Competence, capability, knowledge or integrity are a function of an individual, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or any other variant of the human condition.
In a past life I was a Police Detective for more than 12 years and I can say with absolute certainty that many things influence an individual’s capacity to do the wrong thing, I can also say that without any hesitation that gender is NOT one of them. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to comment on the behaviour I am seeing from certain members of the Australian business community regarding Company Boards, their Chairs and Non-Executive Directors.
Let me state for the record that I am disgusted with the actions of our major banks and financial institutions and events uncovered by the Royal Commission into Banking and Finance. I worked for one of the big four banks for nearly 10 years and I was not surprised by the revelations of the commission. In fact, it is these very cultural and ethical issues that led me to leave the sector as an employee some years ago. Let me also state that I believe in a meritocracy, individuals should not hold positions and roles where they are not competent to do so. The definition of what is ‘Competent’ is critical. At the moment competency appears to be defined by middle aged white men…. I believe this to be a problem. Competent, in the context of a publicly owned company, needs to be defined by the shareholders and thanks to our superannuation system this means the diverse community in which we live.
This, then, leads me to the elephant in the room, the recent events with AMP. I think there is little doubt that the actions of leaders in this organisation fall well short of the expectations of our community. Organisations are, ultimately, entities led by people and the Board of Directors are the leaders in this context., The AMP Board Directors hold ultimate responsibility and accountability for the actions of their organisation. Should the Chairperson of this organisation have resigned?… Yes, probably, even though context is everything.
The resignation of the Chair of AMP, however, should probably be because of incompetence, or for any one of a range of reasons linked to the failures of the organisation. The reason should not, however, be because the Chair was female.
I have read and listened for some weeks now to the never-ending commentary regarding the resignation of Catherine Brenner as the Chair of AMP. Much of this commentary seems to focus on the fact that she is female, or has family responsibilities, or lacked experience, or was overly ambitions and had never been a CEO of a major organisation. The underlying inference in almost all cases is a link to her gender and the impact this had on her competence to perform her role.
Being female, or culturally diverse, or Caucasian, or gay or any other variant of the human condition does not impact your ability to perform a role effectively. I mistakenly thought that as a society we had come a long way when it comes to equity and diversity in our community. This includes the attitudes of senior men in the business world, however I am now questioning this assumption.
I am not supporting Catherine Brenner, or any other member of a board who has played a role in poor behaviours, by any organisation. I am, however, calling out that Gender has NO role to play in our judgements of competence of these people.
Competence is blind, it cares not for anything other than results. It is about time that we simply faced into this fact and acted accordingly.
If you doubt some of my arguments have a look at these articles..