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Gail Kelly - superwoman or simply a super banker?

Maureen Jordan
Thursday, December 10, 2009

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Faster than an ATM withdrawal. More powerful than the Reserve Bank. Able to leap the corporate ladder in a few bounds.

Look, up in the sky!
It's a bird!
It's a plane!
It's Superwoman!

Yes, it's Superwoman! Aspirational migrant from another continent who came to Australia with focus and drive far beyond that of most women. Superwoman, who can change the course of Aussie interest rates, blend banana smoothies with her bare hands, and who, disguised as Gail Kelly, mild mannered CEO of a Big Four bank, fights a never-ending battle for shareholder value, consumer understanding and the female way.

On that last note, if Ms Kelly really does care about female issues, I applaud her, though her salary is now so large I don’t know if she really understands how the average woman feels when excessive rate rises eat into household budgets, making expenses like childcare less affordable. But as your pay packet rises when you go up the ladder, you can lose touch with reality.

I’ve had dealings with Westpac that have been less than impressive on the business and ethical front. I’m a great believer that the leader sets the standards, and should know what’s happening at all levels in the organisation in their charge.

Sometimes I’ve thought of writing to Ms Kelly and giving her feedback – but I’m focused on growing Switzer, and, quite frankly, do they really give a damn about what I’ve experienced?

Gail Kelly is held up as the poster girl of Westpac, women in banking and perhaps even women in corporate life. In some circles I move in, I hear comments like, “Look at Gail Kelly, she has it all; supermum, super achiever”.

And her icon status rises.

Sometimes, we get carried away with these high achievers. We are so familiar with them that we fail to see the real super mums and dads in our own midst – in fact, forget the gender, often we forget what a super citizen really is.

After this recent excessive rate rise, some may say that Gail Kelly is not the super citizen some thought she was.

A Tiger Woods commentator recently made the observation that he may not be the superman we were led to believe he was, but he’s still a super player.

Sometimes we confuse achievement in sport or business and assume they’re great people.

Gail Kelly is a super banker – that’s why she raised interest rates. It’s in Westpac’s interest to make these moves.

When my sons were young, they were sometimes horrified when sportsmen they admired behaved badly. As a mum, I had to explain to them that there is a difference between a super player and a superman. And that’s the trouble with hero worship. In the modern era, the power of public relations has really turned super players, super actors, super politicians and superwomen into more than what they really are.

We need to learn to evaluate the quality of people on more substantial achievements.

P.S. Is Cameron Clyne of NAB a Superdad for keeping in line with Reserve Bank policy?

Important information:This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice. 

 

Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009


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