A Sydney-based diamond wholesaler who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in New Zealand sits to the right. On the left sits a Beijing-based Latvian diplomat who specialises in transport issues. Both are attending the University of Sydney Business School’s annual alumni dinner.
The School’s international alumni community now numbers more than 60 thousand.
As different as individual members may be, they all, according to the Dean, Professor Greg Whitwell, have in common “the skills to succeed in a dynamic and constantly changing international environment acquired while studying at the Business School”.
Professor Whitwell’s welcome to the 2018 dinner focused on the School’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. He pointed out that females now make up more than 60 per cent of School’s 14 thousand students.
He went on to tell of how an all-female team from the Business School earlier this year took out the William and Mary Women’s Stock Pitch Competition in Virginia ahead of internationally renowned schools including Berkeley, Brown, NYU and Columbia.
“This kind of international experience teaches students to work in teams, communicate, meet tight deadlines and think critically,” he said.
The dinner’s keynote speaker was Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz. A University of Sydney Arts alumna, Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz has, since 2012, headed the Australian construction giant Mirvac Group, which she described as an “urban powerhouse”.
“Each of our businesses is performing at the highest possible level but it’s not enough to just deliver financial results,” she said during her speech focusing on corporate social responsibility and employee engagement. “We passionately believe that being successful and doing good go hand in glove.”
Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz talks of Mirvac’s sustainability strategy, known as ‘this changes things’, and dismissed any suggestion that it amounted to nothing but “fluffy, feel good, corporate spin.”
The strategy, she said, was about “protecting our planet, about stronger communities and about caring for the health and wellbeing of people who work in our buildings and live in our homes”.
The key to the success of this strategy, Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz said, was employee engagement.
“Employee engagement is the difference between companies that perform and those that don’t. It unlocks productivity, provides a fantastic customer experience and makes a tangible difference to the wellbeing of people,” she said.
The Mirvac CEO went on to detail steps taken to boost employee engagement from 37 to more than 90 per cent over the past six years.
As in past years, the Business School’s alumni dinner was a sell-out event. It was held in the University’s Great Hall, a venue steeped in history and tradition, but the messages were about the changing roles of educational institutions and of business and of their changing responsibilities.