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AFR Woman of Influence and Inaugral CEO of the GO Foundation

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Shirley Chowdhary is an AFR 100 Women of Influence and is a strong advocate for a Reconciliation and the strength that all Australians can all draw from Indigenous Australia and its heritage and culture, the oldest living culture in the world. She believes fiercely in the power of diversity and inclusion and is an advocate for increasing diversity amongst corporate and not-for-profit boards, and senior management.

With a career that includes being admitted to practice law in New York and Australia, and writing a biography for a WW2 POW, Shirley has diverse experience in global multinationals, the NFP and community sector and running large transactions for one of the world’s leading law firms.

Current work:

After stepping down from her role as the inaugural CEO of the GO Foundation in January 2021, Shirley has transitioned to a portfolio career, consulting, speaking and writing on the best way to connect financial return and shareholder value with ESG, impact and purpose.

She is mentoring CEOs of corporates and NFPs, consulting with a major G8 university on the implementation of their university-wide Indigenous strategy and consulting with a health start-up.

Past Experience:

Speaker: Shirley has presented on diversity and inclusion and on the importance of Reconciliation at multiple corporate and not-for-profit organisations in Australia and overseas. Most recently she has spoken at the Australian Institute of Company Directors Governance Summit, at the Australian Corporate Counsel Conference, at the inaugural Leadership Institute Indigenous Conference, at the Adelaide Fringe Festival and the UX Design Thinking Conference. She is comfortable speaking to large and small groups and has the ability to inspire audiences to action.

Legal career: Shirley is admitted to practise law in New York and Australia and after passing the New York bar exam, began her legal career with white shoe firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. After spending over 4 years working in Asia and managing large scale financial and corporate transactions, Shirley moved to JP Morgan Investment Management where she was Regional Counsel for APAC. Shirley resumed her Australian legal career at Westpac Banking Corporation where she was a senior lawyer in the private wealth and financial advice businesses. She left Westpac in 2016 as Counsel in Treasury.

For Purpose Focus: Shirley has always maintained a strong connection to purpose, working in the NFP space while maintaining a corporate career. She has worked as a volunteer on the executive management team at the Redfern Legal Centre, a presenter with The Cerebral Palsy Alliance, was a 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. Shirley mentors CEOs of not-for-profits, Indigenous students and women in the early stages of leadership and now volunteers with Orange Sky, an organisation providing access to showers and laundry facilities for people experiencing homelessness.

Talking Points

Diversity & Inclusion as a Driver for Change

Diversity and inclusion are no longer buzz words, they are a financial and business imperative for organisations to stay relevant, engage their younger workforce and to continue to innovate. Shirley will focus on the necessity of gender and cultural diversity, the significance of engaging with Indigenous Australia and why we need a diversity of voices and experience around the table. With over 15 years’ experience living and working internationally, Shirley talks about diversity and inclusion from the perspective of corporate governance and why companies who don’t change their thinking will be left behind.

Who is this for?
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.
- How to rethink governance from the perspective of diversity and inclusion
- Employee satisfaction and shareholder value as a function of D&I

Harnessing the Changes of 2020

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.

Who is this for?
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.

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

Key Takeaways:
- The importance of the gift that is the Uluru Statement from the Heart
- 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.

I worked very closely with Shirley last year during her time at the GO Foundation - amazing! We were fortunate enough to have Shirley speak to all of our staff across Australia and NZ (approx. 1,500) last year. More importantly, her presentation was held face to face in Sydney with 100 staff and then virtually across our 8 other offices. In all of the internal events we have held, I have never received such wonderful feedback from so many people Shirley is an inspirational leader who is not only incredibly intelligent but more importantly approachable. I would highly recommend her to any organisation. from James Neale, Clemenger Group Board Director and National Managing Director of traffic Group

We were delighted to have Shirley deliver a keynote to our 12th annual UX Australia conference. We knew Shirley would provide our audience with inspiration. She was also clear, insightful, and articulate. As an organizer, Shirley was a pleasure to work with, and professional at every turn.

Steve Baty, Conference Director, UX Australia, September 2020
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