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Like a florist on Valentine's Day

05 April 2011

The week of International Women’s Day was as amazing as it was hectic. There was the launch of the Power of 100 with Gail Kelly and 800 guests at the MCA in Sydney. There was the national launch in Westpac branches of our ongoing acknowledgement of women leaders in the local community. There was the very exciting introduction of the new-look ruby website to our existing and new members and the kick off of our CEW and Westpac Leadership Forums. There was the important day to day of running Women’s Markets and, somewhere in all that, there was me remembering to grab a little something for myself. For the whole week I felt like a florist on Valentine’s Day.

At the Tuesday night launch event someone asked me if I ever had time to relax. And my immediate thought – as I prepared, along with Ita Buttrose our person of ceremonies on the evening, to “storm the barricades” – was I am relaxed.

Battle Cry

You couldn’t fail to notice the energy and momentum in the room grow at the Power of 100 launch as Ita made us plainly aware that here were 800 or so highly motivated, successful women, many of us having reached the top in our chosen fields, ready to use our power to tear down the crumbling walls of old, out-dated ways and put women where they are needed and belong.

Why. Because women and men are getting it (and they’re really getting it in business) that the model has to change. And I have to say Westpac is leading the charge. You only have to look at the initiative that is ruby to understand what I mean. In 3 months we’ve delivered a project slated to take 6 months and each day it brings success after success. Our Mary Reibey scholarship, initiated by Women’s Markets, has rekindled interest in a great Australian business leader while allowing the beneficiaries of the scholarship the chance to develop that leadership potential in themselves. And then we have the upcoming excitement of the RIRDC Rural Women awards, always packed with stories of female resilience, initiative and humanity.


The week that was International Women’s Day ended and in Melbourne, the next week began with a Public Holiday. I found myself out in the backyard reading and relaxing and talking with our ruby editor about Sue Williams’ book: Women of the Outback and whether we could get hold of any of the fantastic women in the book for ruby, and where to next with ruby, and what an amazing response the Mary Reibey scholarship had again generated, and it shot across my mind: people must think I’m tragic…

But I’m not and I’m not reading books like the Power of 100 and Women of the Outback, stories of women whose resilience and skills and determination have shaped Australia and whose energy is truly inspiring, because of work… but because their stories energize me. In fact, everything I do in Women’s Markets and with the people I meet give me energy that keeps me going.

It made me think about where people get the energy to hold things together. In the wake of our own natural disasters and the tragedy of the Christchurch earthquake, there is the heartache of what is unfolding in Japan following its earthquake and devastating tsunami. As the implications for its own economy and the global economy undergo analysis and the world watches the horror of a nuclear disaster, I know our own debate about one of our richest minerals and our ideas around nuclear power will take the stage once again. Important, I agree, Japan is the world’s third largest economy, but for me it’s hard to see past the people and what can be done for them. Their resilience in the days following the event has been extraordinary to witness and has touched me deeply. I know it’s not rational but I wonder if we’re being tested and why?