Tell us a little about yourself?
Until recently I was lucky enough to be an expatriate for over a decade, galivanting around the globe. Over the 15 years away we lived in 4 countries, worked in many more, expanded the family by two and generally had a great time working and experiencing life around the world. We came back to Australia approximately 2 years ago, and as expected it’s been a bumpy return. Reverse culture shock is very much a real experience and the Covid crisis has really added to that feeling of trying to find where you fit in. Ironically, it is Covid I think that will bring back that sense of feeling towards Australia as home and the renewed sense of commitment to the place!
I am passionate about the environment and critically, sustainability. We can all make a difference; the size is less important than the action. A few herbs on a patio, individually and collectively makes a difference I’m certain of that. I volunteer at Oz Harvest and our family volunteers at the local community garden. We have a big veggie garden, three chooks and an aquaponics system to grow leafy greens. I love to cook, especially when the produce comes from my garden, and luckily my two teenage boys like to eat it all.
Who are the women who have inspired you the most in your life?
There are so many unbelievably cool women to draw inspiration from. Historically, my admiration list is long: 19th century suffragettes were brave and determined women whom we owe a deep debt of gratitude to. Elanor Roosevelt for her courage and tenacious fights for so many important causes (Universal declaration of Human Rights, the rights of women, African Americans, and World War II refugees). I also admire Margaret Thatcher, and while she remains a polarising figure in the UK even today her steadfast beliefs and iron will in modernising the UK economy showed a level of conviction that we rarely see today.
From the new generation that bring a lot of hope. There is Malala Yousafzai, an incredibly brave young woman who made a fierce stand against a repressive and brutal regime. Greta Thunberg is another modern-day warrior, she is pure, tenacious, courageous and her actions are critical for the survival of our future generations. I admire Ronni Kahn, founder of Oz Harvest for her commitment to the environment and food rescue, such a cool company ethos. Jacinta Arden’s kindness and empathy is long overdue in politics. I admire Michelle Obama, an incredibly intelligent, warm woman who consciously chose a public life over a corporate, very well paid, job.
I get to be inspired everyday by the woman in my life who are family and friends, women around the world, old and new, making their way in the world and contributing to make it an infinitely better place.
Why do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in business, particularly in leadership roles?
I strongly believe that Women bring different perspectives and ideas to the workplace. My personal experience has shown companies that have a gender balance make better decisions, have increased productivity and greater employee satisfaction. In round figures women make up 50% of the population and the available workforce. To not have an equal representation in leadership just does not make sense.
Moreover, low female representation means that a women’s total lifetime earnings are reduced, it shortens her career options and results in superannuation earnings that are significantly less than her male counterparts. One in three Australian women retire with no superannuation.
It is simply unacceptable that so many women miss out on these entitlements through lack of leadership roles. Regardless of the statistics or emotive arguments one thing I know first-hand from living overseas is cultures and religions who supress women, are effectively supressing 50% of their talent. In an increasingly competitive world why would you stifle 50% of your potential? It is imperative women are supported into leadership roles and promoted to the highest positions, including representation in parliament, the judicial system and have seats on boards.
What more can be done to support women in male-dominated industries?
These industries have a responsibility to encourage and entice women, including equal pay and promotion opportunities. They need to walk the talk, too many companies promote these ‘ideals’ but fail to implement. My observation says that there is a need of wide spread education across the male workforce to challenge the norms and unconscious bias. It is also important to ensure companies have the right culture so bad behaviour is dealt with quickly and properly. Although mainstream and social media has improved, women are still regularly profiled in very traditional roles, there is a need for a conscious shift to avoid stereotyping. Finally, affordable and good quality childcare needs to be accessible to all, regardless of industry or earning capacity.
What further steps can be implemented to encourage women supporting women?
Women are still (and more than should be acceptable) judged on how they look, what they wear, how they talk, even their hair colour. We have to stop and listen to this rhetoric and deem it unacceptable and unnecessary. Men are not scrutinised like this. Everyone must challenge their thought processes and unconscious bias; this is the key to becoming aware. Awareness encourages thought, which can lead to change. Companies also have an important role as well. Workplace culture is critical to women supporting women, as is ensuring a supportive and fair process when dealing with grievances. It needs to be institutionalized within the organisation.
How would you motivate women to “lean in”?
Loving and believing in yourself generates confidence. Confidence gives people the courage to take risks and ‘lean in’. We do not always get it right but that is not the point. Women have so much to offer in in the workplace and to wider society. Perseverance over failure must be the driver. Learn, fail, learn some more, in short persevere I think is a mantra to garner confidence and empower women and people in general.
How would you describe your current thinking about diversity and inclusion?
Living in the UK, the Netherlands, the Middle East and India for 15+ years has made me a much more open and kinder person (I hope!). It also reinforced the importance of respect and honesty. Attending a simple business meeting was often an incredibly interesting and stimulating mix of people and cultures. I found the diversity made the life style and everyday interaction interesting, challenging, enjoyable…….so many positive things and because of differences. It was such an eye-opening experience. It taught me every day to consider my thoughts and approach against other points of view. Ensuring inclusion and respect for diversity in every walk of life is a critical factor for humanity. At the end of the day, it is a basic human right. Watching the gay marriage plebiscite from India and not being able to vote was frustrating. On one side I was incredibly happy and proud of my country that this finally came to fruition but on the other side it was frustrating that it took so long and that we had to actually fight so hard for it.