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Dr Jill Ker Conway AC

In 2000, Dr Jill Ker Conway became the first woman to chair a listed public company in Australia.

Honour Roll

Jill Ker Conway was born on 9 October 1934 at Hillston, New South Wales, and grew up on a sheep station. She attended Abbotsleigh Girls' School, Wahroonga before going to Sydney University where she attained a BA (Hons) in 1958.

From there she went to Harvard University where she taught history while completing a PhD (1969). Jill left Australia after being turned down for a job in the Department of Foreign Affairs because she was a woman. She became an Associate Professor before moving to the University of Toronto. She then became President of the prestigious Smith College in Massachusetts from 1975-85, the oldest and largest women's college in the United States. She then became a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also has numerous honorary doctorates.

In 1962, she married John James Conway. Through this period in America she became director of many corporations, including Merrill Lynch & Co (since 1980), IBM World Trade Americas/Far East Corp. (since 1977) and Colgate-Palmolive (since 1992). She was also involved in directing many not-for-profit companies.

In 1992, she was invited to become a director of the Australian company Lend Lease, despite having been away from the country for so long. In January 2000, she was announced as the chairperson-elect of the company to replace Stuart Hornery at the November 2000 annual meeting. Jill thus became the first woman to chair a listed public company in Australia. She was the first non-executive chairman of Lend Lease and was based in the United States.

Jill long campaigned for women's rights and has written several works on women in history. She also penned two autobiographical works, The Road from Coorain (1989) and True North (1994).