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Diversity & Inclusion Drive Thought Provoking Discussion at CACC Boardroom Briefing

By 26 February, 2020News

Demonstrating its support for diversity and inclusion, CACC Corporate Sponsor MinterEllison held a boardroom briefing in Melbourne, entitled Leadership Diversity – from token to turning point.

Distinguished guests included visiting CEO of Business Council of Canada, Goldy Hyder, both High Commissioners from Australia & Canada and various senior Australian & Canadian executives across all business sectors.

CACC Director, Lesley Gillespie OAM, welcomed the President and CEO of Export Development Canada (EDC), Mairead Lavery as guest speaker to share her perspective on the topic as a business leader driving change.

“As a young girl, I really remember thinking there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do if I worked for it. I really did see the world as a place of possibility,” she said.

Despite being raised by a working-class family, and being female, Ms Lavery was determined to go to university, get a good job and make her mark on the world.

Having grown up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, she knows all too well the consequences of not having an inclusive community.

“Growing up in Belfast, I learnt the value of neighbours and community; it was a place where you could rely on your neighbours to help you do something and that really speaks to community and to diversity and inclusion. Those values have stayed with me and those lessons and values helped me make the decision to join EDC.”

“EDC is a place where we really strive to have diversity and inclusion – diversity of thought, diversity of our employees, and we truly want our employees to reflect the diversity of our customers.”

Ms Lavery said she was incredibly proud to be the first female CEO in the organisation’s 75-year history and was working hard to ensure better gender diversity across the organisation.

“We have gender diversity at all levels across the organisation but there is still a lot more work to do and it will take enormous investment and courage to ensure we continue on that journey,” she said.

“Today in Canada, women-owned businesses make up just 16 per cent of Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises. And that is truly not enough, especially when you take into account the research that says companies that have at least one female founder outperformed companies with all-male founding teams by 63 per cent.”

PICTURED (from left to right): Mairead Lavery, President of Export Development Canada, Melissa Wharton, CEO of CACC and Teri Nizzola, Chief Representative Australia, Export Development Canada.

“To turn this around, we have launched our Women in Trade to facilitate trade for women-owned and women-led businesses, helping them build the knowledge and connections and access the financial tools they need to move into new markets confidently.”

She said in order for businesses to flourish they needed to share their successes.

“Success is a learned thing, it is something to be shared, in fact it can be contagious, and it is something that is best enjoyed in very large groups,” she said.

“As entrepreneurs, as business leaders, as women, let’s not be shy about fighting passionately for the success we imagine and dream about for ourselves and then let’s dream it for others and make that happen too.”

She said the best way for businesses to address diversity and inclusion was to ask their employees what it looked like to them. “We have to embrace diversity and listen to our employees who may see things very differently to ourselves. By listening to different groups, we can better understand their needs and will be better placed to address those needs.”



The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) is a non-profit, volunteer based organisation that aims to bring businesses together to facilitate a strong environment for economic trade and investment between Canada and Australia. 


Written by Samantha Robin

CACC Member Engagement Committee 



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