Actuary’s book launches flexible work discussion

Nicolette Rubinsztein, Director, actuary, former General Manager of Strategy at Colonial First State/Commonwealth Bank and mother of three, has launched her first book ‘Not Guilty’ – a practical guide for women who want to better balance professional life and motherhood. 

At the launch on 23 September Nicolette, a member of the Actuaries Institute Council and Public Policy Committee, focused attention on the challenges professional working women trying to raise a young family face. 

Nicolette’s husband, her three children, and her parents, who had flown over from South Africa, were in attendance together with friends and colleagues. CEO of the Actuaries Institute David Bell, Senior Vice President Jenny Lyon, and Deputy CEO and Head of Public Policy Elayne Grace were also in the audience.


The book applies the McKinsey 7 S Framework for managing the strategy of a company – with ‘shared values’ its heart – to managing work and home life.

Nicolette speaks directly to the guilt and insecurity women can feel in the workplace, especially around maternity leave periods, and what needs to change from a legislative and corporate management perspective, to improve outcomes for working mothers.

I don’t think it’s possible for us to have it all or be perfect career mums,” Nicolette told those gathered in Darling Park, Sydney. 

“This book is targeted at women trying to do a bit of both; have an [engaged professional life] and quality time raising kids.”

“The right boss is the most critical thing. You can have the right company and HR policies, but if you don’t have the right boss you can’t get that flexible work agreed to,” said Nicolette.

ian2The launch featured an introduction by Ian Narev, CEO of Commonwealth Bank , and Jane Curry, owner and managing director of Ventura Press. 

“For women, and men, it’s about finding out what works for you and making choices,” said Ian. 

“It’s our [the organisation’s] responsibility to try to create an environment where a maximum number of those choices can be accommodated well.”

The percentage of working women with children aged under 18 has increased from 47% in 1975 to 71% in 2010*

Jane described an engaged professional life as ‘essential’.

This is even more pertinent for mothers today, with *US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data suggesting the percentage of working women with children aged under 18 has increased from 9% in 1940 to 47% in 1975 and 71% in 2010.

“Flexible work practices allow talented people like Nicolette to stay in the system,” said Jane, who said she jumped on the opportunity to publish Nicolette – named one of Australia’s most powerful part-time workers in 2014.

Some other interesting points Nicolette made, based on her research, included:

  • The most important thing to drive happiness is relationships
  • It’s the quality of time with your children that counts, not the quantity 
  • Parental care and preschool are effective, but when it comes to day-care for kids under the age of three, research on the benefits is ‘murky’

  • Outsourcing is a “capability” successful career mums need to master
  • It is important to build up “brownie points” with your employer before negotiating part-time work arrangements 


“We are well on the way to achieving gender equality in the workplace, I say that because of my own experience,” said Nicolette, adding that she is particularly in awe of the men that lead the way on the subject of flexibility.

The launch was followed by a panel discussion on the benefits and challenges of particular types of flexible work agreements.

Mark Worthington, Executive General Manager of Group Audit at CBA described how he changed his work habits to allow him to improve his parenting capacity, and what this meant for his clients, staff and his own attitudes. 

Mark Worthington, Executive GM of Group Audit at CBA pictured with Executive Managers in CBA’s Wealth Management Strategic Development team, Lucy Foster (centre) and Catherine van der Veen (right).


“Never for one moment did I hide [from clients] what was going on,” Mark said in regards to the uptick in his working from home. He emphasised the need for open discussion on “essential” flexible work options when individuals face personal challenges or family life changes, as he did. 

“I’ve had people break down and cry…and stop and thank me for speaking out about this,” Mark said.

Spotlighting ‘powerful partnerships’

Self-described “work-wives”, job-sharing Executive Managers in CBA’s Wealth Management Strategic Development team, Lucy Foster and Catherine van der Veen, explained their arrangement and why they are strong advocates for this “underutilised and lesser known” form of flexible working. 

“Working part-time and being responsible for all the output is very challenging,” said Lucy.

“Six years ago [when I first job-shared], people had no idea what it was, they thought it was just something nurses did. We educated our stakeholders and got promoted through job share.” 

The pair emphasised the importance of mapping out areas of the job and deliverables they share (60%) and areas of specialisation they each cover in the remaining 40% of the workload.

“Lucy is very good at the detail…I’m more of an experimental thinker,” said Catherine.

“I’m an alpha person, I like to control things…but once my 2.5 days are over, I have to let go and accept decisions I may not have made,” said Catherine.

Research shows job sharing can increase productivity by up to 30%. Both Catherine and Lucy were quick to tout its benefits, including;

  • It morphs your two best candidates into one role
  • It has a “triple bottom line impact”
  • It caters to different life stages and ages

But job sharing is not without its challenges. It requires those in partnership to have a high level of trust, communication and mutual respect.

notguilty“I’m an alpha person, I like to control things, I’m on a career trajectory…but once my 2.5 days are over, I have to let go and accept decisions I may not have made,” said Catherine.

Nicolette’s book Not Guilty can be purchased here. All author profits go to Missionvale Australia.

Read a short book review of Not Guilty by CFO and Chief Actuary of Comminsure, Jennifer Lang.








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