2016 She Leads Conference: Tales of transformation and leadership

25 May 2016

Jordan Lim

Jordan is the Communications and Advocacy Officer at YWCA Canberra.

YWCA Canberra’s She Leads program is designed to give women practical skills and tools to explore and develop their leadership potential. Through the program, we aim to support women’s leadership with the overarching goal of achieving gender equality.

A highlight of the program is the annual She Leads Conference – held this year on 17 May at QT Canberra. The Conference was a sell-out event, bringing together 260 women to learn, connect, and walk away with newfound skills and knowledge to drive their leadership journey.

The theme of the 2016 conference was ‘transform’ – we were keen to hear from women who had transformed themselves, their industries or their communities.

We were lucky to have the hilariously sharp Jane Caro to guide us through the day as MC, while also sharing her tale of transformation to what she describes as a “weird, late onset media career”. Her advice to those wishing to switch lanes was to think about what makes you swear at the TV, and start speaking up and speaking out about it. Wise words, indeed!

Marita Cheng kicked off the day with a keynote talk on her journey to founding Robogals, an international initiative to inspire girls to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Marita’s experience of starting her own business taught her than she could transform small failures into success.  She also shared with us the incredible impact of her company 2Mar Robotics, which builds robots to improve everyday life, particularly for those with a disability. Did I mention that Marita is 27?

Next off the rank was Indira Naidoo, who has made an incredible transformation from news anchor to balcony gardener. Her dramatic career-change was spurred by a desire to help mitigate climate change, and it was fascinating to learn how she has used her communication skills to energise others to make a difference. One of the key leadership lessons that Indira shared was to “just start – it doesn’t matter if you’re an expert or not, you can always learn”. In an admission that put the urban gardeners in the room to shame, Indira told us that she has grown 43 different fruit and vegies – on just one balcony!

A highlight of the day was the breakout workshops, providing a chance for attendees to learn practical skills from skilled facilitators, from appreciating your strengths with Suzi Skinner, to getting leadership savvy in just eight seconds with Rita Joyan, to leadership development skills from a self-described troublemaker, the fantastic Heather Reid AM.

During the next keynote talk, Captain Jenny Daetz enthralled the audience with her story of career transformation in the Royal Australian Navy. As the first woman to Command a Royal Australian Navy Ship, Captain Daetz had some fabulous advice on staying open to left-field career opportunities, even if you have a clear plan. For Captain Daetz, leadership hit home for her when she realized that she was in a position of responsibility to grow those below her into command.  And during the tough times? Passion and determination got her through.

During the next interactive session, participants had a tough choice between three breakout panels. The first, Beyond 9-5: Work transformed, explored organisational culture, flexible work and what needs to change to make workplaces work for us. The Transforming hearts and minds panel heard from women who are transforming communities and attitudes through advocacy, and Transformation of the Self examined how women have overcome personal challenges and transformed themselves to meet their goals.

Last, but not least Sunrise Cambodia CEO Lucy Perry took to the stage to speak about key transformative moments in her life and how she’s faced them head on. In her refreshing keynote, Lucy shared some ingenious tips on testing your nerve and simply letting go of what others think.

We hope that everyone left the conference with new connections and a renewed sense of what they want to achieve in their leadership journey, as well as pointers on how to get there.

Thank you to our valued partners who made the event possible:

As well as our esteemed She Leads Friends:

Visit Flickr to see photos from the day, and be sure to follow She Leads on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more on women’s leadership.

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