The local face of the #MeToo movement, Tracey Spicer, warns Corporate Australia has “only seen the tip of the iceberg” with more sexual scandals set to emerge from the financial services, media, health, sport, real estate and hospitality sectors this year.
Ms Spicer, whose tweet in October last year has led to more than 2000 responses, sparked a federal government-backed inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces, a fundraising organisation called NOW Australia and a social change project for employers, is among 14 True Leaders chosen by an esteemed panel of judges and published in Boss Magazine today.
“These cases are about to roll through the courts in the coming months. A lot of corporations are reviewing their policies, procedures and culture and, believe me, they have to because the stories that are going to come out will be shocking,” Ms Spicer said.
“There are three active investigations I’m involved with at the moment … based around the media and entertainment sector. There are also plenty of stories coming out of rural and regional areas, where it’s incredibly difficult for women to speak out. The focus now is also on low-paid industries who have missed out on this movement so far.
“Next year will see the Human Rights Commission’s inquiry, a landmark documentary, and several books on #MeToo come out in Australia, so this movement is not going away.”
Fighting the critics
The 2018 True Leaders list, chosen by judges including SEEK CEO Andrew Bassat, former Liberal Party senator Helen Coonan and director Elizabeth Proust includes figures from business, politics, the arts, science and beyond.
Many of this year’s leaders are characterised by social movements such as #MeToo, marriage equality, the environment, ethical investing and child sexual abuse, as many Australians decide they want a more transparent, progressive society that looks after its most vulnerable members.
Business leaders also made the list and proved they can provide a shining example to other entrepreneurs. Included in this year’s list is the inimitable Sir Frank Lowy, who this year sold his Westfield Corporation’s US and British malls for $32 billion, and Aconex founders Leigh Jasper and Rob Phillpot, who also signed a deal this year to sell their construction software company to US tech giant Oracle for $1.6 billion.
Most on the list have had to fight critics, such as Francis Sullivan who fought opponents within the Catholic Church as he led its response to the royal commission into child sexual abuse.
National Gallery of Victoria director Tony Ellwood came under fire from art elites who felt his blockbuster exhibitions such as the current MoMA exhibition were too populist.
Jesuit Frank Brennan – described by former Prime Minister Paul Keating as the “meddling priest” – said there were “some frictions at the highest level” of the Church, after he publicly supported marriage equality, but says the Church needs to “get real” on social issues.
Father Brennan was named along with former investment banker Janine Middleton and politician Warren Entsch for their role in fighting for marriage equality. Mr Entsch said he was initially treated “like a turd in a swimming pool” in his party room.
Ms Middleton conscripted powerful forces to their cause, including convincing 31 top chief executives such as ANZ’s Shayne Elliott, Alan Joyce of Qantas, Westpac’s Brian Hartzer, Tracey Fellows of REA Group and Richard Goyder, former boss of Wesfarmers, to sign a previously undisclosed letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to support same-sex marriage.
Long-time chief executive of the Green Building Council of Australia, Romilly Madew, led industry change as she pushed back on government trying to water down environmental obligations.
Radiation oncologist Bronwyn King has helped drive 45 investment funds which control more than $1 trillion to become smoke-free investors.
Others are simply doing lasting good, such as Sara Brown, by improving the health of Australia’s Indigenous population, Sean Gordon as a tireless advocate for Indigenous employment, Jan Owen by giving a voice to young Australians and Kathryn North by raising the survival rates of children with genetic disorders.