Jane Diplock, Former Chairman, IOSCO


Believe in yourself, your voice is important

  • What is your voice? Who are you? People want to follow you, not someone who is pretending to be someone else.
  • In life, if what you are saying is something that makes 100% of the people happy, you are not saying anything at all.
  • It was a great lesson in how to have the courage to speak up for what you believe in, and how to have enough confidence to say your mind in the presence of really smart, high-ranking, older people.
  • In short, be bold and fearless.

Get Inspired

  • Keep learning – take each new opportunity and new responsibility handed to you. Never think that once you have graduated, you are done learning. You should be constantly saying, “I can do that!  Give me a chance! I’ll learn how!”
  • Be open. Some of the jobs of the future are being created right now. There are jobs that haven’t even been thought up yet – using technology, medical discoveries, social media, crowd sourcing, etc. Be open and most importantly, have fun!
  • Those you work with or for today may be vital to your success tomorrow.  Treat them with respect.
  • Being a pioneer is both challenging and rewarding. You are incredibly visible, so your passion and drive to get things done is just as apparent as any mistakes you may make along the way.




Tell us about your early life path.

I grew up in a small town in Australia and went to Sydney University at quite a young age. I studied Medicine for a year and hated it, then I decided to get a degree in History.  It wasn’t until I was at university that I realized how fascinated I was by Law. After attending my first law lecture, I realized that this subject was perfect for me.  I viewed my legal training as a means of understanding how the world works. After leaving university, I won a scholarship to do my professional year at the Australian National University working for the Australian Commonwealth government. I worked for a year or so as a lawyer for the Deputy Crown Solicitor in Canberra.

After that, I moved to Sydney to be closer to my family, and I started working as a lawyer in the State Railways department. They had only ever had one female professional – a librarian – and had never had a female lawyer. The office was completely organized for men.  They had a tea cart that came around every morning and the woman who pushed it turned to me and said, “for men only.”  Likewise, the company had separate toilets for men solicitors and other men who worked in the office; they didn’t even have toilets for female lawyers, as they never imagined employing one. It was an incredibly old-fashioned environment.

In an attempt to show the office that I was capable of doing the work assigned to me, I started taking legal cases that were unprecedented for women—particularly of my age—including accident compensation cases and inquests. During that time, it was crucial to retain my own sense of worth, particularly when others were being demeaning. Keeping true to oneself is vital for success.

As the first chairwoman of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), what was it like to be an early leader and pioneer?

Being a pioneer is both challenging and rewarding. You are incredibly visible, so your passion and drive to get things done is just as apparent as any mistakes you may make along the way. I have found that in order to be a pioneer, it helps to:

  • Have an amazing mentor. My mother was a wonderful mentor and an inspirational woman. She saw the value of education and embraced the adventure of life outside the norm.  She achieved that for herself, and she imbued these qualities into me. My mother inspired me, and told me I could do anything I wanted, so long as I worked very hard and put all my energy behind it. You can’t underestimate the benefit of hard work. You need to be a credible candidate in order to succeed.
  • Be true to yourself. My mother also inspired me to understand the female character that I am, rather than to simply mimic the men around me. This helped me be secure in myself; you really need this security in order to achieve your goals.
  • Surround yourself with great people. Throughout my career, I have sought out, (and been incredibly fortunate to find), people who have given me good advice, ideas, and opportunities. For example, when I was working for the State Railways  department, I was desperate to find a new job. I applied to virtually  every suitable job I saw in the newspaper, and there was one job that was a ridiculously long shot, but I applied and was actually called in to interview. However, when I arrived, the man running the interview said, “there is no chance you will get the job, but I just wanted to see what type of person would have the nerve to apply.” He said that I was too young and clearly under qualified, but then noted that I had a strong academic record. I was 26 at the time, and the position was traditionally for a man in his late 40’s or 50’s. Nonetheless, he complemented me on my courage and nerve to apply and said, “I have a job that will be great for you that I am posting in three weeks time.”  Sure enough, I got that job, and he became a lifelong friend and mentor. In short, be bold and fearless.

Transition seems rough. Can you share with us a time when you have doubted yourself? How did you persevere and get through the challenge?

When I was head of the New South Wales Premier’s department of policy area, I was negotiating on behalf of the State for a casino to be built in Sydney.  On the other side was a group of merchant bankers who worked in a subsidiary of one of Australia’s largest banks.  At the end of the negotiations, they asked me to come work for them. I was very flattered and very tempted – the money was significantly better than what I was earning at the time. I thought about the offer, but decided I didn’t have sufficient financial experience, since I had no formal training or background in finance.  They asked me again and I explained that, while working in law and policy in government, I had a reputation for getting things achieved and a wide set of valuable contacts. I could ensure that almost  anyone in government would pick up the phone for a call from me; but in 18 months in the financial world, no one  picked up the phone for me and that was not  good for me or the bank. I had what they would call “a rapidly amortising asset.”  So instead, I proposed that they train me to be a financier, so that I had a wider skill set, which would be useful to them and to me. Sure enough, they agreed.

In this situation, I went back to my mother’s advice.  I knuckled under and worked very hard. I put in very long hours outside of work in order to learn the technicalities and practicalities of capital markets.  In the end, I headed up Financial Institution’s portfolio of the wholesale bank and was a successful financier.  But it was a tough climb, and there were definitely moments of doubt. There were moments when I didn’t know how to do certain things. Nonetheless, I was forced to overcome the challenges and my own doubts, and all of that training in banking turned out to be helpful for my work later on in capital markets, and as a regulator. In short, I communicated my weakness, but also proposed a strategy for how to overcome it, and in the end it was a success. Confidence is key.

How have the challenges faced by women changed across your lifetime?

The challenges that young women face today appear very similar to those I faced, despite different expectations. People have a view of what a certain employee will look like, such as a strapping young man in his late 20’s or early 30’s. It becomes challenging to transfer a female face onto that mental image. Managers look through candidates and often choose the one who fits their image, which is often a picture of themselves. This makes diversity more difficult to engender in professional worlds.

On a positive note, recognition of women in the business world is increasing. It is certainly easier for women to be recognized in their careers now than it was in the past. There are many talented women worldwide; however, there are still not that many women in positions of power. What is really wonderful is that many women in positions of authority are incredibly willing to help fellow women move into positions of power. This is a very encouraging sign for the future of female leadership.

What have you found to be the most important qualities of a good leader, especially when leading on a global scope?

Generally speaking, intellectual rigor is universally well respected. However,  the capacity to lead others through the power of argument and polite debate, rather than through authority, is also crucial for leading international teams. Building consensus around the power of your logic is absolutely essential; this requires diplomacy, courtesy, and tolerance of different views until an agreement can be formed. Leaders must build bridges of knowledge, trust, and mutual respect.

In terms of board leadership, successful, modern board members must also understand the need for an holistic approach to board governance, and the sustainability of the entity. This includes taking into account the environmental, social, and governance issues for the entity they govern, as well as the financial aspects. Investors and other stakeholders must be able to see that the current board and management are looking to the future sustainability of the business, and are not going to follow short-term goals, such as by super remunerating themselves, to the detriment of long-term investors.

As an experienced board member and CEO, what are the similarities and differences between leading on board and leading as a CEO?

I don’t think that there are huge differences. Both positions require the intellectual and personal skills to command respect. Clearly, board leadership is focused on strategy and governance, not operations. Governance skills are very important, and are something that serving on not-for-profit and non-commercial boards can teach you.

Good CEOs or good chairs try to draw out the best arguments, logic, and approaches for the rest of their staff or boards; they don’t use their authority to demand that their own perspective be applauded. Some CEOs don’t make it to boards because they find it difficult to transition from the operational to the strategic perspective, or they are used to relying on their authority, rather than their interpersonal and intellectual skills.

When I was CEO, I always tried to employ people that were smarter than me, and those whose skill sets complemented my own, so that we could collectively achieve the best outcome. I pulled together the most talented and clever people I could, and I still try to do the same on the boards I currently sit on.  Both a board and a chairman are like an orchestra and a conductor, drawing out the best music for the organization.

What are you passionate about?

One thing I’m very passionate about is my work with IIRC.  I currently sit on the board of the International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC), an initiative comprised of businesses, investors, global standard setters, NGO’s, accountants, and the U.N. – all institutes that focus on business reporting and sustainable investing. We are a collection of people from both public and private sectors, and we are trying to reformulate the way business is done and reported. The focus is on sustainable business in the future, which will improve both the sustainability of the planet and financial stability. We hope that through this new holistic approach to business we will avoid the boom and bust that has cost so many people so much during the global financial crisis, and we will slow the rate of global warming and climate change. The concept is to try to create holistic business reporting by examining the entire value creation of an organization. We hope to revolutionize the way businesses manage themselves, business reporting, and more broadly, how we understand the value chain. Over 80 global companies, including a number of large U.S. companies like Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, are currently piloting this concept. It is very exciting.

How would you describe your career path?

My view of life has always been to try to keep the opportunity tunnel widening, rather than narrowing. I try to keep a perspective on all the options surrounding me. For example, it is really easy as a 22 year old lawyer to decide that when you are 45 or 50, you are going to be a judge. While that may work for some, for many women, it is really important to keep different options open.

My career path was definitely like a complex, three-dimensional scaffolding ladder, leading both horizontally and vertically. In fact, I strongly encourage all women to adopt the more complex career path. The times when you go sideways are when you learn more skills, and widen your network, which can also enable you to put more time into family and relationships. Moving sideways allows for richer vertical moves later. I strongly believe in this sort of movement, and I think it’s something you need in order to be happy. Moving sideways is how you build yourself for moving up the ladder. My career has not been linear. I have moved sideways into many new environments, and then moved up, and then moved sideways again into another new environment. For women, it is really important to think about what is most important in your life right now, and move accordingly.  However, it is important to note that those sideways times are times to experience new skills, both formal and informal; but being able to communicate them in a valid manner is equally important. So long as you can justify your movement, it is valid.

What advice would you give the twenty two year old Jane?                                                                                                                 

  • Be bold and don’t be afraid – most of the time, it’s the inner voice that tells us we can’t do something, not the external world.
  • Work hard and be focused.  When you undertake something, be the best you can be at that role, whatever it is.
  • So much of our lives are dominated by work. Make sure it is fun, stimulating, and challenging. If you are bored, find something new to do. Success and fun are closely related.
  • Remember, every new person you meet is a job interview.
  • Those you work with or for today may be vital to your success tomorrow.  Treat them with respect.
  • Keep learning – take each new opportunity and new responsibility handed to you. Never think that once you have graduated, you are done learning. You should be constantly saying, “I can do that!  Give me a chance! I’ll learn how!”
  • Be open. Some of the jobs of the future are being created right now. There are jobs that haven’t even been thought up yet – using technology, medical discoveries, social media, crowd sourcing, etc. Be open, and most importantly, have fun!


The interview with Jane Diplock was made possible through our partnership with WomenCorporateDirectors (http://womencorporatedirectors.com/).

The Andrea J. Will LifeChat Series in Finance & Accountinis sponsored by the Andrea J. Will Memorial Foundation. More information at www.ajwmf.org.