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Leading the way: MPM Group CEO Jane Kittel

A photograph of Jane Kittel.

Take a look at the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) in almost all Australian industries, and you’ll notice just 22 per cent of them are women. Examine that 22 per cent more closely, and you’ll find Jane Kittel.

Jane is the CEO of the MPM Group – Australia’s largest group of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) plan management providers, supporting more than 60,000 NDIS participants across the nation.

Her career began in financial services in 1986. From that point, she climbed the ranks of the Westpac Group to become the first woman in more than a century to lead its Pacific banking operations, and later BankSA in South Australia.

Commencing with My Plan Manager in January 2020, Jane led a significant transformation of the company as it invested substantially in its people, processes and technology to provide the highest level of service and innovation.

In 2022, she led the MPM Group’s acquisition of National Disability Support Partners (NDSP).

A former Director and Chair of multiple boards, a current Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and an alumna of Harvard Business School, Jane is a female leader and changemaker at a time when women are under-represented in all key decision-making roles in the Australian workforce.

In honour of International Women’s Day, we spoke with Jane about what drives her, why she entered the disability sector, and how she leads the way for women at MPM Group.

Here’s what Jane told us.

Q. Women are under-represented in all key decision-making roles across the majority of industries in Australia. What drives you to succeed in leadership?

A. I love the sense of achievement that comes with leading a business and the satisfaction of being able to make a difference.

I am passionate about working with people and helping clients, and I have always loved learning and challenging myself and others to do better. These are the things that motivate me to succeed in leadership.

Q. What inspired you to become a disability sector CEO?

A. I had reached a point in my life and career where I wanted to find a role that enabled me to contribute more and make a positive difference to the community.

I felt that the depth and breadth of my business experience, combined with a real commitment to – and love of – helping people, could add real value to the growth and transformation occurring in the NDIS and the broader disability sector.

Q. What initiatives do you prioritise within the MPM Group to promote gender equality?

A. A couple of the key initiatives we have prioritised in the area of gender equality include:

1. Creating conditions where everyone can succeed – underpinning this has been our focus on creating an inclusive company culture, supporting a safe and respectful workplace, implementing a flexible work policy and family violence leave, committing to gender pay equity and measuring it annually, and supporting progression and leadership opportunities for women.

2. Leading by example by ensuring we have gender balance in our Executive and management roles.

Q. What strategies have you seen succeed in supporting women to earn, learn and lead?

A. Throughout my career I have been fortunate to work within – and lead – some truly innovative organisations, and I have also had the opportunity to learn from staff and peers in those businesses and others.

Some of the most effective strategies I have seen for supporting women to excel in their chosen careers have been:

1. Creating workplace flexibility with demonstrated leadership from both men and women at the top of the organisation.

2. Enabling young women to see themselves in a leader (make sure there are female role models in leadership positions).

3. Setting organisational targets for gender equity in management positions and regularly reporting on progress.

4. Encouraging mentoring and sponsorship of women to provide general guidance, advice and support.

5. Measuring and monitoring gender pay equity.

Q. As a leader, how do you ensure diverse voices and perspectives are heard and valued?

A. Being open to the perspectives of others, and to the opportunity they present for your own learning and development, is a vital trait for leaders. That means I always seek to create an environment where the voices of staff and leadership are heard and respected.

Important to this approach is:

1. Listening actively and empathetically – seek to understand the perspectives, experiences and emotions, and be open minded, curious, and respectful.

2. Creating a safe and trusting space for employees to share their thoughts and feedback – recognise and reward people who speak up and ask the tough questions.

3. Encouraging participation, collaboration, and teamwork.

4. Recognising and rewarding diversity – acknowledge and celebrate achievements and contributions of people right across the company.

5. Role modelling and mentoring diversity – demonstrate and bring to life the values, principles and expectations of diversity and inclusion in our actions and interactions.

Q. What is a ‘female leadership’ moment where you felt proud?

A. In 2006, I was leading Pacific Banking for the Westpac Group across seven countries. My first visit was to the Solomon Islands business, and I was surprised when having met with one of our team leaders there, a woman with more than 25 years’ experience asked to shake my hand and congratulate me.

Her genuine warmth was fantastic. I wasn’t sure why she wanted to congratulate me. It turned out that her offer of congratulations was because I was the first woman to lead the Pacific Bank in more than a century.

Prior to that conversation I hadn’t focused on the significance of that milestone, but she certainly was. She was pleased and proud, and viewed my appointment as an achievement for her and other women in what is a very patriarchal culture and, of course, it was! It really brought home to me the importance of role models and being able to see people like you in leadership positions that you can aspire to.

Q. Do you have words or a motto you live by?

A. I don’t really have a motto as such, but I’ve always operated on the basis that I never walk away from an opportunity, and I always seek to learn new things!

Q. Is there a woman who’s inspired you in your life – and if so, how?

A. My Mum! She ensured me and my siblings received a good education and encouraged us to aim high so we could have a better life.

It’s this focus on learning that has really stood me in good stead right throughout my life.

Q. What advice would you give to women aspiring to leadership?

A. Find your passion in life and work and enjoy it!

Be positive and confident. Trust your instincts and seek out opportunities – and grab them with both hands!

Remember to always remain true to yourself and let your personality shine through.

Q. What traits do you admire in women in business?

A. In my experience, successful women in business that I’ve admired share the following traits:

  • Ambition
  • Confidence
  • Passion
  • Self-belief
  • Willingness to learn
  • Sense of purpose
  • Hard working
  • Collaborative
  • Adaptability
  • Perseverance

Q. What does this year’s IWD theme – ‘Count Her In: Invest in Women. Accelerate Progress.’ – mean to you?

A. Some years ago, I had the privilege of working in developing countries in the Pacific region for four and a half years, and I saw quite clearly the difference you make by investing in women, who often are the backbone of families and communities.

Women tend to invest more of their earned income back into their families, driving better outcomes and creating a multiplier effect from that investment.

Added to that, women account for much of the labour market growth and are the primary source of untapped talent right across the world.

So, when you invest in women and provide opportunities for women, it has the potential to yield long term returns through higher economic growth in developed – and particularly in emerging – economies.

Learn more about International Women’s Day here.

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My Plan Manager acknowledges the objectives of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

My Plan Manager acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia, and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to them and their cultures, and to Elders both past and present.
© My Plan Manager 2020
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