Imagine being on the frontline of decision making during the world's worst financial crises. Imagine the responsibility of having "history on your shoulders" as the first female deputy secretary of Treasury in its 112-year history.
This was reality for Canberra born-and-bred Jan Harris, who's had some "momentous moments" throughout her 30-plus years in the Australian Public Service. She is a finalist for the 2015 Telstra ACT Business Women's Awards.
Mrs Harris entered the APS in the early 1980s with a Bachelor of Economics from the ANU. She has since been involved with forming several highly-important policies, worked at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on the budget, represented Treasury at the OECD delegation in Paris in the 1990s, and helped advise the government during the 2007 global financial crisis.
"There were times during the GFC where you just sat back and thought, these are extraordinary times and I'm sitting in cabinet as part of the discussion, working out what they needed to do," Ms Harris said.
"They are big moments in your life."
The 56-year-old always asked for flexibility when needed so she could take on family responsibilities and because of this avoided taking some jobs. She is passionate about gender diversity and has guided both senior and younger women in chasing their ambitions.
"Suddenly you become more visible as a leader in the organisation as opposed to being a part of the public policy and managing particular issues, and also dealing with having an executive board that was prominently male and learning how to operate in that environment."
Mrs Harris observed how, in the past, many females came through Treasury's top jobs but left for "various reasons". She said the department was now focusing on breaking down cultural barriers – not just the structural ones – that possibly influence this trend.
The latest APS Statistical Bulletin found almost twice as many women as men were employed at the APS levels in the public service, but there was almost a third more male than female senior executives.
The future was unclear for the mother-and-grandmother-of-two, who's on leave until officially resigning from Treasury.
"Being nominated for the Telstra awards gave me an opportunity to realise I've had a significant impact on a lot of people over time both in a work sense and personal sense, from being with an organisation for a long time," she said.
"My 30 years in the APS has been a terrific journey but I always thought I'd do some different things."
Mrs Harris plans to keep pushing on the issue of women in leadership and diversity, but was open to other emerging opportunities.
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