James Riley
December 1, 2015

Are there no women in Camelot?

Are there no women in Camelot?

Holy Grail: In search of diversity in a land of sameness?

The list of senior leadership appointments to the Commonwealth’s innovation infrastructure is impressive, bringing a diversity of business and commercial experience to the roles that had perhaps been lacking.

Speaking at the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Sydney last week, Wyatt Roy said an “innovation Camelot is developing” in Australia through the recent appointments of these smart, commercially astute leaders to government institutions.

But is it possible that Camelot has no women? Because that doesn’t seem likely.

The Assistant Minister for Innovation makes a good point. The stars do seem to be aligning for the sector when you look at these recent appointments. You wouldn’t argue with any of them. In fact, the industry stood and applauded each, and rightly so.

The stars that have aligned - as referenced by Mr Roy last week - are these:

• Ex-Telstra CEO David Thodey as chairman of the CSIRO
• Physicist, engineer and serial founder Larry Marshall as CSIRO chief executive
• Silicon Valley veteran Adrian Turner as CEO of Data61
• Australia venture capital pioneer Bill Ferris as Chair of Innovation Australia
• Neuroscientist and entrepreneur Alan Finkel as Australia’s Chief Scientist

These are the significant appointments of the past year or so in our sector. And given the heavy emphasis on government as an exemplar user of digital technology, you could add to the list Paul Shetler's appointment as CEO of the Digital Transformation Office.

Or take it further and include the 'appointment' of Malcolm Turnbull as our first ‘Innovation’ Prime Minister, and then Christopher Pyne as Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, and Mr Roy as Assistant Minister for Innovation.

That would leave Karen Andrews as Assistant Minister for Science (appointed by former Prime Minister Tony Abbott) flying the flag. 

Mrs Andrews does not attract the same kind of attention as her young colleague Mr Roy, which is slightly maddening given her side of the portfolio is 50 per cent of the collaboration/commercialisation equation that each of the eminent appointees above are now addressing.

By rights, Mrs Andrews should be the poster-child for a raft of ideals. Since when has Australia had a science minister who was a mechanical engineer by training and a woman by biology?

There is no particular point to this column. It's just an observation.

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