International Women’s Day may be over for another year, but the advice of Australian business women should be heard all year round.
An empowered group of five women are keeping the conversation going to inspire and support others through tough times. They are connected through Coraggio, a community of more than 300 business owners in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney, and gather every month to hold each other accountable and seek advice from some of the country’s top business leaders.
Sydney-based Advisory Board Chair, leadership coach and social entrepreneur Kelly Beaumont is encouraging more women to find their passion and pursue their dreams through business.
“When you find something you love doing, it makes all the difference to your life and happiness,” Ms Beaumont said. “Don’t listen to the people who will tell you it can’t be done … just make it happen.”
That advice has served Ms Beaumont well, with more than 30 years’ experience in the non-profit and corporate sectors. Her passion is developing leaders, driving collaboration and strategy.
Sydney financial planning business owner Janne Ashton believes women will make a major contribution to the re-shaping financial services following the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking Sector.
When asked what advice she would give to her teenage self, Ms Ashton said she was also a big believer in pursuing your dreams.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks to get the career of your dreams, hold true to your values, be persistent and be adaptable,” she would tell her teenage-self.
“Your career isn’t just a means of earning money. It also needs to satisfy you intellectually, socially and strategically.
“Think about what it is you want in those areas then find a career that is compatible with your needs. Anything less will create conflict in your life, and leave you feeling dissatisfied.”
For a long and happy career, it’s quality, not quantity that’s important, according to Ms Ashton.
“If your lifestyle away from work is important, don’t choose a career where you are required to work long hours,” she said.
And while that may be easier said than done, Ms Ashton advocates being open to change.
“Be good at what you do, and be thoughtful in your implementation and be prepared to make changes along the way,” she said. “Your needs may change during your life.”
One business woman whose needs changed during her career is Trish Winchester, a Coraggio Advisory Board Chair in Melbourne, and clinical skincare distributor.
In between delivering presentations for International Women’s Day, Ms Winchester was brave enough to offer some blunt advice to her teenage self:
“I always knew that I would never live in the UK (where I was born). The world was a much bigger place for my big personality,” she said. “My father wanted me to be a wife and mother. I got married the first time far too young and divorced at 32.”
The message from our women leaders is that life is not always a bed of roses and inspirational Instagram quotes. Times can get tough and women need to cultivate their inner strength and a positive support network if they are to thrive.
“I’ve made plenty of errors in my career,” said Ms Winchester. “Being an entrepreneur, it’s in our nature to see the world, large and wide.”
Having started skincare company Advanced Technology at age 32 and then founded and later sold the Aspect clinical skincare brand, the largest anti-aging skincare company in Australia, Ms Winchester has been revelling in sharing her business secrets with other up-and-comers through her Coraggio Advisory Board. She’s even ready to re-enter the world of skincare with a new line.
Managing Director of Sydney’s Astrum Recruitment, Sylvia Leigh, sees bravery in women but also recommends a healthy dose of reality.
“Time is as valuable as money,” she said. “Spend your time wisely, with people who bring happy, positive, confidence building experiences to your life.
“Don’t expect anyone to make you happy; you’re responsible for your own happiness. And always maintain strong values in everything you do.”
It is sound advice, based on her observations through placing more than 2,800 job roles each year and more than a decade running her own recruitment agency specialising in gender and cultural diversity programs, candidate coaching and career planning, executive recruitment, talent sourcing solutions, volume and individual recruitment.
Ms Leigh is also a strong believer in personal and business improvement.
“Surround yourself with exceptional people, continue learning new things, share knowledge, advice and support others,” she said. “Put yourself in the driving seat – once you eliminate excuses and have no one to blame, every challenge can be solved by ‘YOU’.”
Principal of Suke and Associates, a boutique Melbourne-based Family and Relationship law practice, Helen Suke, credits her family and strong female role models for much of her inner strength.
And it’s this inner strength that Ms Suke believes is every woman’s superpower.
“Being ‘emotional’ is often reference in a negative way,” she said. “But that may be only as we perceive it. In reality, it’s often a female flavoured feeling of strength, not weakness.
“Emotion helps us to see what is around us, to sense, to perceive, to understand and assess. It tells us what needs to happen. This is an unlimited strength, not a weakness.”
These five Australian business women are backing themselves and supporting each other to forge ahead. But do they have any regrets? What would they do differently?
“I would be clear about my priorities and my goals at all times,” said Ms Ashton. “Most of what I have achieved has happened when I have had focus about what I want.
“If I could change one thing, I would put more thought into what I would like to achieve and implement accordingly,” she said. “It’s when we’re not thinking about what we want that we don’t get it.”
Leadership coach Kelly Beaumont said: “I don’t regret any decision I have made, as ultimately the journey has led me to where I am today, which is doing something I love.
“The only thing I would change is to ensure I had a mentor or coach earlier in my career and a trusted peer group to share learnings and opportunities. This would have made some of the journey not so lonely.”
Family lawyer Ms Suke said: “When reflecting on the past and looking to the future, it’s critical to acknowledge that life is not about what is presented to us, but how we deal with and navigate through what is presented to us. How we respond to our circumstances – whether we seize opportunities or judiciously let some “slip by”. We certainly do not have to ‘do it all, all the time’.”