Women’s Leadership Symposium

You can draw inspiration from anything.

By Sally Shipard

You can draw inspiration from anything.

Last week representing Football Federation Australia, Ellyse Perry and myself attended the Women-s Leadership Symposium in Sydney- Australia-s premier annual event aimed at the topic of “women in leadership”. Throughout our participation in the two-day program, we were exposed to all sectors and industries in the professional world. Successful leaders presented their own insight and told their story as to how they made their mark.

While neither of us could directly relate to some of the ongoing topics throughout the 2 days, we both derived a sound perspective of where female leaders are placed within the corporate world.

Dr Cathy Foley set the tone for the first day, her message resonating well with me – “If you want to BE different, DO different”. She provided us with an insight of her role at the CSIRO as a Research Program Leader/ Chief Research Scientist.

It was an engaging portrayal of her own leadership challenges and experiences. Ultimately for me it was Science made interesting- I was captivated from the start and I could readily compare aspects of her world to mine.

In the afternoon Leanne Grantham made a presentation. I balanced the bias of mentioning Leanne against her message and her message won out. She did a great job in explaining the importance of “values”. I believe values are vital in a team environment, no matter your pursuit.

Within a team- the core of that team must operate with the same values, to know exactly what your company/team/group is striving to achieve in all aspects. While skills come into play it is often the immeasurable attributes within a team that are the most important.

Passion for a project; commitment for it-s completion; willingness to work hard – values such as these should be the core of any team. It was nice to hear Leanne-s story, up until now during trips away etc, she-d been asking about ours.

Throughout the day we were engaged in networking hours, exposed to case studies, leadership discussions, workshops and of course consumed numerous cups of tea and coffee. One of the main reasons for attending the symposium was the established networking hours.

Ellyse and myself found many women approaching us and asking about our involvement with football and what it-s like as a Matilda. We were very proud to be there representing the FFA and the Matildas.

Day two was also of great interest. Firstly we re-capped what we had all digested on day one, by standing up and voicing your own opinion and knowledge acquired during the previous day. The realisations we had all made came from a self-evaluation of our own workplaces and identification of the opportunities within.

There was a panel debate in the morning, posing the question. Does your sector effect your potential? The panel was comprised of Sue Murray the CEO of the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Maria Walton the National Franchise and HR Manager of Minit, and Neryl East the Manager of Media and Communication, Shellharbour City Council.

Each woman touched on their lives. Sue made the following point regarding boundaries. “Boundaries are limitless if you-re well and healthy”. I stepped away from football at the age of 21 due to my health, and now that I have returned this only typifies for me what each of us are capable of achieving when well and healthy. Thank you for the confirmation Sue.

Neryl made an interesting point about the importance of passion(s) and, once identified, articulating them so that they are clear to you. She recommended a book “The Passion Test” don-t be deterred by the ‘self-help- vibe. Sometimes we all need some assistance and this book can help distil one-s passions. I-ve already subscribed online and I-m looking out for a hard copy. Just this morning I confirmed one of mine, nothing beats the sense of clarity.

OK before I get too sentimental for an early morning, I-d like to make mention of the final speaker, one of the world-s most successful competitive surfers, and undoubtedly one of Australia-s most successful sportswomen – Layne Beachley!!!

She was really well… cool. She spoke a lot about visualising your goals and making them happen, and I was able to relate to Layne more so because of her sporting background. She spoke of honesty and integrity.

I believe these qualities are some of the most important to have…as a human-being let alone as an athlete. She mentors and has established a foundation enabling young girls to achieve their dreams in their chosen pursuits- “Aim for the Stars.” How appropriate, I think we sometimes spend too much time admiring them, rather than aiming for them!

During Layne-s surfing career and still to this day, she feels that women-s surfing is such a marketable commodity. I think Women-s Football in Australia has the same potential.

As an aspiring leader I will take a tremendous amount away from those two days. I hope one day to make a difference within my sporting world much like Layne and then beyond the sporting arena later in life.

At such (relative) young ages, both Ellyse and myself felt privileged in being given an insight into the worlds of these phenomenally successful women. Now what to do with all this insight…but will end now with a very special story…

We met some amazing ladies on our table, many of them high level leaders in organisations like the Australian Navy and multinational Pepsico to name a few, but one of the memorable moments from the symposium came about when, on the final day a lady approached me asking for something signed and personalised for her daughter.

They play football together in the same team though Mum was in her late 30-s and a relative novice to playing. They are able to connect with each other through football, how uniquely special?