Closing the Gender Gap in Business Leadership

Jenny Taing, alumna of the Faculty of Arts, excels in an industry traditionally dominated by senior, male peers – the financial services industry.

Her success has earned her the Hugh D.T. Williamson Scholarship 2015, a single national scholarship awarded by the Financial Institute of Australasia (Finsia), which sent Jenny to the Harvard Business School in June this year. The scholarship and the opportunity to attend one of the world’s most esteemed institutions has been a life changing event for Jenny and is allowing her to take the next step in her legal and non-executive director career.

Coming from a disadvantaged and refugee background, and, as the first person in her family to receive a tertiary education, attending the University of Melbourne and Harvard Business School seemed an almost impossible outcome growing up. ‘My parents couldn’t read or write English, and we grew up with very little … we didn’t have access to books. The first time I ever saw a book and was read to, was when I started primary school. Mum recounts that as a little girl, I had a passion for learning and would read the YellowPages and the Melways to practise my English.’

Today, Jenny is a successful financial services lawyer and one of Australia’s youngest non-executive directors. She is the youngest to ever be appointed to a health service board in Victoria and the youngest to ever be appointed to the board of the national health regulator; The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). She is also very involved with the University, serving as the Vice-President of the Alumni Council, Chair of the Alumni Giving Committee and is an advisory board member of the Centre for Advancing Journalism. Jenny has been recognised as one of Australia’s young business leaders, appearing on CPA Australia’s INTHEBLACK Magazine Top 40 Young Business Leaders List for 2013, and received the University of Melbourne Faculty of Arts Rising Star Alumni Award for 2014, awarded for her commendable leadership and outstanding contribution in the fields of Public Health, Multicultural Policy and Journalism.

Jenny has returned from Harvard with renewed passion and direction in her career and has some insights for women who are pursuing leadership in business.

‘Being a leader in a male dominated industry, it’s really important to have a strong professional network that you can tap into for advice and support. One of the exercises we did at Harvard was to map our network and reflect on how wide it was, relative to our immediate business and day-to-day role. An observation was made that sometimes as leaders, we surround ourselves with people that provide us with a lot of positive reinforcement and who always tell us we are doing a great job. It’s therefore important to have people in your network that can give you honest and constructive feedback. Often, it’s those in your network who are actually further away from your immediate day- to-day role that are better positioned to provide you with these invaluable insights.’

Education has been empowering for Jenny and as a scholarship recipient herself, she is excited to have recently become a donor to the Faculty of Arts’ 110 Scholarship, which was created to assist students who struggle to find the means to come to the University. Students are often hampered by circumstances beyond their control, and the 110 Scholarship rallies community support for those who have demonstrated the skill and creative acumen to excel academically but struggle, through no fault of their own, to meet financial commitments.

Learn more about the 110 Scholarship and make a gift here.