Blazing boardroom trails
Women remain underrepresented in key leadership roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency reveals, with their latest data showing women make up only 28.1% of directors, 18.3% of CEOs and 14.6% of board chairs.
Against these odds Monash Bachelor of Business (Marketing) alumna Janette Kendall is thriving in her roles as Non-Executive Director of Vicinity Centres, Tabcorp, the Costa Group, AVCo, KM Property Funds and Visit Victoria.
Her favourite quote is by Ruth Bader Ginsburg: “Women belong in all places where decisions are being made.”
"I was 28 at the time and set a long-term career goal to one day become a Non-Executive Director"
Janette recently delivered an inspiring speech to graduates, speaking about her corporate experience in China and her extensive board experience in Australia. She also raised the challenges she faces as a female leader.
She also spoke at Monash Business School’s latest International Women’s Day breakfast held in conjunction with the Faculties of Law and Arts - an event that drew 260 attendees.
Janette’s advice to current students and new graduates is to “aim high, take calculated risks, and if you have the opportunity, work overseas at some stage in your career”.
She’s enjoyed the connections she has made and maintained through the Monash alumni community, attending functions to hear other alumni speak of their experiences, and keeping up to date on Monash projects and research.
Value of international study
Janette’s early professional years followed a hectic schedule during which she worked full-time and studied part-time.
Her tertiary studies, all of which were part-time, began with a Certificate of Public Relations at RMIT, before she spent six years studying her Bachelor of Business (Marketing) at Monash Caulfield.
A highlight of her Monash studies was participating in the 1987 International Studies program, when she studied International Business and International Marketing in Japan and Hong Kong.
“It was an extraordinary experience and insight into the changing environment in both countries,” she said.
“Japan was concerned that Japanese youth were embracing the American culture to the detriment of Japanese culture; Hong Kong was consumed by the pending changes and implications of handover (on 1 July 1997).”
That first taste of global business would set the scene for a career built around strong international experience.
Laying solid foundations
In 1987 Janette joined Clemenger BBDO, where she stayed for the next 14 years.
She was involved in a number of new business wins with iconic brands including Just Jeans and Yellow Pages, leading a team that developed numerous effective and award winning campaigns.
She led the development of the company’s digital business model, and was placed at the helm of the successful start-up Clemenger Digital in 1997, during the early days of Internet commercialisation.
Then came a career-defining moment: Janette was the first female appointed to the Board of Clemenger. “I was 28 at the time and set a long-term career goal to one day become a Non-Executive Director,” she said.
Joining Pacific Brands in 2003, she took on various operational (Divisional Management) roles. As all offshore manufacturing was in China, the job demanded extensive international travel.
“It was an extraordinary time working with Chinese entrepreneurs rapidly expanding their businesses, working in collaboration to achieve our required product standards and ensuring compliance in offshore factories. This would mark the beginning of many years working with China,” she said.
Janette then spent over two years in Macau, as Senior Vice President – Marketing, and a member of the Executive team for the Galaxy Entertainment Group. At the time Galaxy was the fastest growing gaming resort in the world.
“I was responsible for a team of 600+ people – many of whom were Monash graduates,” she said. “The scale and rate of growth was unimaginable. Working in another culture was challenging and enormously rewarding.”
A boardroom portfolio
Janette held a number of board roles in parallel with her executive career. She was on the board of the Melbourne International festival of the Arts, AURL (Foodwooks), Monash Digital and an advisory board member of the AFL Players Association. She became a full-time Non-Executive Director after returning from China.
“At that time many companies were seeking greater diversity on the board – both in terms of skills and gender,” Janette said.
The 30% Club had launched in Australia in May 2015 and had established a target to achieve 30% female representation on ASX200 boards by the end of 2018 - and a significant number of ASX200 Chairs supported this target.
Then came Janette’s next career-defining moment: being selected to participate in the Australian Institute of Company Directors Chair’s Mentoring Program in 2015.
The program’s purpose was to support women becoming non-executive directors and achieve greater diversity on ASX200 company boards.
“I was mentored by a leading ASX200 Chair for 12 months which led to my first ASX200 board appointment at Costa Group in 2016. This was followed by Nine Entertainment and Vicinity ” she said. In 2020, Janette was appointed to the boards of Visit Victoria and Tabcorp.
Bringing a different perspective
Janette said a key motivator in her current roles was being able to bring a different perspective to the boardroom – one that has a customer focus, together with skills in digital transformation and a depth of experience in operations and governance.
Lifelong learning is also important to her, “and a portfolio career brings new and different experiences.”
Outside the boardroom she is a mentor with the MentorWalks support group, and also informally mentors a number of women. She is also an advisor with Youth Activating Youth and a member of Chief Executive Women.