Paula Dwyer's "unplanned pathway" to success

Last night, VU business alumni, business students and other guests gathered to hear Alan Kohler and Paula Dwyer engage in a wide-ranging discussion about Australian business.

The second in the Alan Kohler Interviews series saw Ms Dwyer share a wealth of insight from her extensive experience in the boardroom.

Currently Chairman of Tabcorp, Chairman of Healthscope Limited, director of the ANZ Banking Group and Lion Pty Limited, and a member of the International Advisory Board of Kirin Holdings of Japan, and the Business and Economics Board of the University of Melbourne, she is a highly-influential person in Australian business.

The discussion ranged from women in boardrooms and the debate around quotas, to gambling in sport, the proposal for a Royal Commission into banks, and issues of compliance and risk.

Ms Dwyer described her journey to being a chairman and director as an "unplanned pathway". She started out as a chartered accountant - which she called the most relevant qualification she's had throughout her career - before moving into corporate finance, which led to government advisory roles and then the establishment of an assets management company.

Asked directly by financial journalist and VU adjunct professor, Alan Kohler, about the personal considerations involved in joining Tabcorp, Ms Dwyer admitted that she did hesitate, before deciding that it was important to have good people guiding such enterprises.

"As a community and as a country we have decided that gambling is, in part, going to fund infrastructure, health, social welfare and education," she said

"If governments have issued licences to gambling companies, it is very important that the products of gambling companies are responsibly delivered into the community. And the responsible delivery of products is really overseen, I think, by good governance and responsible boards."

She spoke of her pride in the way Tabcorp has handled controversial issues such as the ever-increasing role of betting in sport, describing Tabcorp as "the responsible partner for sporting codes".

"I'm very proud of the way Tabcorp operates in our community. I think they've been very good at calling out issues around responsible advertising in gambling [and] the in-the-game betting." 

On whether quotas were an effective way to accelerate equality in business, Ms Dwyer said, "I don't believe in quotas; I believe in targets."

"I think externally mandating a proportion of women doesn't work, but I do think that boards need to set KPIs for managers and for the positions on executive teams and I think if they are not achieved I think managers need to be held accountable."

To aspiring women, her message was clear: "The world needs us. In commerce, particularly, I think that the returns generated in Australian companies will not fulfill their commercial potential because of the limited thinking that goes into strategy, and I think that comes from the homogenous group of people who are making decisions."

The evening was also a fantastic learning and networking opportunity for attendees, who included VU business alumni, students and other professionals in the field.

Keep an eye out for the next Alan Kohler Interviews event later in the year.

If you're interested in progressing your own business career, see our range of postgraduate business courses, including the Chartered Accountant Australia and New Zealand-accredited Master of Business (Accounting).

See all news