Jane Coleman: ‘Even at that early stage I didn’t feel put off by the statistics’
In this week of International Women’s Day 2019 on March 8 we are proud to relate the personal stories of some of CMCRC-SIRCA Group’s outstanding executives. They are part of our Group team profile that includes a mix of gender, creed, ethnicities and nationalities that hail from every corner of the world. Today we feature Jane Coleman.
As a chartered accountant and with an MBA, Jane Coleman fully understands the power of numbers and the messages they encode. But there was one set of figures she was determined to ignore, even though they signalled an apparently insurmountable barrier.
Coleman, today CFO of CMCRC-SIRCA company Lorica Health, was a newly minted trainee accountant with a global firm in Newcastle, chief city of the NSW Hunter region.
“The gender profile when I started out as a cadet accountant was actually quite balanced at the entry level,” she recalls.
“There was a consciousness that you needed to prove yourself, and keep earning opportunities via performance. I have always adopted that approach.”
There seemed to be few structural inhibitors for women and men moving through the ranks until they reached senior professional manager level.
“Then the profile changed dramatically. It was mainly men of an older generation,” she says.
I’ve always been a person who knows my own strengths and limitations, and I haven’t really been distracted by restraints that other people might put on to me
She reflected on the emphasis in those days of putting in long hours at the office, with little consideration for flexibility to accommodate life outside of work. Despite this, she wasn’t deterred.
“I’ve always been a person who knows my own strengths and limitations, and I haven’t really been distracted by restraints that other people might put on to me or people in my position.
“Even at that early stage of my career, I didn’t feel put off by the statistics.”
A portfolio of responsibilities
Coleman, a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, attended the University of Newcastle, graduating with a bachelor’s degree after which she went on to qualify as a Chartered Accountant and complete an MBA.
After several years of earning her stripes in accountancy at a local Newcastle firm followed by commercial finance roles, she was appointed Chief Financial Officer and Company Secretary at Pacific Smiles Dental. Here she helped to build a national network of dental centres, which expanded from a “founder-led business” to eventually an ASX listed company.
Having also served on the board of a private hospital and worked in the private health insurance sector, she had developed “a good working knowledge of the health care market from a variety of different perspectives”.
“One thing I really enjoyed in my role at Pacific Smiles was that I had a portfolio of responsibilities that came to include IT, so I learned, through curiosity, inquiry and persistence, a lot about the field and the integral role of technology to underpin and power the performance of an organisation” she says.
“I really enjoyed that variety and exposure – and the opportunity to combine health care and technology with Lorica Health was a really appealing proposition. From a growth perspective it’s a market that has huge potential globally.”
Powering better health care
Lorica, she says, is focused on powering better health care by providing data-driven insights and decision support.
“We’re developing analytical tools to help detect fraud, waste abuse, and errors in health care markets,” she says.
“We’re bringing together data science techniques, software development and health domain expertise to really power those insights.”
The health care market, she adds, is “notoriously opaque”.
“There is not a proper appreciation of all the available data, and people have difficulty accessing quality data.
“It’s a challenge – but our technology, data analysis, mining and visualisation can really unlock vast benefits for the health market.” Reduced waste in healthcare spending can be reinvested in quality care and medical advances.
Lorica’s products, she adds, are the culmination of multi-year, multi-million dollar investments in R&D as well as extensive industry testing led by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of data scientists, programmers and health experts.
“We have proven expertise in rapidly adapting software for different healthcare data schemas, systems and markets.”
Lorica also works in partnership with the Digital Health CRC, investing in product R&D with the goal “of increasing transparency, reducing low-value and low-quality care, and enabling evidence-based medicine”.
‘I am an advocate for equality, for women to be treated equally’
International Women’s Day offers an opportunity, she says, to “pause for thought”, about challenges facing women in the workplace and their possible solutions.
“I am an advocate for equality, for women to be treated equally, and for equality of opportunity,” she says.
‘I believe a healthy gender balance will help companies and organisations produce the best decisions’
“At Lorica we have a very good gender balance and diversity profile, and it’s my experience here that there is also strong support for workplace flexibility.”
As a mother of two children, she says she understands and values the importance of flexibility in the workplace.
“I have two kids and my husband was able to take time out from his role and work part time, and that flexibility enabled me to progress my career.
“It is just as important to provide flexibility to males as it is to females”.