Business School Topics
This month we sat down to lunch with two of the Business School’s stalwarts to examine the careers of husband and wife team, Professor Ken Clements and Professor Izan, Deputy Dean of the UWA Business School. Between them, they have contributed more than 50 years to the Business School and UWA.
Both have extensive careers filled with a variety of successes, struggles and significant achievements. To accurately depict their journey, one must start at the very beginning, where Izan and Ken met, as undergraduates reviewing the mark results display board while studying at Monash University.
“I was reasonably competitive, but Ken would occasionally beat me in marks and I wanted to know who my major competitor was,” laughed Izan.
To gain entry into University, Izan had her own struggle with significant cultural and gender barriers to overcome. “I grew up in a small town in Malaysia and for two years I attended a boy’s school for pre-university study. There was only a small group of girls who were doing this so it was certainly a challenge. Back then, diversity was not as recognised as it is today,” Izan said.
She came to Australia in 1970 to study at Monash University, where she met Ken. They both completed a Bachelor of Economics with first class honours in 1973.
Following a brief appointment in the commercial sector, Izan as an audit assistant with an accounting firm in Melbourne and Sydney and Ken as an economist with the Reserve Bank in Sydney – they went to the United States to complete their PhD degrees at the University of Chicago, undoubtedly one of the top universities in the world. They were at Chicago during the “golden era” when several Nobel Prize winners were on the Faculty – names such as Friedman, Miller, Stigler, Becker, Lucas, Scholes, and Schultz.
Both returned to Sydney in 1979 with Ken returning to the Reserve Bank as a research economist and Izan to take up her first academic appointment as lecturer at the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of NSW.
Izan and Ken came to UWA in 1981 when Ken was offered a Chair in Economics. “It was part of our five year plan to work at UWA, but that has since turned into a 26 year plan. Perth is a nice city with a fantastic lifestyle and good schools,” Izan said.
Both Ken and Izan moved swiftly up the academic ranks with Ken most recently being the former Dean of the Economics and Commerce Faculty and head of the Economics program for five years. Izan who initially started as a contract lecturer for one year, also climbed the ladder into a Professorship in 1990.
At the time of her appointment, she was the first woman to hold a Professorship in the disciplines of accounting and finance in Australia, and only a handful in the world. There were only two other women professors at UWA at that time. In 1994, she was appointed Head of her Department, one of the largest departments in the University, and held that position for five years.
Ken Clements was the Inaugural winner of the UWA award for excellence in research supervision. His postgraduate students often cause a stir with their research.
“Examples of research undertaken by my group include the Big Mac Index, the demand for beer, wine and spirits and other “interesting” products; cross-country consumption comparisons; and the stochastic approach to index numbers,” he said.
Notable students Ken and Izan have seen pass through the halls of UWA include some of the most renowned business leaders locally, nationally and internationally. Not one to drop names, Ken was the Honours supervisor of current Dean of the Business School, Tracey Horton and Izan taught current Business School Board member Mark Barnaba, to name a couple.
On their most satisfying achievement, Ken notes his two decades of work with the annual PhD Conference in Economics and Business. As the founder of the conference, he is proud that this event has been able to attract more than 500 students and the top academics from around the world since its inception.
“Top employers now use the conference as an opportunity to talent scout students for future employment. It is an excellent way to link academia to the business world in Australia. The conference continues to go from strength to strength,” he said.
Izan recognises her key achievement as her appointment as the first female professor in the disciplines of accounting and finance in Australia.