Clare Conroy – Hear from our Leadership Programs Manager

28 April 2016

The 2016 She Leads Conference will be held on Tuesday 17 May at QT Canberra, with She Leads masterclasses to be held on Monday 16 May. Tickets and program details are now available at

Open to all, the She Leads Conference brings women from a range of sectors, at all stages of their leadership journeys, together with Australia’s most inspiring women leaders. This year, our program explores the theme ‘Transform’ – focusing on stories of personal transformation and experiences from women leaders who are transforming their workplaces, industries and communities.

Clare Conroy is the Leadership Programs Manager at YWCA Canberra, and a self-confessed ‘leadership nerd’. We chat to her about the She Leads program and how we can support women to reach leadership positions.Clare facilitating a class

Tell us about the She Leads program. How does it fit in with other work that the Y does?
She Leads is a professional development program for current and emerging women leaders. It includes the She Leads Diploma of Leadership and Management, the She Leads Conference and College Conference, and the She Leads Workshops. YWCA Canberra has a long history of advocating for workplace gender equality and increased representation of women in leadership, and the She Leads Program is designed to practically support these goals. Our broader women’s leadership pathway includes Every Girl (for 9 to 14-year-old girls) and Y-Aspire (for girls in Years 7 and 8).

What first piqued your passion for women’s leadership?
Personally, I’ve long had an interest in supporting the professional development of women that I work with – for example, mentoring and coaching staff and organising networking opportunities for women. I’m also a bit of a leadership/business nerd – I always have a stack of management and self-improvement books in my reading pile! As the former Executive Producer of TEDxCanberra and TEDxCanberraWomen, my thinking on a range of topics has been influenced and shaped by TED talks, including by women in leadership – two of my favourites are from Sheryl Sandberg and Madeline Albright.

Why is women’s leadership still important in 2016?

For so many reasons! Women are still under-represented in formal leadership positions. Women occupy only 26.7% of seats in the federal House of Representatives and there are more men named Peter in the Chief Executive Officer and Board Chair positions of companies in the ASX200 than there are women. But our focus on women’s leadership is not only on formal leadership positions. We also support women to be leaders in their homes, communities and workplaces, and understand that you can lead from in front, beside and behind. Supporting women’s leadership is all about valuing and using the talents and potential of women. When we do, that benefits all of society.

What sets She Leads apart from other leadership programs?

One of the things is its broad view of leadership. We also think it’s important to challenge leadership stereotypes, so we ensure that there is diversity in the backgrounds and experiences of women on the She Leads Conference line-up, and in the panelists at our Diploma sessions. Our program is underpinned by best practice, and contemporary leadership and management theory and techniques, but it also offers an opportunity to consider these topics through a gender lens. We’ve found that tailored programs for women tend to create spaces and experiences that are safe for women to have hard conversations, and be vulnerable.

What is most rewarding about the role?
I regularly wake up on Diploma class days feeling grateful (and somewhat amazed) that I get to spend the day with smart, engaged women, supporting them to develop as leaders. It is incredibly rewarding to receive feedback about how She Leads has challenged participants’ thinking, built their confidence and inspired them to make changes or take on new challenges. I love hearing about former students or conference attendees who’ve been successful in obtaining promotions, making the leap to new careers or taking on community leadership positions. It’s also pretty fantastic to have a professional excuse to connect with so many women leaders I admire!

What can we expect to see from She Leads in 2016?
We have big plans for this year! We have two new Diploma intakes in April, the She Leads Conference on 16 and 17 May, and the College Conference will run for its second year in August. We’re also expanding our workshop series to provide a broader range of regular, affordable, professional development for members. This year we’ve already had two great workshops – ‘Leader as Coach’ and ‘Managing Difficult Conversations’ – and more are in the pipeline. We’re also developing a workshop series to support senior executives and human resources managers in implementing programs and strategies to improve gender equality in their organisations.

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