Thank you to UCEM and the Board of Trustees for awarding me this honour. I am truly humbled to be recognised for areas particularly close to my heart: sustainability; and diversity, equity and inclusion.
I’ve been asked to reflect upon where this passion comes from and what my key drivers are. The first thing I want to highlight is that I am far from perfect. Like the rest of you, I am simply trying to do my best to make a difference, acknowledging that there is so much work still to be done.
I grew up in Sydney. My father was an immigrant from Egypt and came to Australia when he was about 20 years old. In my youth, I watched him not realise his potential because of systems bias and the animosity towards him due to where he came from and the difference he represented.
While I had the privilege to never suffer such bias, this fuelled a huge passion and a great sense of social justice that centred around a belief that we should all have an equal opportunity to reach our potential.
This background and the passion it has instilled in me have driven my career and the things that I have pushed. At their core, diversity and sustainability are all about ensuring that people today and into the future have this opportunity to reach their potential. In my mind that’s what we are striving for.
Even though I gratefully accept this huge honour, it is essential to acknowledge that we’ve still got a long way to go to give our children a future in which their quality of life is not diminished. If we don’t act fast and work together, that future is in jeopardy.
What I’m scared of more than anything else is that at the end of my career I will look back feeling that I have not done enough. That thought both concerns me and drives me. And as I’ve progressed through my career, it has been more important than ever to make sure I come back to these values.
All of us can make a difference – large or small – through our careers and our lives to create better outcomes for people. Whether that is through the way we use our positions of leadership; or the way we hold our employers to account; or the way our pensions are invested; or the way we talk to our children about how they can ensure that future – we have to use every opportunity we have to influence.
I want to recognise the wonderful work UCEM is doing to educate the young people of this country because ultimately it’s them that will help shape – and save – our collective future.
And finally, more than anything else, I want to leave you with this. Young people often ask me, ‘How do you become a Chief Executive?’. My answer is always the same, ‘No doubt you need to be technically, strategically and commercially credible at what you do, but what’s equally important for is to learn how to transcend difference. To see and harness the beauty in difference.’ Today, I believe that is what leadership is all about.
Thank you very much.