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A Flood of Ideas

07 March 2011

I know I've had a good break when I can't remember the code to unlock my Blackberry. This summer was a fabulous one: three weeks of quality time spent eating, drinking, sunning, reading and being with my two daughters in a beach house on the Victorian peninsula. So different to the quick flying visits we have during the work year, spent distracted by the stresses of what's happening in our own personal and professional spaces.

So, with all that inescapable proximity, was there ever the chance of a blistering argument: not once. It speaks volumes about how we relate - how each of us has our own personalities and expertise and how they mix and blend with each other's way of doing things to make the whole experience that bit better.

Sounds like I'm bragging... and I am, because I'm happy with the job I've done.

There's a 10-year difference between my girls. (I often say to people it took me that long to get over my first child before I could contemplate a second.) But they get along really well. They're responsible, creative, successful, lovely women who are leaders in what they do and how they handle their lives. And I'm proud of the part I've played in creating that.

In the news

Of course, we read the papers and watched the news and, similar to the rest of the nation, we were caught up in the tragedy of the floods in Queensland and Victoria and in the media led discussion on how our women leaders handled themselves in the situation. (Isn't it interesting to think we're even talking about women leaders? Not that long ago there wouldn't have been a women in sight, except perhaps in the victim role... so how exciting was it to see real diversity in the people leading, the people reporting, the opinions and experts being gathered together.)

In my book, Queensland's Premier Anna Bligh walked out of this showing true grit and leadership. On average, I think it's women who come to the forefront in crises and in Anna Bligh, Queenslanders had a leader who put in the hours, knew the plan and what was happening, kept up-to-date and, when it came time to communicate with her state and the nation, was across all the angles. She had the facts to hand and the knowledge that comes with having been at the coalface. She kept a sense of humour and her humanity throughout.

Where was Julia?

Some have wondered whether the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, acquitted herself as well. My view is that she is a different person with a different personal brand and a different role to fulfil. She was not there to upstage or take over but to offer the support of the whole nation to Queensland and to lead in the areas where it was appropriate for her to take the lead.

Experts are saying, at best, the Queensland flood disasters will cut Australian growth by up to one per cent. The impact of this is where the Prime Minister and her government are focussing now. That aside, they're also focussing on the rebuild of the destroyed infrastructure, more flooding in Victoria and how they can meet their pledge to bring the budget into surplus by 2012-13. There are some wider issues at stake here in which she will be leading.

Floods and bushfires are devastating and expensive. Westpac, in a similar vein to many other corporates, has run a number of relief events to earn money for victims. It's about community leadership and taking responsibility... but nothing comes close to those TV images of volunteers 'flooding in' to clean-up.

Full of hot air

The Queensland Inquiry into the floods will also have long-term effects on how we cope with disasters. Even now we are beginning to hear talk about the need for stricter building controls and strategies to cut the risks.

I live in Melbourne and my street is notorious for collecting water in heavy rain and flash flooding. What happened in Queensland made me think: have I taken responsibility for choosing where I live? Have I insured adequately? Have I read the fine print? Do I know about council warnings and restrictions?

I'm always on about Superannuation and how all of us need to take responsibility for our retirement and ourselves. But when I thought about it in the context of another insurance - home and contents - was I walking the talk? Had I taken a responsible lead? In the end it is up to each of us to consider the risks and, in deciding what to do, know that we have armed ourselves with as much knowledge as we can to make the best decision we can.

Find out what young people are doing

On the topic of women leaders, our Ruby of the Month and Women at Work are people on the way to great things. You only have to look at what they've achieved already in their chosen fields - Vicki Pridmore from Breast Screen Victoria, public health; Anneli Knight in financial literacy and writing; Rachel Skinner in adolescent medicine and research into the sexual and reproductive health of our young people - to know these are women who are making their mark and who will influence the way we think for many years to come. I might even step out on a limb and predict they are future Order of Australia material and more.

Be in it to win it

Our Mary Reibey scholarship nominations are also uncovering women business leaders and are open until February 24, 2011. Don't miss your chance to tell us why this wonderful opportunity to expand your leadership and management skills should be yours and if you're chosen attend for free the AGSM Executive Program worth more than $11,000. Think of the networking, the alumni, the professional stimulation and excitement...

Ruby redux

The new look ruby connection website will launch in March in time for International Women's Day (March 8). It will be more flexible, easier to use and offer added opportunities - I think it's fabulous and have been in constant contact with our designers and content providers guiding its development. Stay on the look out...