22 November 2017
The inaugural She Leads High Conference is a one-day leadership event for young women, including female identifying and non-binary people, in years 9 and 10. The event will take place at the University of Canberra’s Ann Harding Conference Centre on 28 November 2017.
In this interview, we talk to Nip Wijewickrema, a keynote at the upcoming High Conference. At the age of 20, Nip realised there was a lack of meaningful employment opportunities for people with special needs, specifically her sister Gayana who has Down syndrome. Unable to sit back and let Gayana live a life without purpose, Nip and her family established Canberra’s most loved floral business – GG’s Flowers.
Nip frequently speaks openly and honestly about the lack of inclusion in our community and the heart stopping and gut wrenching journey of having a sister with a disability. She proudly talks of the challenges and lessons faced and hopes to inspire other people to start or at the very least, engage with social enterprises. For her commitment to the ACT community and providing employment opportunities to people living with disabilities, Nip was named the 2016 ACT Young Australian of the Year.
Describe your leadership journey in 30 words or less.
Exhilarating – I’d liken my journey to riding a horse that’s running head on into everything at full speed! I think it’s a very fast paced journey and can be quite draining and exhausting. Thank goodness it’s also very rewarding!
What was (or is) your biggest leadership challenge?
Growth. I’ve always dreamt of growth in my business and of me as a person, but I find that as we both grow, it becomes harder and harder to be a perfect leader. I find that I’m uncontrollably busy most days, and as a consequence find myself running around like a crazy lady, often missing great opportunities and making silly mistakes. I find it difficult not to be completely across everything at all times.
Why do we need more women leaders, and what difference can women in leadership make in terms of gender equality?
I think diversity is just such a beautiful thing. People are different – we’re all such different creatures that have our own stories and destinies. I believe diversity, when it comes to sex, race, likes and dislikes is ever so important. Without it, we’d live in such a boring world where diversity isn’t embraced.
I also think that women bring so much to the table and time after time we prove ourselves – but for some reason, those merits aren’t always acknowledged.
What book should every aspiring woman leader read?
I hardly get time to read much these days, however, I loved Daniel Flynn’s book, Thank You. He talks about his incredible wife, Justine Flynn and their journey as co-founders. I love what they’ve done with the brand, but also how they’ve lead a massive team, together.
Share with us the best piece of advice you’ve been given.
Jessica May from Enabled Employment once said “Lift as you climb.” It’s stuck with me since the day I heard her say it, and I always try to remember that throughout my leadership journey. I’m passionate about us all lifting as we climb, so we can all climb together. I don’t believe in competition but I believe in equality and fairness – that’s the real winner.