Australian Women’s Leadership Forum

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For over fourteen years, Women & Leadership Australia has been developing female leaders and supporting the increased presence of women in business and community leadership roles. FOCUS had a chat to Julianne McKeon to find out more about the up and coming Australian Women’s Leadership Forum.

Where to from here for female leaders in Coffs Harbour? 

It’s a question that local female leaders will be pondering with an audience of aspiring female leaders from Coffs Harbour and surrounding areas on October 12, when Women & Leadership Australia bring the Australian Women’s Leadership Forum to Coffs for the first time. 

The one day program will feature local leaders, including Aunty Bea Ballangarry AM, Councillor Tegan Swan, Julianne McKeon and Liz Keen. Tracey Spicer AM will also give the keynote presentation at the end of the day. 

Alongside this, there will also be three leadership development sessions throughout the day; ‘A Mindful and Resilient Leader’, ‘Building Career Changing Connections and Networking Strategically’ and ‘Be Brave, Adaptive and Experimental.’ 

We had a chat to Julianne McKeon, local leader and President of BPW (Business & Professional Women) Coffs Harbour about some of the opportunities and challenges that face female leaders in rural and regional areas. 

“Why is leadership important in rural and regional areas?”

“In rural and regional areas there is always a need to get in there and do the hard yards. If something needs to happen in your town or community, it’s no use sitting and whingeing, but get on and make sure it happens.

“Women-owned businesses comprise 70% of local business owners in our region and they are helping to make the economy tick. Most are sole traders and they are ensuring that they and their families are fed and they are contributing to the local economy. Many of these women and their sisters who are in the workplace, professions or working in the community on a volunteer basis are showing that women are leading the way to make our region great.”

“What extra barriers do women face when they are in leadership positions in rural and regional areas?”

“Many women in regional areas face discrimination in their workplace or community because the perception is that they do not have the skills to lead that men have traditionally possessed. Reasons for this discrimination vary but it could be that in a regional area, the first white settlers were male and therefore they took on the early leadership roles.

“The women of the Coffs Coast have also learnt the importance of networking to gain valuable allies and friends. In our region women are stepping up to the plate to take on leadership roles. Organisations such as BPW (Business & Professional Women) Coffs Harbour provide them with skills, mentoring and networking to succeed.”

“How did your leadership journey begin?”

“I could say that my leadership journey began early as I was a committed feminist from wonderful teaching at my high school and then encouragement from family. I have held managerial or supervisory positions for most of my working life.

“However, I believe that my leadership journey really began in the early 1990s when I was mentored and encouraged by a female employer who helped me find my voice to speak on subjects that were important to me in regards to equity for all, women and men, and fair dealing in business. Since that time I have been involved more directly in executive roles where I have learnt some important lessons on how decisions could and should be made for the benefit of those in the organisations I have helped run. The smart and wise women of BPW have helped me to further my understanding of how to bring equity in all fields for women.”

“Do you have any pearls of wisdom you would share with other women who are interested in being community leaders, or workplace leaders, in the future?”

“For our future leaders I would suggest that they commence their role by a combination of taking on leadership positions in their work and also by joining a community committee/board to hone their skills on strategy and learn from fellow committee members. Additionally I would suggest they network with the aim of supporting each other and raising their profile.”

Tracey Spicer AM, who will be giving a keynote address at each event, said of the day; “I’m thrilled to be getting out of the city and into regional and rural Australia, to meet women making ground-breaking change in the business and not-for-profit sectors. I’ve spent a lot of time in beautiful Coffs Harbour in recent years, and am inspired by the many powerhouse women in this region.”

Veronica Lake, Director, Partnerships and Alliances at Women & Leadership Australia, said; “We know from feedback from women over the last 14 years that it is hard for women in rural and regional areas to access leadership development opportunities like this one. We are incredibly excited to be going out to non-metro city centres at the end of this year and hope that we will be able to continue these forums in the future.

“We also know from a report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2017 that women in rural and regional areas experience higher levels of gender discrimination in the workplace than their big city counterparts. There is also a bigger gender pay gap in these areas. We hope that by bringing leaders together in rural and regional centres, we can be part of the solution to these problems.” 

The Australian Women’s Leadership Forum will take place in Coffs Harbour on October 12. More information:

FOCUS readers can use the code FOCUS18 to grab a ticket for only $200 (normally $395).

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