A Cuppa with Westpac’s Ainslie Van Onselen

Ainslie van Onselen is a busy woman. Not only is she a Board Director, Lawyer and busy mother of two, she is also Head of Inclusion and Diversity and Director of Women’s Markets for Westpac Group. In her role at Westpac she is a driving force in ensuring the business reaches 50% women in senior leadership positions by 2017 and overseeing the roll out of the organisation’s flexible work policy ‘Work Smart’ across Australia. 

Having spoken at our latest ‘Ask the Expert Event’ on Westpac’s ten year journey to get to this point, she kindly shared a few key insights with us over a cup of tea (whilst working from home of course).

Can you tell us about what Westpac Group has achieved recently regarding your Workplace Flexibility strategy?

Our most recent achievement is the launch of our All-in-Flex Campaign. From 1 June 2015, all internally and externally advertised roles as well as current roles are considered flexible. We have encouraged our HR partners and people leaders to start conversations with our employees around their flexibility requirements. This is in response to 89% of our employees telling us they will need some form of flexibility in the next 3 years (from our 2014 Diversity and Flexibility Survey).

What were the biggest hurdles in implementing these changes?westpac print-logo

The biggest challenge with any major change at Westpac Group is getting the message to our 46,000 employees. We achieve this by using a number of communication channels including our newsroom, internal social media platform Yammer, HR briefing sessions and messages from leaders. To keep the program sustainable, we continue the conversation through all of our communications around inclusion, diversity and flexibility.

What are the goals for Westpac Group in the next 2 years regarding workplace flexibility? What are the bank’s other diversity goals?

Flexibility for the Westpac Group over the next 2 years will include shifting employees in corporate offices in Sydney to agile environments and when combined with Melbourne and Brisbane this will bring the total workforce working agile to approximately 15,000. This physical shift will continue to be underpinned by a cultural change journey that focuses on encouraging flexible working where the philosophy is that work is not a place you go but something that you do and achieve.

In addition, support for flexible working will continue to be driven by embedding the All-in-Flex strategy and Inclusive Leadership training. Over the next two years we will also seek to embed our approach to flexibility via the development and adoption of our Enterprise Agreement in response to feedback from our employees.

Westpac Group will also look to enhance the adoption of flexible working by using feedback from our employee action group, surveys and social media to identify areas for improvement and change.

In relation to other diversity goals, Westpac Group has set the aspirational target of 50% women in leadership by our 200th birthday in 2017. This is underpinned by a strong Inclusion and Diversity strategy which is being driven by the business.


Do you have any tips for other organisations embarking on implementing a new workplace flexibility strategy?

Senior leader role modelling and executive support is critical for a change management program of this size. Mainstreaming flexibility is a combination of a cultural mindset change away from distrust and performance being measured by presenteeism (but rather by output and productivity), as well as enabling and empowering your workforce with the right tools, technology, and physical environment that complement this.

On a personal level, what is the most rewarding aspect of your role?

We are encouraged to bring our whole selves to work at Westpac Group and through inclusive behaviours our visible and invisible differences are embraced and our uniqueness is valued. Working on a daily basis with the kaleidoscope of diverse people here at Westpac leads to innovation of thought and ideas and in turn leads to great customer outcomes.

Our vision to become one of the greatest service companies in the world makes me want to jump out of bed every day. I never felt that way as a lawyer!


Ainslie was appointed Chief of Staff to the CEO of Australian Financial Services, Brian Hartzer in 2013. In this role, she was responsible for supporting the AFS business and played a key role in driving the strategic Service Revolution agenda. In February 2015 Ainslie was appointed the Head of Diversity & Flexibility (now known as Inclusion & Diversity) and Director of Women’s Markets (commencing July 2015).

Ainslie currently serves as the Deputy Chairperson of the Insurance Commission of Western Australia, is a Board Member of the Legal Aid Commission of New South Wales and is a judge of the NSW Human Rights Award.

Ainslie holds a Bachelor of Laws, a Masters of Applied Finance, Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

To express an interest in attending our complimentary ‘Ask the Expert’ business lunches, please email Fiona Pogson on fiona@web47.sky.studiocoast.com.au