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Our 100 Women of Influence awards uncover unusual suspects

10 October 2013

Not the usual suspects: Meet and congratulate our 2013 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence

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Our Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence for 2013 are out of the starting blocks. In a little more than a week (at a special awards night on October 17) we will congratulate every one of them and acknowledge the huge pool of female talent this country has… much of which remains unsung.

What inspires me about this year’s list of women is the amount of “quiet achievers”.

Of course, there are the women we know, women who have been sought out for comment and their expertise over the years - as well they should be.

And then there are the many women on this list making a difference, a huge difference, in behind the scenes.

(At Ruby, we’ve interviewed many of them, including philanthropist and business women Carol Schwartz, Care Australia’s Julia Newton-Howes and Clean-up Australia’s Kim McKay. We also have others, such as Rachelle Towart, CEO of the Australian Indigenous Leadership Centre, writing for us.)

To me, what is really important is that we hear from all these women who are inspiring and talking and achieving and leading, because that is what diversity is all about. This year’s nominations – and it’s only our second year - showed a significant increase, more than 40 per cent on 2012. That increase certainly made choosing our final 100 a whole lot more interesting. It was also really heartening to see how many of the nominations came from male colleagues. There are men out there stepping up to the plate to acknowledge their female colleagues because they know they’re worth it and they’re not too scared to say it.

At times such as this, when female board directors are falling as a proportion of new appointments, and women in the political arena look like an endangered species, and when the percentage of females in top positions fails to reflect the gender composition of the broader workforce, university graduates, and junior and mid-level executives, it makes a difference to support awards such as the Westpac Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence.

By building profile we build confidence and in building confidence we build resilience and a solid platform from which to be heard and to make a difference.

In a recent survey we carried out we found 60 per cent of Australian professional women have a professional support person, whether it’s a role model, mentor or sponsor. That support makes an enormous difference to the lives of those who receive it as well as those who provide it.

My final words on all this:

  • Find a mentor. Regardless of your skill set, there will always be someone who can provide you with a different perspective. They provide valuable insights and guidance.
  • Have a clear idea of what you have to offer in terms of your skills and motivations, and how you bring these assets to the table.
  • Stand out in the workplace, and being recognised for the quality that you deliver are so important.
  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of how you will market your skills and achievements so that your skills become recognised by others. This is something many women can feel shy about doing or forget to do. Don’t forget is my best advice.
  • Be visible not invisible – it helps everyone.