Influential Women In Business Tackle Key Issues

Australia’s rising female leaders, researchers and economists debated the issues that impact on a woman’s journey to career success and personal fulfillment at the SWB13 Sustaining Women in Business two-day conference. With women being one of the largest emerging ‘economies’, key issues like leadership, politics, education, gender, and wellbeing were tackled head-on.

An array of successful company leaders spoke of their career highlights and lessons learned.

Julie White from Chief Executive Women commented that her key objective as CEO is to “put herself out of a job” so that organisations like hers didn’t need to exist.  “Senior women need to enable other women to become leaders.  High performance women need to share tips and mentor other women,” she said.

Merryck & Co’s principal Meredith Hellicar added, “it’s useful to have ambition, even more useful to have a strategy”.

Holly Kramer, Best and Less’ CEO, suggested women “push themselves and just get out there and grab opportunities”.

A positive leadership workshop by Michelle McQuaid revealed that 20-30% of a business’ performance is determined by the mood of its employees who are ultimately influenced by their leadership.  A good leaders’ mood can spread within seven minutes.  So, it’s important to maintain positive attitudes and support within the workplace to maximise output.

Organisational development expert Jane Horan spoke about the power of positive politics.  “Invest in relationships, invest in reputation and reflect on who you are and where you’re going”, she said.  Define your values and your purpose and figure out what you really want to do, she added.

An interesting panel discussion about Miss Representation, a film about women’s representation in the media,  caused some debate. Author and journalist Catherine Fox expressed her disappointment of the dwindling numbers of women in senior roles. Marina Go, publishing director at Private Media, is appalled at how young girls sexualise themselves to appeal to young something she has personally witnessed as a mother to teenage boys.

“Only 50% got engaged in the (women’s equality) discussion which is why feminism failed.  The other half didn’t care – guys just don’t give a shit”, said Dan Gregory CEO of The Impossible Institute.

So how we make people care and listen to gender equality issues?

“We need to operate outside systems built to instigate change, we need to figure out how to present and raise these issues to a broader audience beyond mainstream media,” he said.

Economics expert Alison Booth suggested we need to stop nepotism in higher gateway jobs. Managers need to stop making assumptions about people’s lifestyles and the correlation with their work performance.  Whether or not a person is married with kids has little or no bearing to his or her ability to perform the job.

IBM CFO Sara Watts believes employers need to consider that everyone has different lifestyles. Job flexibility needs to be offered in line with performance.

The phrase, “it’s not personal, it’s just business” is often thrown around, but as someone pointed out, it is personal.  Work is 50% of our daily lives that takes us away from loved ones, so we want to make sure we’re making the right choices.

Key messages that came out of the SWB13 conference were:
•    Don’t judge others, especially women, on their choice of lifestyle, everybody is different
•    Women and men particularly in senior roles need to need to support and encourage women to achieve and progress in their careers
•    Stay positive as a leader to encourage others to perform and achieve
•    Discussions about gender equality need to be encouraged and spread to create change – this should be conducted within and outside of mainstream media
•    Boys and girls need to be educated from a young age on how to respectfully treat each other and value the opposite sex beyond just the physical (particularly boys towards girls)
•    Keep up to date with current affairs and aware of local and international economic climates
•    It’s great to be ambitious, but have a plan and strategy
•    Know your values and your purpose and think about what you really want to be doing and are good at
•    Look after your mind, body and spirit
•    Always invest in time with friends and family and keep them close to you.

For more information and for future SWB conferences, visit

Elisa Limburg

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