My time as a YWCA Canberra Board Trainee – Caitlin Figueiredo

13 July 2017

Jessica Abramovic

Jessica is the Communications and Events Coordinator at YWCA Canberra.

YWCA Canberra is committed to fostering the growth and development of young women leaders. Each year, our Board of Directors conducts the Board Traineeship Program, which provides women with the opportunity to gain experience in governance, finance and strategic management without the legal and financial responsibilities of being a Board Director. 

We caught up with Caitlin Figueiredo, who is about to complete her Board Traineeship for the 2016-2017 period, to discuss her experience on the YWCA Canberra board.

Caitlin is a youth and gender equality advocate; she is an ambassador for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, is a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, and was named a Global Changemaker for Gender Equality by The White House and First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2016, Caitlin won the Young Leader Category in Westpac/AFR ‘Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women’ for her international work, making her the youngest winner in the 5 year history of the awards. Further, she is ranked alongside Chelsea Clinton and Gloria Steinem as an International Influencer to an online Mougl platform of 18.5 million women from 196 countries.

Caitlin founded World Vision’s youth movement VGen ACT, and Co-Founded the Golden Wattle Peace Initiative, an international organisation building a grassroots movement of gender equality that assists communities to build intercultural peace and transition women and girls into the education system. She was also chosen to represent Australia at the UN, where her passion and sustainable vision was recognised by UN Women. Committed to public policy and institutional reform, Caitlin applies her work ethic and influence at the UN as one of the youngest UN Task Force members on Youth Development and Gender Equality. She is currently studying a double degree in Law (Hon) & Development at the Australian National University.

What attracted you to apply for a Traineeship on the Board of YWCA Canberra?

I have always loved YWCA Canberra, and for years I have wanted to get more involved. When the Board Traineeship came up, I thought this was the perfect opportunity. But more than that, as an activist, I have been limited to grassroots activities such as leading teams, and coordinating events and campaigns. I knew that in applying for the Traineeship I would gain behind-the-scene organisational knowledge, and develop key skills to run a business in the future.

What exactly does a Board Trainee of YWCA Canberra do?

As a Trainee, we do everything the Board Directors do except vote and have any legal obligations. I have been able to attend meetings, see how the YWCA Canberra Board Operates, gain mentorship from current Board Directors, and attend unique events with YWCA Canberra such as the Commission of the Status of Women.

How would you describe the Board’s contribution to the on-the-ground activities of The Y’s staff, members and community?

Being a Board Trainee, I can attest that the YWCA Canberra Board is actively involved in the on-the-ground activities of the Canberra community. Board members are often at every event YWCA hosts and our memberships events. They love promoting a healthy and supportive community.

During my time as a Board Trainee, I have also learnt about the dedication the Board Directors have to the happiness and sustainability of YWCA Canberra, it’s staff, and members. Recently, as many of you know, the Board had to make the tough decision to leave the Y-Australia merger. During the decision, they always kept the YWCA members informed and at the forefront of their decision. Every day the Board works in the best interest of the YWCA staff and members by bringing to the table diverse views, skills, and experience.

What is the personal and career significance of having the opportunity to be a Board Trainee?

My experience as a Board Trainee has been life changing. Being a Board Trainee of YWCA Canberra, I have been introduced to a Board environment and have developed the critical skills I need to become an invaluable Board Director. I have learnt how to govern ethically and develop strategies that will ensure an organisation’s sustainability.

This experience has strengthened my ability to contribute as a Board Director of the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition, the National peak body for 4.3 million young Australians. Before my Board Traineeship, I had no idea how to be a Board Member, but now I feel that I have the experience to be a good representative for young Australians. Another significance is that I have applied my business management skills within my small-business Lake Nite Learning and NGO Golden Wattle Peace Foundation. This has come in handy recently when I had to write a business proposal and five-year plan.

In your opinion, why is it important for young women to be represented on The Y’s board?

It’s vital for organisations to include young women on their Boards if they want to remain competitive in the changing world. It is especially important to include young women in the decision-making process on issues that affect them. For the Y, it’s important to have their unique contributions and ideas, especially around youth engagement. The Y is promoting intergenerational partnerships, which is valuable for building social cohesion and strengthening the Y-movement. But most importantly, the Y is empowering young women to be leaders. By having them surrounded by other influential women they learn that their input is valued and they deserve a seat at the table. Having young women on the Y Board is just another way the YWCA is investing and supporting the country’s future and current leaders.

What kind of women do you think should apply to be a Board Trainee in the future?

Every and all kinds! My message to potential applicants – just go for it – especially if you want to see gender equality achieved within Australia. Use this opportunity to develop your skills, attend once in a lifetime event’s and make new friends. Every moment you’re in the Board Trainee program you’re learning and transforming into a stronger values-driven leader.

When you’re not at Board meetings, what do you do professionally?

I’m currently finishing my Double Degree in Law (Hon) and Development Studies at ANU, and work with a number of national and international organisations to strengthen gender equality. Professionally, I run a small business called Lake Nite Learning that specialises in upskilling and educating adults in a variety of subjects. I also co-run the Golden Wattle Peace Initiative, which works to build positive peace at the grassroots level through women’s empowerment and social cohesion across five countries.

How do you see your leadership journey evolving in the next five years?

To be honest, I am not entirely sure where I see my leadership journey evolving. Three years ago when I began working in the NGO world, I could never see myself doing what I do now. But I know I want to continue evolving as a leader. In the future, I would like to work more closely with the Canberra community – hopefully through the YWCA and to develop close relations with Parliament Representatives, corporates, and civil society, to develop new opportunities for social cohesion. Within the next five years, I plan on graduating from University and transforming my NGO into a sustainable social enterprise.

Applications for the 2017-2018 Board Traineeship will open in September 2017. Join our Newsletter to stay up-to-date with all future YWCA Canberra opportunities.

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