Lionel Kho, vice president of data and analytics at Dentsu International, has topped the list of Australian analytics professionals in a year where women made up 40 per cent of the top 10.

Awarded by IAPA (Institute of Analytics Professionals of Australia), the rankings acknowledge the top 25 analytics leaders of Australia.

“Data practitioners are now being elevated to C-Suite positions and creating an organisational culture for data practitioners to thrive is paramount,” said Kho.

“Furthermore, as a person of colour, I hope my own recognition inspires young data and analytics practitioners from a wide cross section of our community, and I will use this opportunity to continue to advocate for cultural diversity in executive leadership in corporate Australia.”

In second place was Virginia Wheway, vice president, Data and Analytics, at mattress and furniture company, Koala, whose leadership of data projects for billion-dollar outcomes, delivering predictive analytics benefits to operations, and identifying additional online revenue flows during COVID received a nod from the judges.

“It's an honour to be recognised as one of Australia's top analytics leaders, as it's a role and profession I've been passionate about for over 30 years.

“I have been supported in developing and deploying Koala's first data and analytics strategy, as well as being an analytics’ change agent. It is refreshing for me working in a such a fast-paced environment with such a thirst for using data and analytics as koala moves from startup to scale-up, whilst also being able to have analytics contribute to that awesome customer experience it is known for.”

Rounding out the top five analytics leaders are Brad Petry, Executive Director, technology and Insights, Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions, Alex Antic, Head of Data Science, Australian National University and Sally Smith, Head of People Analytics at National Australia Bank.

“This is the most diverse set of entrants we have ever seen in the Top 25 Analytics Leaders,” said Annette Slunjski, Managing Director, IAPA.

“This is the first time we have seen someone from the legal profession enter into our top 10 and we are excited that we are broadening the recognition of data analytics in this country.”

While there is a widely known gender imbalance in the industry, 40 per cent of the top ten are women, encouraging Slunjski that Australian businesses are well-positioned to navigate key industry issues of bias and ethics.

“With a spotlight on advanced analytics techniques like machine learning and AI, it’s important for analytics teams to have strong governance and ethics guidance but it’s impossible to discuss bias and ethics without discussing diversity and having diverse teams in the discussion.

“Forty percent is encouraging but we still need more women and more diversity in analytics teams,” Slunjski said.

The 2021 cohort of top 25 leaders in analytics represents a range of industries including government, education, banking, retail and agencies.

Judged by a panel of leading analytics and business leaders, the 2021 IAPA Top 25 Analytics Leaders recognises excellence in four key areas: strategy and impact; influence and advocacy; innovation and improvement; and team growth and leadership.

IAPA, is the peak body for data and analytics in Australia, incorporating data analytics, data science and analytics-driven insights for better business decisions.

A complete list of the IAPA Top 25 Analytics Leaders cohort for 2021 can be found at