Women are amazing. At our inaugural NAB Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards in Sydney yesterday there was an overwhelming sense of collegiality and support. We were celebrating emerging female leaders and those who have mentored and encouraged them to succeed. We were offering new female names for boards to consider.
Unlike many other awards events, such as those involving celebrities, the finalists in the room were thrilled for the winner of their category. There was an overwhelming feeling that there was a bigger picture in play here. With every win, women everywhere were the winner. Our gender owned every name that was read out. We couldn’t have been more proud of each and every finalist and winner.
Guest speaker Nicola Roxon captivated the crowd as she talked frankly about her decision to “exercise her choice” to spend more time with her daughter after five years as a Cabinet member and 15 years as an MP. There wouldn’t have been a person (man or woman) in the room who didn’t respect her decision and applaud her for making it.
Company director and pioneer for women everywhere Wendy McCarthy, AO, received a standing ovation when she was inducted into our Hall of Fame. Another teary moment for the room. Wendy told me she was overwhelmed when everyone stood up. With everything she has done to increase the opportunity for female success in this country it was the least we could do.
So many people commented that it was the most ‘uplifting’ event that they had been to, including the incredible Prof Megan Davis, expert member, United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Peoples and director of The Indigenous Law Centre. She won the Inspirational Ambassador award for mentoring a young woman to succeed. The room was in awe of her. There were tears in some corners and at some tables. And yet she was so impressed by the other finalists in the category that she didn’t prepare a speech. Those impressive women were: Megan Dalla-Camina, director of Strategy, IBM (who won the Emerging Leader in the Private Sector category); Samantha Gash, National Crusader at League of Extraordinary Women and lawyer at Baker & McKenzie; Julie Shuttleworth, general manager, Granny Smith Mine, Barrick Gold Corporation; and Naomi Simson, founding director, RedBalloon. Extraordinary women indeed.
I watched closely the reactions of those who shared my table: The Hon Nicola Roxon MP, author Tara Moss, executive director of Council of Small Business Peter Strong, CEO of the Diversity Council Nareen Young, Private Media chair Eric Beecher and president of UN Women Australia Donelle Wheeler. The words ‘incredible’ and ‘amazing’ were used a lot. Megan’s story was compelling.
And she wasn’t alone. The roll call of finalists and winners could fill a board recruiters book. So we took the liberty of compiling a book that everyone at the event could take away with them as a reminder of the female leadership excellence that we have unearthed so far. That book should be shown to every board recruiter in the country and the chair of every ASX 200 company. It tells a powerful story of female achievement – too powerful for boards to ignore. We have created an ebook out of it so you can download it and send it to every CEO and chair that you know.
We can be enormously proud of female achievement on International Women’s Day.