reduces my risk. I can think quite dispassionately and academically about how I want a diverse workforce.
General manager, Westpac
What would stop Westpac from achieving 50%? I suspect if it doesn’t happen the reason would be that we just eased off a bit. But bear in mind for us to get to 50% by 2017 we are going to need to recruit more than 50% women into leadership roles. that in and of itself presents challenges and what signals does that send if men go into the minority of appointees?
Group Executive, Westpac
In answer to the question “is it equally easy for a man or a woman to be promoted?” men were saying “absolutely!” And women were saying, “no”, in certain pockets and cohorts… so you can say right, we have a blockage, a cultural blockage, let’s make sure we now run a workshop and find why men think it is all fine and why women don’t. Of course the men might say, its reverse discrimination. but you get to unlock what the signals are and keep on listening.
Gail Kelly - Former CEO, Westpac
Success is when we stop talking about it because we’ve got a balance and it is just part of everyday. Success is the day a leader walks into a room and the leader’s gender is unremarkable. Success for me is when every single person has, and believes they have, equal opportunity.
Group Executive, Westpac

About the Authors

Co-author of the Westpac case study, Heather McIlwain, is the Executive Director of CEW. A corporate lawyer for 17 years, Heather has worked for KMPG as Director of Talent Strategy and prior to that has held senior HR and legal roles at Allens and Linklaters in London.
Heather leads the operations of CEW on a daily basis and is responsible for coordinating external engagement activities with CEW’s business partners, corporate sponsors, government and other not-for-profit organisations which have similar objectives to CEW for the development of women leaders.

Annika Freyer is an independent consultant with 10 years of experience working in both the public and private sectors. She has worked for he US government, the United Nations Development Programme, multiple international NGOs focusing on public policy and most recently at McKinsey & Company. Annika has worked in the field of HR diversity in Australia since 2011, focusing on gender diversity in leadership.

westpac leadership shadow