Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Master Builders appoints Denita Wawn as first female chief executive in 127 years

The blokey glass ceiling at one of Australia's male dominated business lobby groups has been smashed with the appointment of a female chief executive.

Denita Wawn's appointment at Master Builders Australia marks the first national female chief executive in the association's 127 year history.

Mrs Wawn, a former chief executive of the Brewers Association of Australia and New Zealand, replaces Wilhelm Harnisch who was at the helm for fifteen years.

Master Builders chose International Womens Day to announce Mrs Wawn's appointment citing her leadership qualities and success in driving industry campaigns at the National Farmers Federal and the Australian Hotels Association.

"We need to ensure that women in the industry are recognised for their efforts just as much as men particularly in large, medium and small sized businesses," Mrs Wawm said.

But Mrs Wawn rejected a suggestion that the timing of today's announcement could be perceived as tokenistic.

"Not at all. My appointment was certainly a rigorous and merit based selection process that just happened to find a female in the role," Mrs Wawn said.

"It was a great opportunity to highlight on International Womens Day that women can strive for excellence and they can be leaders in their field including in male dominated area in building and construction but also in the political world."

Building and construction remains the domain of men with less than one percent of women in building trades and slightly more in professional roles like site and project management.

But on the gender pay gap, Mrs Wawn said she was "absolutely" happy with her negotiated pay deal compared to her predecessor.

"Women can undertake these roles. It doesn't matter if you have kids or not we do have the confidence and we do have the capacity to take leadership roles in Australia," Mrs Wawn said.

On broader policy challenges, Mrs Wawn said she would would be tacking housing affordability and developing the right messages to ensure the campaign for a corporate tax cut over ten years succeeds.

Mrs Wawm is an internal appointment having been general manager of operations at Master Builders Australia for the past year.

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