Andrea Staines OAM
Non Executive Director
Andrea Staines has been a professional Non-Executive Director for over a decade, and is currently on the boards of ASX-listed SeaLink Travel, NZX-listed Freightways, Tourism Australia, UnitingCare and NDIA (the NDIS Agency).
She was formerly on the Boards of QIC, ASX30 Aurizon, Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC), Gladstone Ports, North Queensland Airports, Allconnex Water and ASX-listed Early Learning Services (now G8).
Andrea is a former CEO of Australian Airlines (mark II), a Qantas subsidiary flying between Asia and Australia, which she co-launched. This makes her one of few female airline CEOs globally, past or present. During this time, she was also a member of the Qantas Group Executive Committee. Prior to this, Andrea was the first female General Manager of Revenue Management at Qantas, leading a 150-strong team employing operations research algorithms and human intervention to optimize Qantas revenue.
Before joining Qantas, Andrea worked in various financial and strategy roles with American Airlines at their Dallas headquarters.
Andrea has an MBA (Distinction) focusing on finance and strategy from the University of Michigan, a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Queensland, and completed high school on full scholarship at the United World College in Singapore. Andrea is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) and a Member of Chief Executive Women (CEW).
She is the mother of two university students whom she raised single-handedly during her eight years as an executive at Qantas Group, including as CEO of Australian Airlines.
What boards do you sit on?
I currently sit on the board of SeaLink (ASX), Freightways (NZX), UnitingCare, Tourism Australia, NDIS.
When and why did you decide to become a director?
At the age of 41, my role as CEO of Qantas subsidiary, Australia Airlines (mark II), came to an end with my recommendation that Australian Airlines should roll back under parent Qantas for strategic reasons. As a sole parent of two children about to enter high school, I decided I needed personal flexibility to be both the income-providing and daily-details parent.
Board work is full-time, but, aside from dedicated board days, board work can generally be undertaken day or night, weekday or weekend, in person or by phone. After becoming a full-time board director, I discovered that I loved the professional diversity that this career brought me.
What are your short and medium-term board aspirations?
Short-term - more Chair Remuneration Committee roles because it allows me to combine my financial and people leadership passions + first Chair role in a small-medium entity.
Medium-term - further Chair roles in larger entities.
Outline your career background.
B. Econs at UQ, soon followed by MBA at University of Michigan, where I discovered finance and strategy. Spent most of my corporate years in airlines in Dallas and Sydney, applying microeconomics and financial analysis on a daily basis, adding strategy in my later years.
For my last 5 years as an executive, I co-launched then became CEO of Australian Airlines, a new Qantas subsidiary. Macroeconomics replaced the microeconomics when I became a board director.
Touch on the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them?
It’s a very competitive world, especially if you don’t come to the board search living in a major city and having a broad network at the senior level from being a professional services provider. But most of us are in this position, so just sharing challengers by phone or in person with other WOB women was cathartic and motivational.
I have been methodical, patient and hard-working in my board search. Being methodical means organised research, networking, note-keeping, CV editing, interview preparation and so forth. Patience is realising that board roles have a long gestation period of about a year, on average. Hard work also comes with understanding that maintaining a full-time board career means adding a new board each year, on average. So, the combination of these last two factors is being in perpetual search mode!
Being prepared to invest time and money in yourself for the AICD CDC, WOB seminars, interstate networking events and so forth is also necessary. This is somewhat risky, but if you don’t back yourself, it is hard to expect others to do so!
Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why?
I aspire to be as good a Director for as long as Wendy McCarthy AO has been. I worked with Wendy for 5 years on the Goodstart Board. Wendy supports young aspirants, females or otherwise. She is also a brave Director - I learned to have confidence in approaching the national stakeholders in government, industry and for-purposes circles, in order to make a difference.
Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career?
I had an informal coach and sponsor during my days at Qantas, followed by a formal mentor during my final days there. Coaching helps you improve a particular aspect of your work; mentoring helps you think about the big picture, but sponsorship is what makes the most difference.
What’s the diversity (gender & other) like on your boards?
Gender diversity has improved markedly in my 13 years as a board director. My Government boards now are 50% female; my listed and private boards are about 33% female. I began as a Director in 2006 and until 2012, I had an average of two boards on which I was the only female director.
Other diversity (age, race, culture, international experience) is a new focus, but is at least a decade behind gender diversity in its progress.
How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom?
An early WOB meeting in 2006 at Qantas was where I first heard the phrase ‘gender diversity’. WOB has been a supporter and sponsor of mine since then, helping me network, apply for roles, and build my profile through speaking engagements. I’ve tried to support WOB in return, through membership dues, speaking at WOB events, and providing feedback and ideas.
Any tips for women starting out in their board career?
Don’t do what I did! Don’t start from a standing start, needing to prepare for a board career - complete your AICD CDC, analyse your experience to determine your ‘value-add’ thus ‘elevator pitch’, attend a WOB Class to develop your board CV, begin your networking journey, and get some board experience - after you’ve left the corporate executive world!
The latter is such a busy world that we often don’t make time to do this list of board preparatory work. I do give myself some allowance for my lack of preparation - I was running an airline (which was based near the airport not the city centre), and raising two primary-schoolers (solo).