5 Quick Questions with Kate Carnell

13 May 2015

Kate Carnell 150 x 200In the lead up to this year’s She Leads Conference, taking place on Tuesday 19 May at Hotel Realm, we’ll be giving you the chance to get to know our speakers.

Today, meet Kate Carnell. Kate commenced as CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) in May 2014. ACCI, Australia’s largest and most representative business organisation is the leading voice of business in Australia advocating for over 300,000 businesses across all industries. Kate is well known and respected in the not-forprofit and business communities having served two years as CEO of beyondblue and previously four years as CEO of the Australian Food and Grocery Council. Ms Carnell served as Chief Minister of the ACT from 1995 to 2000. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2006 for her services to community through contributions to economic development and support for the business sector, knowledge industries, the medical sector and medical technology advances.

Describe yourself in 30 words or less.

I’m enthusiastic. I don’t do things I’m not passionate about. I care about the people I work with and I’m values driven. And I don’t think there’s anything particularly special about me beyond that I work hard at things I’m passionate about!

Tell us about a moment in your life that defined your leadership style.

Going right back to early days. I bought my first pharmacy when I was 25 or 26 and I think most of the things that defined my style I really learned back then. One of the stories I often tell is about the first staff meetings I had where I laid out my very exciting business plan with spreadsheets and KPIs, and these didn’t turn my staff on much! The thing that I quickly learned was that with leadership you have to understand what motivates the people that you’re trying to lead, and it’s often not going to be the same things that motivate you. It’s a really important lesson. I couldn’t understand why they weren’t excited by this vision of where I wanted to take the pharmacy. Well, it was patently obvious! I learned that that fundamentally what you need to lead is to understand what motivates the people on your team.

What opportunity for yourself are you most excited about in 2015?

We have a change process operating at the ACCI at the moment which will hopefully change the way we operate and what our revenue streams look like for the future. I’m excited about nailing that.

Recommend a book to other women that you’ve found influential on your leadership/career journey.

Two books I’ve read recently are ‘Leadership and Self-Deception’ by the Arbinger Institute, and ‘Built on Values’ by Ann Rhodes.

Both of those books are actually available on Audible. Because I’m so light on for time, a lot of the books I read / listen to while I’m driving, or running or at the gym.

What do you consider to be the biggest issue facing gender equality?

There are two things – the first is women ourselves. There is no doubt that women have the tendency not to put themselves forward for jobs unless everything is ‘right’ – the family is in the right spot, everybody in their lives is happy, they have all the criteria for the job, and so on. And often women put off putting themselves forward for the next job until the time is right. The fact is the time is never right.

Secondly, and more importantly, is that the scenario in Australia, particularly for senior roles, is ‘who you know, not what you know’ – particularly for board roles. This is a real issue. It will change over time and it is changing. It’s just that when boards sit around and think about who would be good to appoint, they think about the people that they know. And the people they know have a tendency to be the people they’ve worked with, the people they play golf with, the people they went to school with.

I’m not suggesting that this is about men not wanting to appoint women. I actually think the opposite is true. The statistics show that having women on boards and women in senior management positions improves company outputs and profitability. They know what the figures say. But then they sit around and ask ‘who can we think of that might be good?’, and then of course you’re back into the cycle. So when you actually look at women on boards they’re predominantly ex-partners of law firms and accountancy firms that live in Sydney and Melbourne. Any why is that? Because they’re the women that the men know.

Those are the two greatest challenges, how you overcome them is a different question!

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