Meet our Board Directors: Hannah Wandel

2 August 2017

At YWCA Canberra, we’re proud to have such a diverse range of intelligent and impressive women on our Board. Here, you can get to know each of them a little better, and learn about their experiences on the Board, the skills they have gained and the expertise they bring to the table. Today, meet Hannah Wandel.

What attracted you to serve on the Board of YWCA Canberra?

I was introduced to YWCA Canberra by applying for and fortunately receiving a Great Ydeas grant. The grant transformed my life by enabling me to launch a not-for-profit organisation called Country to Canberra. The support YWCA Canberra provided me with, was phenomenal. I figured that an organisation which was so willing to give someone like me – a random young woman – a chance, was an organisation I wanted to be a part of.

I began learning more about the Y’s mission, and immediately had a desire to give back. I was interested in strategy and wanted to grow my skill set, so decided to apply for a Board Traineeship. During my traineeship year, my passion for governance and confidence grew, and I decided to try and take it to the next level as a Director. Fortunately, the members elected me to the Board at the 2015 AGM and I’ve been honoured to serve ever since.

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

We have an obligation to set a positive, successful strategy for the organisation, and ensure it’s in good shape for the generations of young women that follow us. We are there to ensure we abide by our obligations, our World YWCA movement and to create a value-driven, inclusive and supportive culture for staff, members and the wider community.

Personally, I work hard to advocate for the Y in my every day life, whether it’s during speeches, events, social media or meetings. I believe I have an obligation to continue creating leadership opportunities for young women in Canberra. I have a duty to ensure there are solid frontline services for women, to support our talented staff, and importantly, to promote and help achieve gender equality.

When you’re not at Board meetings and reading through Board papers, what do you do professionally?

I work at the Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet as a social policy adviser, specifically focused on social services. I also founded and am CEO of not-for-profit, Country to Canberra, which involves managing a volunteer team and running initiatives that work to empower young rural women to reach their leadership potential. I am also a Board Director at the National Rural Women’s Coalition, Australia’s peak body for regional women.

How does your experience in social enterprise and rural and regional Australian affairs support the Y’s work to have more women, young women and girls influencing, leading and deciding?

Country to Canberra (C2C) runs leadership and education programs for young women in rural areas between 13-18 years of age. We connect young women with mentors, run large-scale events with politicians, provide leadership training, and run consultations with girls to better understand their issues and lives. There are a lot of differences between the needs of rural and city girls, but a lot of the issues and discrimination faced is similar. This interaction and advocacy-work has helped shape my understanding of many young women’s needs, and what they want their world to look like. At C2C, we are helping nurture a generation of future leaders, with a long-term goal to ensure more women enter fields like politics. This directly correlates to the Y’s mission of helping young women and girls influence, lead and decide.

Running a social enterprise helps me show young women that they can, and should, be courageous and take risks. As young women, we have the power to create our own paths, even when other people try to hold us back. When I saw a ‘need’ in my community, I took action and founded Country to Canberra. I encourage other young women to stand up and take action on issues they’re passionate about.

Aside from reading Board papers, what’s your relaxation activity of choice?

I go running, but if I am being 100% honest, drinking wine on the couch while watching heinously trashy TV with my partner has got to be activity number one. I refuse to tell you the show…

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

Young women have incredible talent, skill and intellect, and we need young women’s insights and opinions. If the Y is for young women, we need young women to inform our strategies, values and decision-making on the Board.

I am also incredibly passionate about creating leadership pipelines for young women. To overcome the gender disparity in boardrooms, we need to continue upskilling young women, filling them with confidence and keep on fighting that patriarchy. The Y does a great job of valuing diversity, training it’s Directors and creating a supportive environment. Personally, as a ‘young woman’ Director, this has helped spur me on to apply for more board positions. In turn, I hope I am one of the people that help turn the corporate gender imbalance on its head.

American humorist, Milton Berle, said that ‘laughter is an instant vacation’. What always makes you laugh; and what would be your dream vacation?

I am awful – and incredibly easy to crack up. My mum and sister doing impressions get me every time, they are funny, funny women and should be on a TV show. Also my partner Tom’s laugh is infectious, which makes it impossible to be unhappy.

My dream vacation is Moonta Bay, in country South Australia, where I used to spend summer holidays as a kid. Perhaps not the most exotic, but when you spend the majority of your life away from your family, I can’t think of somewhere else I’d rather be.

 YWCA Canberra’s Board Traineeship Program provides our members with the opportunity to actively participate on our Board, without the financial or legal responsibilities of being directors. Applications will open in September, and is an integral part of our commitment to building leadership pathways for young women, including female-identifying and non-binary people. Visit our website to find out more.

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