Kathryn Fagg: Time for courageous leadership

Kathryn Fagg joined Boral’s board of directors in September 2014. On 1 July, 2018, she became its chairman. She has been the chair of the board’s remuneration and nomination committee, and a member of its health, safety and environment committee.

She is an experienced senior executive, having worked across a range of industries – logistics, manufacturing, resources, banking and professional services – in Australia and Asia.

Fagg was president of corporate development with the Linfox Logistics Group and prior to that held executive roles at Bluescope Steel and ANZ. She also consulted for McKinsey & Company.

In her other non-executive roles, she is a director of Incitec Pivot and a director of Djerriwah Investments. She also recently completed a five-year term as a director of the Reserve Bank of Australia. She is president of Chief Executive Women, chair of the Melbourne Recital Centre and chair of the Breast Cancer Network Australia.

Her qualifications include an Honorary Doctorate of Business and a Master of Commerce in organisational behaviour at the University of New South Wales, and an Honorary Doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of Queensland.

What will be your key message at the Construction Materials Industry Conference?

I want the audience to acknowledge that change and disruption requires leaders to be courageous. We need to position our businesses and ourselves for the future, which requires courageous leaders.

Boral’s Remuneration & Nomination Committee advises the board on diversity. When seeking diversity, what does the committee look for in a prospective board member?

In terms of prospective board members, we want directors who have deep industry perspectives and sector knowledge, either in construction materials or building products, as well as financial management, including capital markets experience. We want them to bring experience from different regions in which we are based, including Australia, Asia and North America. We look for people to contribute their knowledge and judgment, bringing different perspectives. We don’t want everyone around the table to look at the world in the same way – we value different perspectives, different world views.

Why is diversity important for a company board – and indeed company strategy?

Gender balance and diversity around the board table, and indeed in the company more broadly, means that you have drawn on 100 per cent of the available talent pool. It means that there are different perspectives and worldviews contributing to the debate and discussion and informing decision-making.

When there is a lot of change, which there is in today’s world, you want people contributing who see things from different perspectives. Diversity gives you much better outcomes and it helps to avoid the dreaded “groupthink” that can lead to sub-optimal outcomes.

Would you like to see more women across all facets of Boral’s business?

{{quote-A:R-W:300-Q:"Teams that have strong gender balance and greater diversity tend to be more innovative, creative and deliver higher performance."}}Our board has 50/50 men and women, so there is an absolute gender balance around the boardroom. But down through the organisation we are very actively trying to improve the balance and increase the number of women on the ground and in supervisory and management roles.

Teams that have strong gender balance and greater diversity tend to be more innovative, creative and deliver higher performance. I think we see that in parts of Boral where the gender balance is better – in our R&D centres, the corporate office, and in particular plants where we employ more women.

What advice do you have for young women that are interested in pursuing a career in the extractive industry – or in a profession that has been traditionally male-dominated?

You need to find a company that is very focused on developing its people. And then within that company look for great bosses, seek them out and find a way to work for them.

How does Boral’s Health, Safety & Environment Committee ensure Boral adheres to and improves its health, safety and environment systems?

Every member of our health, safety and environment committee has deep operational and industrial experience. We understand the challenges and the risks and we know what it feels like when our people are injured.

As a committee, we spend time reviewing safety outcomes, looking at the data, the trends and investigating accidents and near misses. Importantly, we review what is being done to improve safety, particularly in terms of leadership and behavioural safety management.

We visit sites to see how the operations are being managed, to inspect the plant and equipment and most importantly to talk to our operators themselves, to really understand how safety is being prioritised on the site and to listen to how our people talk about safety with their people. At the end of each site visit we provide the local management team with our feedback and observations. The best teams are looking for suggestions and advice. They recognise the value of observations made by people who have different perspectives, who are looking at their business with fresh eyes, who see things they might not see.

Although Boral has an excellent record on HSE, is there is always room for improvement?

Our goal is to deliver “Zero Harm Today”. So every single day there is a challenge to do better. If we deliver zero harm every day we certainly will be improving.

You’ve previously had roles with Linfox and BlueScope Steel. How does Boral compare?

Boral, BlueScope Steel and Linfox are all very similar – they are all on the journey to improve safety.

It is well known that if you’re in logistics, supply chain management or resources, managing safety well means that you are managing your business well.

If you have trucks on roads, in the community, like each of these organisations, then heavy vehicle safety management is the highest priority every day.

What do you believe are Boral’s challenges in the coming decade?

Given we made a major acquisition in our North American business just over a year ago – one of the largest acquisitions made by an Australian company in North America – our focus remains on delivering the benefits from this transaction.

Beyond the Headwaters acquisition, it’s about sustainable performance and growth more broadly across all of our businesses in Australia, Asia and North America.

We need our people to lead and embrace change. It’s going to be about increased productivity and efficiency, doing things in a less energy-intensive way, with a lighter touch on the environment. It’s about being more sustainable in a social and environmental sense, and being responsive to a changing world. It’s about embracing disruption, not fearing it.

What do you believe are some of the industry’s challenges in the coming decade?

The industry needs to think about the disruptions that will impact in the next decade and beyond. We need to consider less energy-intensive, more efficient operations, look at lighter and more sustainable products, and embrace digital technologies and data to deliver better outcomes.

In our industry, investment decisions are for the long-term so we need to have the foresight to consider the disruptive changes that are down the road and factor them into our decision-making today. We need to prepare for disruption and change and, where we can, we need to lead that change rather than wait for it to happen.

Kathryn Fagg will deliver the keynote address at CMIC 18 at the International Convention Centre, Sydney on 20 September, 2018.

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