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Making a switch for gender ‘Equilibrium’

6 March 2015

Westpac Group today celebrated International Women’s Day 2015 with the launch of a new initiative to encourage greater gender diversity in the company’s leadership roles. This is in line with the Group’s aspirational goal to have 50% of its leadership positions held by women by 2017, up from last year’s 44%.


‘Equilibrium’ is a program to bring highly skilled women into the financial services sector.  It offers a career option for accomplished women leaders, currently working in other sectors, to switch to a new career in financial services. The 12 month program will provide successful candidates with a tailored financial services development plan, mentoring and support to ensure a successful transition to a career at Westpac.


The Group also launched an employee Equilibrium program, offering a structured program for talented women at Westpac who have the aspiration to succeed in a more senior, complex role outside of their current specialisation.


Westpac Group CEO, Brian Hartzer, said that while the organisation had made substantial progress in gender diversity, there was still much to be achieved. 


“Over the years Westpac has actively fostered greater female participation in its leadership ranks.  Last year, we achieved 44% of women in leadership positions.  This has been the result of an Executive team at Westpac that treats gender diversity as a business critical issue. 


“There is, however, still some way to go.  Last year I considered that to reach equilibrium across our organisation, we needed to find ways to attract more women into both the Group and the financial services sector.  This is a critical issue that goes to the heart of the industry’s long term success.  A diverse workforce directly affects the quality of our working environment.  It brings varied perspectives and better decision-making.  Ultimately, it means helping people to reach their potential.


“Today’s announcement represents the start of what will be a long running program that will encourage more talented women to join our organisation while fostering the talents of those already within Westpac,” he said.


In addition to the Equilibrium program, Westpac has also introduced specialist training sessions for all the Group’s leaders to address ‘unconscious gender bias’.


“We have been focused on gender diversity at Westpac longer than most, and every leader in the organisation is conscious of the importance of this area.  At the same time though, unconscious bias requires attention in every company,” Christine Parker, Group Executive, Human Resources and Corporate Affairs, said. 

“We are elevating and supporting women at Westpac through our internal Equilibrium program, our formal and informal female networks and targeted career support. We are committed to taking that further and hardwiring diversity into every part of the Westpac culture.  This requires innovative thinking to come up with creative initiatives, such as our Equilibrium program, to ensure we reach gender equality in the organisation’s leadership ranks by our 200th anniversary in 2017,” Ms Parker said.


For its initial intake, the Equilibrium program will include 11 women (six external and five internal).  External participants will join the organisation on 30 March in one of the Australian retail, business banking or wealth teams across the Group.  They will have structured coaching and mentoring to guide their short and long term career objectives.  They will also have the opportunity to be involved in the ‘Women in Leadership’ Networking opportunities within the Group to help build internal networks and visibility across the organisation.


Inaugural external Equilibrium program participants are:


  • Rebecca Meli, most recently Senior Marketing Manager at Nestle;
  • Michelle Gorman, joining Westpac from Meat & Livestock Australia, where she was General Manager, Industry Systems;
  • Tiffany Lewin, who was a Director at Fenway Group Pty Ltd;
  • Natalie Frazer, whose last role was as Associate Director at EY;
  • Caroline Williamson, who joins us from Deloitte, where she was a Director; and
  • Danielle McKeon, a former General Manager at pharmaceutical compounding business, Fagron.


Applications from internal candidates are currently being finalised.


“I am incredibly excited about this program, the opportunity to attract talented women to Westpac Group, and the quality of the candidates the program has attracted.  I look forward to expanding the Equilibrium program in the years to come,” Mr Hartzer said.


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