Creating a ripple effect of change

FOR ANZ’S general manager, retail broker, Simone Tilley, diversity is about welcoming a broad spectrum of voices and better reflecting the wider community.

Helping women find those voices is important to Tilley, who designed a special program to do exactly that. Now in its second year, the Doyenne program aims to elevate successful female brokers in order to help build a network of other prominent women in business.

“Programs and events like this are important for providing women with the tools, confidence and the self-belief to put themselves forward and make a meaningful difference,” says Tilley

“It also allows female brokers to have the space and time to identify and articulate their ideas, subject-matter expertise and passion.”

Much of the focus this year will be around putting women’s voices in the media, whether through their own social media profiles or in the wider media.

According to the 2019 Women for Media Report from the Women’s Leadership Institute Australia, men represent 66% of all direct sources in news articles. In a news outlet like the Australian Financial Review, men accounted for 86% of all direct sources.

“I really want to encourage more women’s voices to talk to the issues that matter in broking and finance,” Tilley says.

Complete with guest speakers and plenty of networking opportunities, the program also aims to help women challenge the status quo and “pierce through traditional mindsets”.

Overcoming the challenges
The figures show that less than 30% of brokers are female. Yet Tilley suggests that rather than being overwhelmed by such numbers, it presents women with the opportunity to “run their own race”.

“People are drawn to those who are genuinely authentic, and true to their own styles, and I think women need to believe in themselves, set goals for themselves and work really hard to get there,” she says.

“Always surround yourself with exceptional people who genuinely believe the values that you admire. I think if everyone actively supports other women and looks out for others if they feel overwhelmed or uncomfortable, we can create a ripple effect of positive change together.”

Tilley says women can often struggle with self-doubt and overthinking, and this can create unnecessary obstacles. She’s aware that even when she encourages women to ask for feedback, it can be a difficult request.

“It’s about actively leaning into knowledge gaps and working incredibly hard to close them, because we all have gaps, and sometimes you’ve just got to be brave enough to lean into them.”

Tilley also emphasises the importance of preparation. She remembers how, in a previous role, she was always impressed by a banker who projected himself well in meetings, and then one day she saw him practising in a room.

“Often women make time for everyone else; they’re very generous, they leave themselves last – but make time for the larger moments or group meetings because they’re always worth it,” she says.

A positive shift in awareness
Initiatives like the Doyenne program represent a growing positive shift in the industry. Tilley says awareness is getting better, and broker groups and aggregators alike are becoming conscious of the diverse population.

“We’ve absolutely seen progression towards improved diversity, and I think we’re in the midst of continued change,” she says. 

While the Doyenne program focuses on empowering women and lifting them up, Tilley says diversity and inclusion is more than this; it’s about recognising “all voices around the leadership table in an equal way”.

“Australia is a rich country of diversity, and for me diversity comes in many shapes and forms and extends well beyond gender,” she says.

“To also include ethnicity, culture, religion and socio-economic background, these events are so important. We need a safe environment so people, particularly minority groups, feel open and comfortable sharing stories with like-minded people.”

Tilley knows from her own experience as a woman in finance that “there’s no magical leadership finishing line”. It’s a continuous learning journey and she has to be open to change and learning new things. Genuine leadership is still needed to welcome all voices, but the industry is on the right path, she says.

“Walking the walk takes time, but I have every confidence that if we continue to focus on the imperative issues, we’ll make a longlasting difference together.”