Australian women are as diverse as our landscape and history. On Friday 20 March the Women Who Rock: Make it Happen IWD lunch was a celebration of the many extraordinary things that ordinary women, just like you and me, can and have achieved when they set their hearts and minds to it. Although it’s impossible to cram over three hours of inspiring conversations, music and connections onto one page, the #ahamoments are too good not to share. I was lucky enough to be the MC on the day so I want to share the highlights with you.
The whole audience was captivated by an amazing line up of speakers who were prepared to share their very personal stories; taking us on a roller coaster of emotions from laughter to tears, self-reflection to fist pumping rockstars. We heard about what motivated our speakers to ‘make it happen’ in their industry, challenges they’ve faced along the way and how they stay focused, authentic and energised.
Kate Mills, CEO Professional Mums, journalist, mother and wannabe musician, explained what motivated her to found Professional Mums, “I have always been passionate about gender diversity and wanted to set up something that was outcomes oriented. I created the [Professional Mums] platform so that organisations could find and attract highly skilled women.
“My #ahamoment was asking myself, “Do I want to spend the rest of my days in this career?“
Tahnee Walters, Cookie Chief & GM, Spotted Cow Cookies, entrepreneur and mother of cheeky toddler shared, “Being a woman in manufacturing has had its challenges. There are lots of changes in my business that put me out of my comfort zone, daily. But I get to write my story on a daily basis and I love that.”
Silvia Colloca, Actress, Opera singer, food writer, and self-confessed ‘loud Italian’ shared, “Everything is born out of necessity. Because I was loud, my voice teacher at school said maybe I should try opera singing. Having a lot of hurdles thrown at me, like learning a new language, has been a great advantage. So it’s good when people have said ‘no’ to me because it meant that I have had to fight for it.”
When asked about how on earth she manages to juggle so many different roles in life, Silvia questioned, “Why can’t I be all these things? Why do I have to be boxed in to one thing?”
Karla Grant, Executive Producer Living Black, fitness addict, proud Arrerente woman, juggler of competing priorities and budding rock star on the day shared what set her on her career path:
“I am inspired by my grandfather who was an orphan in NT, he had a very tough life. He became an actor and went from small beginnings to great success.
“I was always called names at school. I’m here today because of my grandfather; he taught me to be positive and go forward in life.”
Wendy Corbett, Consulting Geologist, Non-Executive Director, extremely excited grandmother-to-be, enjoying ‘giving back’ to others, challenged the women in the room,
“It’s now time for women who have ‘made it’ to reach back and help the others up. Women can promote other women but don’t always. So do it. You’ll empower yourself and you’ll empower others.”
Reflecting on how she ended up on a very ‘non traditional’ career path, Wendy shared:
“[There are] very few professional women in geology and the sciences, which is a real shame. My Dad said, ‘Go to university and take science; you’ll be fine.’ I took geology and I loved it. It may have been the colours down the kaleidoscope. I ended up there because someone believed in me.”
Juliah Faith, Dressed for Success Sydney Client, survivor of cyclones, cancer and violence, and now music production student taught us about the power of music and the ability of binaural beats to influence mental health and help bring bliss to people who have endured extreme challenges in life.
Finally, our two Keynote speakers, both of whom embody strength, courage and vision, inspired us all to do more.
Kathy Kelly, mother of Thomas Kelly and co-founder of the Thomas Kelly Youth Foundation shared the tragic story of her son Thomas’ death and how she, together with husband Ralph, have turned their pain and anger into a force for positive change.
The Thomas Kelly Youth Foundations’s vision is to ‘get our children home safely’ through prevention and loner term behavioural change. There was not a person in the room who was not moved by Kathy’s story and her inner strength to be able to share it with us.
Women Who Rock! was proud to support Dress for Success Sydney as our charity partner for the event. Megan Etheridge, founder of DFSS, NSW Senior Volunteer of the Year and Medal of the Order of Australia recipient for services to women described the significant impact that Dress for Success has on building economic independence and a feeling of self confidence in women who are suffering hardship. Donations of volunteering time, clothes and particularly money enable DFSS to provide a free service which directly increases the employability of women and opens up new and positive options. I encourage you to make a difference to another woman’s life by making a donation whether big or small at: www.everydayhero.com.au/event/dressforsuccessdonate.
As Wendy Corbett said, “It’s now time for women who have ‘made it’ to reach back and help the others up.”
Every single speaker highlighted the extraordinary things that ordinary women do in many different areas of life. The key take-out from these incredible stories is that every person has boundless potential just waiting to be ignited. So what will it take for you to find that spark which will drive you to do extraordinary things?
Women Who Rock! was the first of many a-ha! Playground events. Being part of The Playground gives you access to amazing thought-leaders who aren’t afraid to say something different. Want to stay connected with Women Who Rock and keep the momentum going? Make sure you become a Playground Member (click here) to stay connected and hear about future Women Who Rock! events.
A-ha! would like to shout out a huge thank you to our amazing event partners @Song Division, @Hard Rock Café Sydney and @Social Playground. The collaborative energy and enthusiasm of the event partners made it all possible to bring the Women Who Rock! vision to life.