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‘No female quotas on boards’ – Kylie Walsh

Women can have it all, just not all at once. This is at the core of what Kylie Walsh’s experiences have taught her, being a highly ambitious and successful woman who has overcome adversity and still maintain a work-life balance. She is the General Manager of Di Jones Real Estate and sits on the board of REINSW.

With chatter in the media about women’s representation on boards, Ms Walsh says being a woman has never held her back.

Ms Walsh says that she has never experienced discrimination in the workplace for being a woman, but she says that may be more about her work ethic. And having children, she needed to find the right employer to give her the right flexibility which is why she is where she is now.

“The corporate world couldn’t accommodate (children). But that’s why I’m with a family owned business now. I think there is a lot of room for men and women to have more flexible working hours,” she said.

But the onus is not just on employers but individuals as well. Ms Walsh spent 10 months off last year recovering from an illness which she says changed her outlook.

“I think people need to be kind to themselves, you can have it all and not all at once. You need to ask yourself, what are the things you can let go of? I know I have to let go of weekends because I want to be at my kids’ sport on weekends. So I don’t work Saturdays and that’s non-negotiable.”

When it comes to the low representation of women on boards across the country, the solution is not to introduce quotas, said Ms Walsh.

“I’m against quotas,” Ms Walsh said. “I don’t ever want someone to say I’ve been put on a board because I’m a woman. I’ve worked too hard to be pushed into that corner of being a ‘token woman’, even though I have the experience and deserve to be there.

“Creating quotas means that women instantly lose their credibility because they are seen as being required to be there.” 

Instead, Ms Walsh, who currently sits on the boards of both Di Jones Real Estate and the Real Estate Institute of New South Wales, suggested that the government should support and educate women on how they can achieve board representation.

“While one should still earn the right to be appointed to a board, it’s the selection process that needs to be fairer,” she said.

In November last year, the Victorian government introduced a program to help more women and girls earn sports leadership roles. A target of 40 per cent of women in board positions in three years’ time was introduced.

“The Change our Game campaign came after an enquiry into how to help women get the opportunities they deserve in what can be male-dominated environments. The program includes recruitment guidelines to help attract more women and girls to sports leadership roles. This level of support needs to be rolled out across the country and through a wide range of industries,” Ms Walsh said.

According to Ms Walsh, the structure of how boards are elected should also be reviewed.

“The internal nominations structure many organisations have could be replaced with a more transparent process that sees the best possible candidates for a role sought out through a variety of different means, including advertising and social media.

“Board representation needs to be looked at as part of an overall strategic plan. Questions need to be asked, such as: Would an organisation benefit from having more men or women? What is their strategy and desired outcome?

“Then a campaign can be created to look at the audience and the objectives for the board member they’re after. This would see the right candidate for the role appointed and more women, in turn, would be given the opportunity to achieve board positions,” Ms Walsh said.

Mentoring of women to ensure that they are board ready is also an important step forward.

“Organisations like Women on Boards, that help to provide information to women about how to achieve board positions, are essential to the process of ensuring more women are represented,” Ms Walsh said.

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