Marnie Baker

THE glass ceiling has fallen in Bendigo where women have been appointed to the last two merit-based leadership vacancies and they fill all elected leadership roles.

If it was still in place, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank shattered the ceiling this week by appointing Bendigo-based executive Marnie Baker to replace Mike Hirst as managing director when he retires in July.

The bank, Australia’s fifth largest and an ASX 100 company, could become the first in Australia to be chaired and led by women.

Chairman Robert Johanson made it clear at the 2016 annual general meeting he would step down within three years.

Female directors make up 40 per cent of Bendigo and Adelaide Bank’s board.

Asked if the bank could have women in both of the top jobs, Mr Hirst said: “There is every chance”.

“I think it is okay (to draw attention to gender) as long as it doesn’t take away from the real reason (Ms Baker) got the job which is she performed at a level that has enabled the board to have the confidence to appoint her,” he said.

“I would like to think we have a meritocracy at the bank and if you perform well, then you will get the opportunity and this is proof of that.”

At the City of Greater Bendigo earlier this month, Debbie Wood’s appointment as presentation and assets director meant women outnumbered men three to one in the council’s directorate.

Bendigo’s biggest public service jobs, including at the council and Bendigo Health, are held by men.

But women hold all elected positions at federal, state and as mayor at local government level, and there is a good chance that could remain the case.

Neither of the Bendigo seats, held by Jacinta Allan in the east and Maree Edwards in the west, are considered marginal in the upcoming state election.

Federally, Bendigo MP Lisa Chesters increased her margin at the 2016 election.

Victorian senator Bridget McKenzie, who has an office in Bendigo, recently became deputy leader of the Nationals and minister for sports, rural health and communications.

Bendigo mayor Margaret O’Rourke was voted in this year for an unprecedented second term.

Her deputy is Jennifer Alden and women make up five of the city’s nine elected councillors.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency has reported that only 8.7 per cent of chief executives in ASX 200 companies were female in 2016.

The agency tweeted its congratulations to Ms Baker this week.

“She will be the first woman to lead the bank in its 160-year history,” it tweeted. – Sharon Kemp