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Cassandra Kelly On How To Overcome Workplace Discrimination

Cassandra Kelly On How To Overcome Workplace Discrimination1

She’s a trusted advisor to governments on policy as well as some of the world’s largest companies on their corporate strategy and mergers and acquisitions.

Cassandra, who now heads up global corporate advisory firm Pottinger in New York, is holding a masterclass on discrimination in the workplace in Sydney on August 17.

The Carousel caught up with one of Australia’s most influential businesswomen for an insight into her key messages on the day, and some tips on how to get ahead at your workplace.

“It is impossible to stamp out discrimination in the workplace if you don’t know what it looks like,” Cassandra tells us from New York.

“So the first step is to be able to spot it when it arises.”

The member of the Australian Federal Government’s Treasury Inclusive Workplace Committee says policies and training courses alone are insufficient.

“You need leaders from the top of the organisation to insist on a fair and diverse workplace and to regularly reinforce the importance of this to sustaining a healthy culture and achieving out-performance.”

“To have a fair and decent workplace is the responsibility of all. If you find yourself looking sideways or upwards, you need to turn the mirror back on yourself and make it your duty to ensure equity around you.”

“Numbers don’t lie. We don’t tend to care about something unless we measure it. Make sure that you are looking at the facts when it comes to hiring decisions, promotion opportunities and pay equity.”

Cassandra’s three best tips to get ahead in the workplace?

1. If you are thinking that you will get where you deserve to go based on merit, look around you and you will see that this isn’t guaranteed. Instead build networks and seek out those who want to see you win.

2. Don’t compare yourself to leaders past as too many of them would fall short in today’s world. Instead, think about what we need in leaders tomorrow and aim for that.

3. Define success for you. It is different for everyone. But if you want to make it to the top, be realistic and remember that the journey may seem hard but at the top it doesn’t suddenly get easier. With the right to make a difference comes the pressure to do just that.  As Anna Bligh, former Premier of Queensland, once said to me ‘Leadership isn’t meant to be safe’.

  • To register for Cassandra’s August 17 talk at the QT Hotel on Park Street, Sydney, contact Rebecca Davies at [email protected]


Cassandra has extensive experience in advising on finance, risk, strategy and policy and her career has spanned Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. She is currently chair for Pottinger, a corporate advisory company she co-founded in 2003 that works globally with influential leaders on their most important opportunities and challenges. She is also an expert advisor to the G20/B20 on matters of infrastructure. She recently joined the founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, and founder of Infosys, Naryana Murthy, as a member of the India Asia Pacific Forum Advisory Council, reflecting her expertise in working in this region and her continued support of entrepreneurialism.

Cassandra has held executive roles at GMAC Commercial Mortgage and Deutsche Bank, with responsibilities covering Japan, China, Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, Europe and the United States.  Her experience spans agriculture, consumer products, energy and resources, financial services, infrastructure, medical technologies, tourism, technology, digital media and professional services.

Written by TheCarousel

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