She Leads College Conference

The annual She Leads College Conference features inspiring talks and interactive workshops to equip young women and non-binary people in years 11 and 12 with the practical skills and knowledge they need to become confident leaders. Students also have the opportunity to connect with inspiring women who share their leadership journeys throughout the day.

The She Leads College Conference was developed in response to demand from educators following the success of our She Leads Conference and the results of the 2014 YWCA She Speaks survey. This survey of 1600 young women, aged 15 to 30, found that while 70 per cent of participants want to be leaders in the future, they also say that negative gender-based stereotypes damage their working lives, their sense of self, their safety in relationships, and their leadership capacity.

The She Leads College Conference actively addresses these issues involved with leadership for women.

Past events

Our sixth annual She Leads College Conference was held on 12 March at the Ann Harding Centre, thanks to the support of our venue partnership with the University of Canberra. This year we hosted a record-breaking 120 young women and non-binary students from Canberra, the surrounding regions and rural NSW.

The conference was themed Unstoppable, inspired by the 2019 International Day of the Girl Child theme: GirlForce: Unscripted and Unstoppable.

Attendees left the conference with a greater understanding of leadership, how to effect meaningful change, how to identify positive and negative situations in their homes and communities, and gained new skills and tools to manage the myriad of issues they face each day. Attendees were exposed to a range of post-school career options through the diverse speaker line-up, providing them with an opportunity to explore their future options and define their interests and aspirations. They learned how to communicate effectively through the art of improv and had the ability to network with key young women leaders in the community.

The program included the return of College favourite, local MC and comedian, Maddy Weeks, keynote speeches from Vanessa Turnbull-Roberts and Han Worsley, a panel featuring Vendulka, Mariam Mohammed, Gina Zheng and Taylor Fitzgerald and two workshops, one on self-care and mindfulness hosted by YWCA Canberra Youth Engagement team members, Annie-Lea Rowley and Ciára Duggan, and an improv session hosted by Lightbulb Improv.

Our conference attendees said:

  • I thought the whole experience was great and very beneficial for young teenage women!
  • I thought this space provided for a safe way for young women to connect and learn from each other and others. Amazing day, thank you.
  • All of the speakers were incredible and very motivating. Great range of speakers with very different backgrounds and life advice
  • I really enjoyed the workshops and the keynotes that were delivered by very powerful women
  • [from a teacher] It was certainly at the right pitch for the young women and it provided some great opportunities to network/have your say in a safe place and ‘try out’ your ideas with others.

Learn more about the 2020 She Leads College Conference:

Our fifth annual She Leads College Conference was held on 20 March at the Ann Harding Centre, thanks to the support of our venue partnership with the University of Canberra. This year there was over 100 young women and non-binary students in attendance, with students from Canberra, the surrounding regions and rural NSW.

The conference was themed Innovators (You)th Can Change the World, which paid homage to the global political and social action demonstrated by Gen Z within the past year. Further, it honoured the drive of young women and non-binary people, aiming to cultivate their drive and provide them with the skillset to become innovators.

The program included local MC and comedian, Maddy Weeks, a keynote speech from Emma Byrne, a panel featuring Georgia Maq, Renee Songoro, Tina Dixson and Kemiso Matlho, a networking activity facilitated by Ashleigh Streeter and two workshops: You Can Be An Innovator hosted by YWCA Canberra Youth Engagement team members, Annie-Lea Rowley and Ciára Duggan, and What YOU have to offer hosted by Defence Force Recruiting team members.

Our conference attendees said:

  • I loved the diversity of the panel, really interesting!
  • I learned that you’re never too young to lead; one small thing can have a big impact and change in the long run.
  • I now know to make time for myself and my voice to be heard, don’t police people for speaking up against injustices and stirring the pot.
  • Don’t be afraid to take up space, it’s inspiring to know that other people do share values to me.
  • I will definitely take into consideration the tips given out today, to further improve my leadership skills.

Learn more about the 2019 She Leads College Conference:

Our fourth She Leads College Conference was held at the Ann Harding Centre, thanks to our venue partnership with the University of Canberra. The conference was held on Thursday, 22 March, and welcomed 80 young women from 10 ACT and Canberra-region schools in years 11 and 12.

The conference theme, Trailblazer, drove the design and outcomes of the event, with attendees being exposed to a deeper understanding of leadership that extends to the changes that leaders have the potential to make in their homes, schools, communities, and workplaces.

Through our evaluation process, the 2018 conference changed format slightly, with more activities for shorter duration’s, and more of the day being hosted by YWCA Canberra staff, including the Youth Engagement team, and more local and accomplished young women.

The program included local MC, Codie Bell, two keynote speeches from Hani Abdile and Karlie Noon, a panel featuring Hannah Gissane, Laura Piscopo, and FLTLT Esther Suh, a speed networking session including Engy Salah, Tahlia-Rose Vanissum, Ashleigh Streeter, Lavanya Kala, Ashley St George, Tomasina Purcell, Joanna Richards, and Elizabeth Bowler, and two workshops: Making Positive Change hosted by YWCA Canberra Youth Engagement team members, Annie-Lea Rowley and Aoife Herrick, and Leading Together to Achieve as One hosted by Defence Force Recruiting team members FLTLT Esther Suh and PO Alee-Marie Scarfone.

Our conference attendees said:

  • I should push myself to my full capabilities – I CAN be a leader. Follow what I enjoy.
  • There is no one path to success. If you are meant to do something, you will. Support other trailblazers and in turn, they will support you.
  • State your opinion with confidence with respect to other’s opinions. Be unapologetically you!
  • It is so important, as women, to not only lead and break the stereotype, but also help our sisters to lead too. Don’t be afraid to blaze a new trail or follow a trailblazer.
  • Favourite was seeing how successful these young speakers are, and least favourite was hurting my voice cheering in a workshop.

Learn more about the 2018 She Leads College Conference:

The third annual She Leads College Conference was held at the University of Canberra on Tuesday 21 March 2017. High schools and colleges from across the ACT and Queanbeyan were represented by more than 80 young women in years 11 and 12.

The event was designed to provide a safe space for girls in year 11 and 12 to be inspired by young women leaders and gain the confidence, knowledge and practical skills to kick-start their leadership journeys.

As well as providing an engaging, interesting experience, our objectives were that  attendees would walk away with:

  • a greater understanding of leadership
  • practical tools that they could apply to accelerate their leadership journey
  • greater awareness of the impact of gender bias on women’s leadership opportunities
  • more confidence to be a leader.

Building on the success of the 2016 program, our program for 2017 included plenary sessions (including keynote presentation), two workshops, and an afternoon networking session. The conference was emceed by yLead’s Bel Yorston, was opened by Madalein Tier, and included a keynote presentation by Sarah Moran. The networking session included eight young inspiring women from a range of sectors that discussed their leadership journey with attendees, and included Sarah Moran, Alice Workman, Alex Schumann-Gillet, Ciára Duggan, Codie Bell, Elise Pirotta, Sally Moylan, Cathy Pecotz, and Esther Suh. Workshops were facilitated by Bel Yorston and Esther Suh, and focused on leadership, confidence, and communication skills.

Our conference attendees said:

  • I feel a bit more motivated to make a difference following today. Advice/possible pathways – having some greater direction on ways in which I could be more effective.
  • That mistakes are normal and natural. It is a way to improve and strengthen your weaknesses next time you partake in a challenging situation. There are opportunities everywhere and to be able to participate in this conference, the motivation and inspiration will always lead me to the path that I would love in terms of future career and goals.
  • Take every opportunity that you can. Be open-minded and confident within yourself. Make social connections.

Learn more about the 2017 She Leads College Conference:

The second annual She Leads College Conference was held at the University of Canberra on Tuesday, 26 July 2016. High schools and colleges from across the ACT and Queanbeyan were represented by 81 young women in years 11 and 12.

The 2016 conference was built around dismantling the traditional definition of leadership, which is one that has seeped into our collective consciousness and contributes to making the identity of a ‘leader’ inaccessible to many young people—especially young women. To combat this idea of traditional and inaccessible leadership, the conference included a wealth of young women leaders to discuss their leadership journey and offer advice to the next generation of young women.

The event was emceed by yLead’s Bel Yorston, opening remarks were delivered by Caitlin Sandercock, and the Keynote speaker was Amelia Telford. The networking session allowed participants the opportunity to learn the value of networking while interacting with young women from the Canberra community who are leading and creating change. The networking sessions speakers included Farz Edraki, Caitlin Figueiredo, Erica Hediger, Emma Pocock, Ange Reakes, Rachael Stevens, Annabel Szekely, and Hannah Wandel, and workshops were facilitated by Bel Yorston, Annabel Szekely, Esther Suh, Kylie McGuinness, and Kirsty Bird.

Our conference attendees said:

  • I’ve been encouraged to join my school leadership team. Personal sustainability is crucial.
  •  To be an effective leader you need to love and appreciate yourself first before trying to help others do the same.
  • Learning that I need to have confidence in myself and my skills and to use them to help me to support others. Hearing ways to manage my team – goal setting, planning, and taking time out for myself.
  • I am capable of anything and everything I want to do. To do this I need goals, focus, help, ambition, passion, perseverance and self-acceptance.
  • Being a leader is not about dominance, it is about listening, guiding, imparting values and inspiring. There’s nowhere you can’t get with lots of passion and determination – you are strong.

Learn more about the 2016 She Leads College Conference:

The inaugural YWCA Canberra She Leads College Conference was held at the University of Canberra on Tuesday 5 May 2015. Schools and colleges from across the ACT and Queanbeyan were represented by around 100 young women in year 11 and 12.

The theme for the 2015 conference was Discover. Connect. Ignite. The event was designed to provide a safe space for girls in year 11 and 12 to be inspired by young women leaders, and gain the confidence, knowledge and practical skills to kick-start their leadership journeys.

The overarching theme of the conference covered topics such as leadership myths and realities, what it really means to be a leader, awareness of gender stereotypes, supporting positive body image, self-confidence, unconventional leadership/career paths, and learning to deal with failure and building resilience.

The conference was emceed by Zoya Patel, and saw speakers and panellists from various industries including Carly Findlay, Sally Moylan, Ashleigh Grogan, Haylee Collins, Annabel Szekely, and Meredith. Workshops were run by Heather Dawson and independent magazine Young Vegabond, and focused on finding a leadership identity and identifying that there are many types of successful leadership styles, and engaging attendees to think critically about how constructs of gender affect their lives.

Our conference attendees said::

  • Today was an inspiring day. There were great stories on how women achieved becoming a leader. It inspires me in to accomplishing my goals making sure to make right choices, and controlling my life and path.
  • I think it helps to know that there is a big support group out there for women who want to excel in their ambitions and break down gender stereotypes.
  • That leadership is not a position it is an action, most of all its having a positive impact and being female shouldn’t hold you back. I learnt how to become a good role model and overcome obstacles such as gender stereotypes etc.
  • Being a leader doesn’t mean you have to be the boss. Leadership is something you define.
  • What’s stopping me is myself. I keep doubting myself and so don’t try so hard but I need to push past that.

Learn more about the 2015 She Leads College Conference: