Currently Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees president, deputy chair of CareSuper, a director of property fund ISPT, chair of Women in Super, and a member of the Australian Capital Territory treasury investment advisory board. She speaks to Amal Awad about why super fuels her passion.

How long have you been in superannuation?

Since the mid-1990s. I was appointed to the First Super board. But in effect, I was involved with superannuation issues from the early 80s, because I was a trade union official and it was in a white-collar public sector area where they had superannuation.

How was it different then?

For many years, before my time though, women had to resign when they got married or had children, and so you’d lose your super then, except for your own money that you put in – you’d get it back without interest. So unions were involved throughout the 70s and 80s in trying to rectify a lot of those problems with the existing public sector funds.

Do you view yourself as a woman in a male-dominated industry or is it irrelevant?

The industry to me does not feel predominantly male in terms of my personal experience. I happen to have worked in the industry in areas where there has always been good representation. So the super funds that I’ve been involved in have had strong female representation on the boards – AGEST Super and CareSuper. They have both had females as chief executive.

So the experience is what you make it?

Well, you certainly have to take your opportunities. And my experience is not to say that there are not parts of this industry that are incredibly male-dominated.

Where do you see any dark spots in super?

The dark spot is women ending up with 50 per cent of the savings of a male.

You’re active in getting more women on boards. What drives that commitment?

It’s quite interesting because, back again to the 80s, a lot of the work I was doing was negotiating equal opportunity programs and affirmative action plans.

You’re a bit of a Norma Rae-type* figure, aren’t you?

Well, you know, [I was] doing a lot of awards stuff to bring in more equal pay for women. Which sounds great, and then I sit here now, and it’s 30 years later and a lot of the same problems are still there. Not much happened in those 30 years. It’s like if you’re not on the game, you’re not annoying everyone, you’re not hammering them constantly, it dissipates. And I think that is an issue in our industry.

How do your commitments impact on your personal life?

This level of work has come at a time when I’ve been able to do it because the kids have left home to go to uni, so they’re looking after themselves. And it is very stimulating. Being on the industry bodies, like Women in Super and the AIST, brings you more into those wider policy debates than you would normally be if you were just on the board of a fund and only worrying about running that individual fund.

Do you have plans to retire?

You have use-by dates in various things, so I’m a believer in that. But you also have to fulfil the obligations, you can’t just come and go as you wish. You’ve got to think about the organisation and the commitment you’ve made.

* Norma Rae is the name of a 1979 Academy Award-winning film about a woman working in a North Carolina cotton mill who stands up to the management.

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