AN EAST FREMANTLE woman pushing for gender equality in the workplace has won the business award at this year’s West Australian of the Year ceremony.
Diane Smith-Gander spent 24 years working interstate and overseas because of a lack of job opportunities in WA, before eventually moving back home.
“I hope in the future that women won’t need to leave Perth to progress their careers,” she says.
“Things are really changing – three of the four vice chancellors of our major universities are women.”
She added that she was heartened by the recent appointment of women to executive positions at Woodside, South32 and Fortescue.
The first elected president of Chief Executive Women, Ms Smith-Gander hopes the organisation can “educate and influence all businesses and levels of government on the importance of gender balance, through advocacy, targeted programs and scholarships.”
She says CEW is popular and has doubled its membership.
“WA now has a vibrant chapter with women in indigenous leadership, mining, education, public service, not for profits, professional services, and corporations.”
“My next 25 years are going to be my most powerful. I plan to keep telling it like it is and pushing women to say ‘yes’ to opportunities.”
Her father was a Melville citizen of the year and her mother a WA senior citizen of the year, for her services to the Red Cross.
“When I won this award I felt like WA was really welcoming me back and forgiving me for being away for 24 years,” says Ms Smith-Gander, who’s on the boards of Wesfarmers, AGL energy, Keystart Homes and UWA’s business school advisory board. She is also the director of the committee for the economic development of Australia, advocating women’s workplace rights and encouraging them to reach their full potential.
by HARRIET BURROWS