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In profile: Jenny Taing, taking a holistic approach

by Caroline Falshaw | 17 Dec 2015

Jenny Taing contradicts the commonly held assumption that young people aren’t interested in superannuation and how they’ll fund a comfortable retirement. A senior lawyer at ASIC, Jenny has been involved in the introduction of the Stronger Super and MySuper reforms. 

“Superannuation is a passion of mine because it is an industry that has a direct impact on our lives and Australia’s future” Jenny explains.

While the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index ranks Australia’s superannuation system third globally for its adequacy, sustainability and integrity, Jenny is aware of the challenges that remain, particularly for women. 

Pointing to the recent finding of the Senate inquiry into economic security for women in retirement that the gender superannuation gap is 46.6 per cent, Jenny agrees that closing the gap “is a critical issue of national importance”. 

Having significant savings for retirement in superannuation provides individuals with empowerment, greater control and choice.

Moving the dial on retirement adequacy will require “a holistic approach”, Jenny says, to “improve financial literacy, ensure engagement with superannuation early, give better access to financial advice and encourage women to put away more in super”. 

There is a role for employers too, in improving the leadership status of women in work, narrowing the gender pay gap, and ensuring greater flexibility in work arrangements for carers of both genders. 

Bringing the diversity dividend to the board table

Jenny has held a number of significant leadership positions in her career. At 27, she was the youngest appointed Commissioner of the Victorian Multicultural Commission. 

As with her non-executive appointments, it’s an experience that came about because she was very clear about her values, and the areas in which she felt she could make a difference. 

Her refugee background (Jenny’s parents came to Australia from Cambodia and Vietnam in the 1970s) has given her a strong sense of social responsibility and her family’s experience has inspired her interest in issues in health and multiculturalism. 

After her Mum was a patient at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Jenny saw firsthand the challenges that patients with limited English and diverse cultural backgrounds face in accessing healthcare. It was from this experience that she joined the hospital’s consumer advisory committee, and later its board. 

Jenny recommends getting involved in a committee as a great way to dip your toe into governance. “Being involved with a committee is a great way for you to learn more about an organisation or sector and governance. Also, it’s an opportunity for you to become known to an organisation, network, showcase your skills and contribute” she says. 

During her time as Commissioner of the VMC, Jenny put the issue of culturally appropriate aged care on the public agenda. Her awareness of this issue was raised by her experience of finding a nursing home for her Dad, whose declining health meant that round the clock care became a non-negotiable. She found that there was “evident demand and a lack of supply of culturally specific nursing homes” affecting many migrant communities. 

It’s a growing issue, and dovetails with increasing debate about the role of superannuation in helping to meet the lifestyle needs and healthcare of an ageing Australian population. 

Bringing such a nuanced understanding to the table highlights the dividends that diversity brings and mentors and sponsors have played a role in propelling Jenny’s career development. “Mentorship and sponsorship has been critical to me being able to achieve these positions, as a young woman, coming from a refugee, culturally diverse background and the first in my family to have a tertiary education” she says. 

Mentoring can transform culture as it inherently involves developing a connection, learning about each other goals and values and builds mutual respect and understanding — this is fundamental to breaking down unconscious bias and developing a culture that supports diversity.

Plans for 2016

With the scholarship prize, Jenny plans to complete the High Potentials Leadership Program at Harvard Business School. The international perspective of the course is well-aligned with her interests

The course is one where executives fly in from all around the world’s top businesses to attend. Having such a diverse group of accomplished people in the room and learning with them and sharing insights will be a very special and valuable experience.

I’ve never been to the USA before and I’ve always wanted to attend this course, so I’m very excited. I’m particularly excited about the people I will meet and the experience of living on campus. I’m so grateful to Finsia for this lifetime opportunity.

We wish Jenny every success, and look forward to catching up with her after her Harvard experience. 

For more about the Hugh DT Williamson Scholarship, and to register your interest for 2016, click here.  

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