February 27, 2024

The power of opportunity: NAB leaders on why IWD 2024’s theme matters

This International Women’s Day is about greater economic inclusion for women everywhere. Seven NAB leaders share why that matters.

International Women’s Day this year centres around the theme of achieving gender equity through the economic empowerment of women. Seven NAB leaders share their thoughts on what that should look like, why it matters to them, professionally and personally, and what they’re doing to make it happen.


Research suggests many women only seek financial advice when they ‘need’ it, which is typically during a crisis. That can mean they’re financially vulnerable, at a time when they have important decisions to make, for themselves and their families. Knowledge is power and it can help you make the right choices; ones that lead to financial freedom and security in the long term. It doesn’t matter whether you enjoy a high net worth or are earning a modest salary, the same principles apply. You need to understand what you have, think about what you want your future to look like, set a budget and work to gain a deeper understanding of money and investments.

Being able to understand, create and manage your own wealth is the essence of economic empowerment, and helping women achieve it is part of what makes my job rewarding.


Growing up in the former Yugoslavia, one of my earliest memories is of listening to my grandmother telling me, repeatedly, that the most important thing for a woman was to be educated and financially independent. My subsequent experience of disempowerment showed me the truth in her words – my family became refugees in the 1990s, with all the cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic disadvantage that entails. The blessing of a brilliant education helped me overcome that disadvantage by giving me entry into the banking world, where I’ve forged a rewarding career.

Meaningful employment doesn’t just provide women with opportunities and a path to financial independence; it gives us a sense of belonging, as productive members of society. And it empowers us to help others too. Nowadays, I often hear my grandmother’s words on my own lips when I talk to my daughter and the young women I mentor: “Education and financial independence will allow you to have a voice and the freedom to choose your own path.”


Women make up around 50 per cent of the Australian population and it feels logical they should comprise 50 per cent of the labour force too. There are times when all of our teams (and generally this responsibility may fall predominately on women) may need to work part time or flexibly because of caring responsibilities or health issues and it’s helpful if employers are as open as possible to their doing so.

When my mother was terminally ill, I had amazing support from my leader to allow me to do this, and that flexibility allowed me to maintain a presence with my customers and team as well as be there for my loved ones. Obviously, that’s an easier proposition for large organisations like NAB, which has the capacity to be inclusive without customer experience being negatively impacted. But, given Australia’s well-documented skills shortages, it’s a mindset all businesses may benefit from adopting. It allows them to tap into good, qualified resources and makes it easier for more women to participate, contribute and build secure futures for themselves.


My generation and my mother’s generation were often left behind financially, in comparison with their partners and male colleagues, and that made them more vulnerable. Co-chairing NAB’s employee resource group for gender equity is helping me drive positive change in my own workplace to close that wealth gap.

I’m especially proud to have been part of the push to introduce a more inclusive parental leave offering, one which includes the continuation of superannuation benefits for staffers who take unpaid leave. Women often fall behind on super when they become parents, and we’re committed to helping those colleagues keep up. We recognise the fact that, despite what society may have traditionally told us, men can be primary carers too. And when they participate in parental leave, their wives and partners may have the opportunity to return to the workplace and continue their careers as a result. There’s also evidence that where men participate in parental leave, there is a higher likelihood they’ll continue to share the domestic workload. That community contribution to women’s economic empowerment resonates with me.


It’s a fact that diverse teams deliver better results. This extends to workplaces, sporting teams and communities. Groups with diversity of thought, opinions, strengths, weaknesses and values challenge each other and the norms. This is why businesses and organisations need to prioritise diversity and inclusion in their policies and practices. And importantly, people leaders should step up and take accountability for promoting this in the way they work, hire and promote – leaders at all levels play a key role in growing and developing talent.

We all need to better think about how we can challenge stereotypes and promote gender equality. This includes advocating for more woman in leadership positions and fostering a culture of inclusivity. Additionally, investing in programs that focus on career development, especially in male-dominated industries, is critical.


Paid employment is the means by which millions of Australian women are able to achieve independence and security. That’s why we need to work harder at removing the barriers that prevent them participating to their full potential after career breaks. As leaders, it’s incumbent on us to ensure the women in our teams feel empowered to take time off when they need to, confident in the knowledge that they’ll be supported to return and won’t lose out on career opportunities as a result. We should also begin to acknowledge the true value of the unpaid work women do. If, as a society, we were to give that the recognition it deserves, more women may feel comfortable asking for the support they need to thrive.


I have two daughters who’ve recently started new jobs in the corporate world and it’s been rewarding to see them find their voices and become comfortable in that sphere. Mum and I didn’t have conversations about economic empowerment for women when I was growing up, but there’s been a real social and cultural shift since that time. The topic has become normalised in social and professional circles, as women have progressively become a larger part of the talent pool. It’s an evolution that’s been good for business too: studies show that gender diverse workplaces enjoy enhanced productivity, innovation and economic growth. That’s why I’m committed to using my voice to continue advocating for inclusion for women, in all aspects of life and work.