Shirley Chowdhary addressing the graduation ceremony

Shirley Chowdhary awarded honorary doctorate

21 May 2024
Alumna recognised for her business leadership and social advocacy
Distinguished alumna Shirley Chowdhary has been awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of her achievements and leadership across industries and advocacy for the advancement of Indigenous education and gender equality.

Shirley Chowdhary has today been admitted to the degree of Doctor of Letters (honoris causa), adding to an impressive list of degrees already awarded by the University, including a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Japanese and Psychology, a Master of Arts in Japanese, a Postgraduate Diploma of Arts in Government, a Master of International Law, a Bachelor of Laws and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice.

Presiding Pro-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Garton, conferred the degree to Ms Chowdhary, commending her extraordinary achievements and leadership. 

“Shirley has been a consistent and inspiring role model who pushes to create pathways for women and amplify their voices in the workplace.

“She herself has demonstrated how women have the power to influence the design and function of future workplaces, develop innovative employee policies, drive Reconciliation, and contribute to the rich tapestry that is the modern Australian workforce.

“Her advocacy for Reconciliation, Indigenous education, and inclusion displays her devotion to increasing diversity of all types at every level of an organisation.

“The varied specialisations of the organisations spanning her career and volunteering record demonstrate the breadth of her expertise and her exceptional ability to build collaborative ecosystems which connect shareholder value with a deeper impact and purpose.”

Image of three people in university gowns

Head of Sydney Law School and Dean, Professor Simon Bronitt; Shirley Chowdhary; Pro-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Garton.

Ms Chowdhary began her career as a corporate lawyer, practising at a top-tier New York firm across Asia and New York before expanding her expertise to investment management. In the financial sector, she continued to work in associate and regional counsel roles in Japan and throughout Asia for a further eight years.

Taking a step away from the corporate office environment, Ms Chowdhary has developed an extensive volunteering portfolio in a variety of roles, while championing diversity, inclusion and gender equality. 

Shirley's advocacy for Reconciliation, Indigenous education, and inclusion displays her devotion to increasing diversity of all types at every level of an organisation.
Presiding Pro-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Garton

To date, Ms Chowdhary has held more than 20 executive and non-executive leadership positions in private, public and not-for-profit organisations. Notably, she was the inaugural CEO of the GO Foundation and Deputy Chair of the YMCA NSW. Ms Chowdhary has served on several committees and as chair for advisory boards including Mentor Walks, Propel and med-tech start-up Octadoc.

In recognition of her immense contributions and impact, the Australian Financial Review named Ms Chowdhary one of the 100 Women of Influence in 2019.

Through her role within the GO Foundation, she made an immeasurable contribution to enriching and expanding access to educational opportunities for Indigenous students, from kindergarten to university.

Beyond the GO Foundation, Ms Chowdhary has been pivotal in the implementation of the University of Sydney’s ‘One Sydney, Many People’ strategy, consulting on its successful application across the University community. 

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