It is difficult to describe a person as dynamic as Kath Snell, more than a CEO she is a lifelong learner who is continually striving to make a positive impact in the lives of others. 

Sitting in a coffee shop on a chilly winter afternoon, Kath Snell and I sat down to talk about the Difference Maker Awards. The first thing you notice about her is the energy and the passion she has for her work. As the CEO of United Way WA, Kath cares deeply about the people at the centre of her organisation, especially its clients, volunteers, and employees. 

Kath believes an organisation is best served when it reflects the community and stakeholders that it serves, a mindset which extends to those serving on boards. For Kath, the word diversity is “almost a contradiction” because it should be that boards reflect the society we are in and the stakeholders of an organisation. While boards should reflect society, Kath also believes that there is at least one aspect where uniformity is a pre-requisite, namely that board members value the organisation and believe in its core mission. 

As an experienced CEO, Kath has navigated various board compositions and has continually nudged for change where she believed her organisation could benefit from it. Whether it be working with the management team to develop their skills or speaking to her board Chair about how board governance could be improved by reflecting society and stakeholders. 

Kath is a strong believer that boards should reflect the stakeholders of their organisations. In aspiring to achieve this, Kath is constantly working on ways to make her board more inclusive and accessible to those stakeholders. If you are thinking about improving your organisations diversity, Kath’s advice is to start with inclusivity. Make sure that your organisation is accessible and does not limit the participation of others. On a board, this may be the through small changes like the timing or method of board meetings. 

Kath’s passion for diversity is showcased by her involvement in the Emerging Leaders in Governance Program, which she has supported for over 8 years. Through her mentorship and advice, she has guided a new generation of leaders through their journey as board directors. 

Something that Kath is always doing is learning. She constantly searches for ways to improve her organisation and, while celebrating successes, does not stop questioning how to make it better. She surrounds herself with people who are different from her, and yet at their core, they believe in the mission and values of the organisation that they are working for. Organisations (and the world more generally) would be better off if there were more leaders like Kath Snell. 

Written by Karess Dias



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