Diane Smith-Gander is considered one of Australia’s most powerful women and a role model for women and girls.

But the business executive, who has been awarded as an Officer of the Order of Australia for her distinguished service to business, women’s engagement and gender equality, says she also seeks to be a role model for men.

Ms Smith-Gander is no stranger to recognition, having already received the Governance Institute of Australia President’s Award for exceptional service and winning the Western Australian of the Year award for business last year.

But she said this honour was the most prestigious.

“To follow up the West Australian of the Year award with this is greater than any of my expectations,” she said. “I’ve known for a couple of weeks, but I still haven’t got used to it.”

Throughout her rich career — with roles spanning from banking with Westpac, to commissioner of Tourism WA, to the non-executive director of CBH Group and director of Wesfarmers, to the deputy chair of NBN Co and professor of corporate governance of UWA — Ms Smith-Gander became an advocate for gender equality and equal opportunity in the workplace.

“Women are still not equal in Australia and we still don’t have equal opportunity,” she said.

She said the most important, powerful or influential roles were still held by men.

“Role modelling for me is not only about role-modelling for women,” she said.

“It’s also about role modelling for men, so they can see women as equals, as capable, as aspirational for those jobs, that they want to do it and that they’re more than capable of doing it.”

The “passionate West Australian” said that, having travelled throughout Australia and overseas from the US to Hong Kong, she was well-informed when she said WA was the “best place in the world”.

“It’s so special because it’s so isolated,” she said. “It’s an amazing environment and it attracts people who are independent. After 24 years out of Perth, being back in East Fremantle, in the suburb I grew up, is amazing.”