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Internationally Experienced Executive Leader

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Shirley Chowdhary is an inspirational and engaging keynote speaker, presenter and facilitator.

Her current portfolio aims to create commercially sustainable and inclusive services for all members of our community. She is a passionate advocate for Indigenous empowerment, gender equality and D&I. Her career has been driven by a strong desire to create a connection between people, place and purpose, and this work was recognized when she was selected as one of the 2019 AFR 100 Women of Influence.

Shirley is an internationally experienced executive leader with diverse credentials across law, financial services, gender equality, the NFP sector and journalism. She is admitted to practice law in Australia and New York and has worked in the corporate and for-purpose sectors across Asia and Australia.

Her career has included being a New York and Australian attorney, Regional Counsel Asia Pacific for JP Morgan Investment Management, host of the Women’s Agenda podcast series The Leadership Lessons, author of a range of writings, including a biography for a WW2 POW, a consultant in gender lens investing and being Chair and Non-Executive director on the boards of a myriad of corporate and for-purpose organisations.

Her previous executive appointment was as the inaugural Chief Executive of the GO Foundation, an Indigenous NFP providing holistic education pathways and support to Indigenous students across Australia.

Key to success in the role, Shirley developed a collaborative Ecosystem model amongst government, philanthropy, corporates and other NFPs, providing funding and other support for Indigenous education. Her role supported the highly credentialled board and GO Foundation founders, Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, AFL Sydney Swans legends.

Current Work:

Shirley Chairs the boards of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and Women for Election and is a Non-Executive Director on the boards of the Australian Associated Press and Northrop Consulting Engineers. She also sits on the Advisory Boards of Propel, an organisation protecting and enhancing digital reputation, and Mentor Walks, providing accessible mentoring for women in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Singapore. Her portfolio also includes providing advisory and consulting services to a number of NFPs and corporates, and she is a volunteer assessor with the Australian Scholarship Foundation and a mentor for Mentor Walks.

Shirley’s expertise includes:

- A strong focus on Indigenous success, Reconciliation and connection of shareholder value to community impact

- Gender equality, including using gender-lens investment as a tool to increase outcomes for women, girls and non-binary individuals in developing countries and promoting the election of women into all levels of the Australian government

- Corporate leadership experience in Japan, US, Australia and across Asia

- Corporate and financial governance in listed, private and not-for-profit companies

- Leadership of large teams, including execution of project outcomes, delivery of goals and implementation and guidance of strategy, including P/L and line management experience

- Operational experience in wealth and funds management, technology, capital and equity/debt raising, fundraising and NFP/community.

- Government and regulatory experience across a broad range of banking, financial services and NFPs

Previous Experience:

Shirley’s career commenced in M&A, project finance, and corporate law in the international New York law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. She then moved to investment management as Regional Counsel with JP Morgan before spending over four years as a senior counsel at Westpac. In addition to spending ten years in the NFP and community sector, she was the inaugural CEO at the GO Foundation, an Indigenous organisation founded by Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, Sydney Swans champions.

She has provided consulting services since 2021 to the University of Sydney, Scanlan Theodore, the Criterion Institute, the Paul Ramsay Foundation, Melbourne Indigenous Transition School and Shalom Gamarada. Her consulting services cover gender-lens investing; systems lift to the NFP sector, Indigenous empowerment and corporate governance.

Shirley has always maintained a strong connection to purpose, working in the NFP space while maintaining a corporate career. She has volunteered on the executive management team at the Redfern Legal Centre, been a presenter with The Cerebral Palsy Alliance, a Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair of YMCA NSW and has written a book capturing the life of a WW2 prisoner of war. During her tenure as CEO of the GO Foundation, founded by Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, Shirley led the organisation to exponential growth.

Talking Points

IWD 2024: Reshaping Systems and Barriers for Women’s Economic Empowerment

Creating an edge in business is getting more and more challenging. Yet we are still not doing everything we can to lift female economic empowerment in the workforce, in community, in business and in our governance systems. So many of systems need to be reshaped to remove barriers for women’s advancement – sticky floors, glass walls and glass ceilings continue to hold women back, and it is incumbent on all of us to dismantle those barriers for the next generation.

Diversity & Inclusion as a Driver for Change

Diversity and inclusion are no longer buzzwords; they are a financial and business imperative for organisations to stay relevant, engage their younger workforce and continue to innovate. Shirley will focus on the necessity of all types of diversity (gender, racial, cultural, disability, LGBTIG+, neurodiversity and the diversity of education, experience, and background) in the workplace, the significance of engaging with Indigenous Australia and why we need a diversity of voices and experience in all aspects of our workplace. Shirley shares how we must connect inclusion to all parts of our product and service pipeline to ensure we represent our target audience in our organisations. With over 15 years of experience living and working internationally, Shirley talks about diversity and inclusion from the perspective of corporate governance and why companies that don’t change their thinking will be left behind. Our glass walls, ceilings and sticky floors are holding women back from reaching their potential in the workplace, but are, importantly, holding companies back from reaching their full potential.

Who is this for?
Boards and leadership teams, Corporates, government, NFP, philanthropy, women’s groups, graduates, leadership groups.

Key Takeaways:
- The business case for diversity and inclusion. How D&I is liked strongly to financial return and shareholder value.
- How to rethink governance from the perspective of diversity and inclusion and ensure that it is not just an HR imperative but an all-of-organisation drive.
- Employee satisfaction and sustainability as a key output of D&I

Leading for the Next Decade

The Covid-19 pandemic was the greatest accelerator of change in our workplace. Shirley discusses how organisations can harness these changes and increase participation and satisfaction in the workplace whilst connecting shareholder value to social impact. We have the potential to reimagine how we engage with each other and address the issues we face as a planet. Companies that create collaborative ecosystems and create shareholder value outside of financial returns are the ones that will race ahead in this new paradigm. Shirley connects the opportunities to strategic imperatives and business planning for boards and shareholders. She will explore how organisations can through their workplace policies and structures empower diverse leadership and ensure that companies are creating the bandwidth to focus on the intractable issues of our time.

Who is this for?
Boards and leadership teams, Corporates, government, NFP, philanthropy, women’s groups, graduates, leadership groups.

Key Takeaways:
- We are at a critical point where we have the ability to choose the world we create going forward.
- There is an opportunity for organisations to think expansively about shareholder value and connect it to a deeper purpose and impact, thereby engaging customers and employees. Collaboration is the key to success and solving many of the issues we face.
- How to look for opportunities for collaboration. Companies that collaborate for impact and purpose will drive real change in their sectors.

Reconciliation from a Non-Indigenous Perspective

Shirley was the inaugural CEO of the GO Foundation founded by Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin. Under her leadership, the GO Foundation grew exponentially, and Shirley created a collaborative ecosystem of corporates, government, philanthropy and community supporting Indigenous education around Australia. Shirley will share a non-Indigenous perspective of why Reconciliation is so important, why it is vital for organisations to support Indigenous self-determination and why the time is now.

As non-Indigenous Australians, we must take our lead on Indigenous issues from Indigenous voices: that we are led by what Indigenous Australia asks for themselves, that we support self-determination for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, and that we ensure that their voices are heard.

Who is this for?
Corporates, NFPs, government, women’s groups and international audiences. Broad appeal especially during NAIDOC Week and Reconciliation Week, and in the leadup to the Referendum.

Key Takeaways:
- our history, and the impact it has had on Indigenous Australians
- The importance of the gift that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- The vital importance of the Referendum to Australian history and future.
- statistics related to our First Nations people and the imperative for change
- Indigenous Australians have the worst life outcomes of any indigenous people in the world. Further education after year 12 is the silver bullet that can change everything from life expectancy to employment prospects.
- Reconciliation requires us to think expansively in our organisations and incorporate different thinking in everything we do.
- the opportunity for a better future and what that could mean for Australia

Lessons from My Career Journey

In this inspirational talk, Shirley shares the key lessons from her career journey spanning almost 30 years. From New York to Japan, and Asia to Australia, Shirley weaves her career story sharing her very personal recollections of sexual harassment, her leadership journey (from bad to good), her struggle to balance a family with 3 children and a diverse career, and her travels through international law, journalism, financial services, the NFP sector and now to a portfolio career.

Shirley will share lessons that she learnt along the way including dealing with imposter syndrome, transitioning careers and moving sectors and countries, the importance of prioritisation, why we all have to make choices along the way, and the struggles of coming back from a 10 year career break.

Shirley weaves a captivating and inspiring story of her career and links her journey to key lessons that we can all apply to our own career journeys and that are easily relatable. This talk will stay with listeners for a long time after.

Who is this for?
Corporate groups, leaders, women’s groups, those wishing to pursue a board career or anyone looking to take the next step in their career, corporates, NFP, professional services.

Key Takeaways:
- That you can have multiple careers during your journey; that you can do it all, but perhaps not at once
- the importance of servant leadership
- the importance of making choices and evolving your choice of priorities
- balancing work, life and family
- resilience and overcoming hurdles
- working with good and bad leaders

MC’ing and Facilitation

Shirley engages audiences from the get-go with her authenticity and engaging style. Her on-stage warmth and ability to touch audiences with her personal stories and charismatic energy immediately puts audiences and guests at ease. She believes that all audience members must leave an event feeling inspired, energised and activated and this drives her relentless preparation before an event and her desire to interact with the subject matter. She arrives prepared for anything and works hard to ensure that all speakers and guests feel comfortable.

Conversations flow naturally and Shirley makes everyone feel at home.
Shirley was AMAZING. She was so calm and considered in her delivery, and definitely got the room talking about treatment of our First Nations people afterwards. And to top it off she was just delightful to deal with. Ecumenical Schools Australia

Shirley has an exceptional ability to completely engage her audience from start to finish. She is extremely knowledgeable in all aspects on Inclusion and diversity, and she is one of the most authentic speakers I have had the privilege of moderating. I would highly recommend Shirley for any discussion on Inclusion and diversity.

Corenet Australian Chapter

We would like to express our deepest gratitude to Shirley who delivered an incredibly authentic, raw and engaging keynote. We have received nothing but the highest praise with some of the audience noting that it was one of the best keynote speeches they had ever heard - totally frank, honest and very relatable.

University of New South Wales

Let's talk, enquire with Janika now

Janika Barnes

Senior Consultant - Saxton Speakers

Let's talk, enquire with Janika now

Janika Barnes

Senior Consultant - Saxton Speakers

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