On Wednesday, 12 November 2014, Macquarie University held the Women Management Work Conference (WMWC) at the Sheraton on the Park hotel in Sydney. The tagline of the event was ‘Igniting leaders and entrepreneurs’.

Many presenters shared a wealth of information aimed at helping women accelerate their careers.

Speakers included: Natalie Walker, Inside Policy; Air Commodore Robert Rodgers, Air Force; Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst; Deborah Harrigan, Dell; Diana Ryall AM, Xplore for Success; Danielle Fletcher, Propellher; Sue Ismiel, NADS; Angela Lovegrove, Telstra and Anet Redmer, Redmera.

The atmosphere of the day was one of inspiration and introspection, with many speakers highlighting the importance of taking time out of your busy schedule to reflect on where you are at, and gain clarity on where you are heading. Many practical pieces of the advice were drawn from engaging stories and experience-sharing throughout the day.

We selected five presenters’ insights and advice from the day designed to inspire you to advance your career and further your leadership skills.

1) Natalie Walker

Natalie Walker from Inside Policy spoke on being the change you want to see in the world.

Natalie’s tips on how to achieve your dreams:

  1. Be tuned in to who you are; understand and embrace it.
  2. Have a coalition of people around you who will support you no matter what, including people who are supporters and enablers. Avoid dream-squashers!
  3. Have the courage to pursue your dreams, don’t be afraid to fail.

 If you’re in a career transition, take time out to just be with yourself.

Natalie herself undertook a two-week silent meditation in Sri Lanka, which enabled her to find the narrative of who she is, the people who have supported her and what she needed to do to be the change she wanted to see in the world.

NATALIE’S ADVICE: “Think about what change you want to see in the world. Think about it, visualize it. Then try and do it. Then share it. For those more advanced along their pathway, support others to find theirs.”

Don’t be dream-squashers, be dream enablers.

“Listen, absorb and be open to learning.” Natalie Walker

2) Air Commodore Robert Rodgers

Air Commodore Robert Rodgers delivered his advice for organisational agility and leadership development.

Robert’s top tips on successful leadership:

  1. Have a clear intent;
  2. Be motivated toward a common goal;
  3. Be committed and persistent to work towards it.


  • Organisations are human systems that are enabled by leaders, through certain behaviours who are motivated by meaning.
  • The role of leader is to build on the sense of meaning employees bring and connect it to the organization to make it more effective.
  • Having a technological edge is not what it’s all about. You need technical parity, but it’s in the human systems that the difference is made.
  • A leader cannot be the expert anymore. A leader has to be the person that is bringing together a group of experts.

“Organisations are human systems” Air Commodore Robert Rodgers, Director General Personnel, RAAF

3) Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst

Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst, CEO and Cofounder Cyber Security Networks, PhD Corporate Entrepreneurship, discussed the idea of intrapreneurship and defined it as “Taking an idea to a profitable reality within an existing firm.”

She also highlighted the importance of self-analysis, suggesting we should all ask ourselves, What is my profitable reality?

“There is power in knowing oneself.” Dr. Sally-Ann Ernst

She also reinforced the idea of carving out time to think about what you want to do. “read, watch online tutorials, network, take a holiday every year. Go somewhere new. Stop thinking about work; Ideas percolate in the back of your mind when you relax.”

4) Deborah Harrigan

Deborah Harrigan, Dell’s Executive Director, Global Order Experience and Customer Care Solutions, offered some inspirational career advice.

Leap and the net will appear

“In the workplace, the net is provided by the people that recruit you. They believe in you.”


  • Fear is what gets in the way of realising future career aspirations. But it’s only a small four-letter word. Her favorite book? Face the fear and do it anyway, by Susan Jeffers.
  • Fail fast – Without failure we don’t develop.
  • Buy into the culture or ‘fabric’ of the organisation.
  • Your values must come first – the company’s values must sit well with yours.

 5) Sue Ismiel

Sue Ismiel, Founder of NADS presented on owning your management style.

“Don’t ever let your shortcomings stand in the way of your dreams.” Sue Ismiel, NADS

She tapped into the essence of leadership:

“You have to know exactly where you are, exactly where you need to get to, have a strategy and manage the emotions of those around you.”


  1. Hire great people. Let them do their jobs.
  2. Set clear objectives (one-page business plan that highlights 3 objectives for each department – 3 simple KPIs (1. Pro-active execution of the business plan in their area, 2, budget and 3. Team)
  3. Be the leader people would want to follow. In order to do that, take care of yourself first.

Thank you to Macquarie University and CP Communications for inviting Leaders in Heels along to the event.


What great career advice have you heard that has stuck with you and given you the motivation to take your career to a new level?


Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 


From giving feedback to helping you navigate the  politics of your organisation, a sponsor can do more for your leadership career than you might think.

Angela Lovegrove, Regional General Manager NSW of Telstra Business has helped many people to develop successful careers. She has mentored and sponsored dozens of employees throughout her career and seen the benefits of both the mentor and sponsor relationships.

The difference between a sponsor and a mentor

The difference between a sponsor and a mentor is described by Sylvia Ann Hewlett in her 2013 book Mentors Are Good. Sponsors are Better: “Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.”

Angela believes the mentor relationship has its place and can be really important. She also believes sponsorship, especially for women, can be essential to their career success.

As women, we often correlate hard work with success, but this is not exclusively the case.

Angela states: “It’s not about how hard you work. It’s about your ability to communicate, lead and how you behave in these environments.”

So who needs a sponsor?

“Anyone who shows leadership potential” Angela says. This means they must have shown they possess some leadership qualities to start with, and the potential to grow and learn. They must be worth developing and working with.

“To be a good leader, you’ve got love working with people and helping others to be successful.”

This applies to both the sponsor and the sponsoree.

Angela has also used sponsorship as a means of succession planning. If an employee shows leadership potential, sponsoring and guiding them through the organisation can help to identify opportunities to step up to management roles and take over from predecessors.

How can a sponsor help you?

Angela outlines some benefits sponsors offer. They can help you to …

  • Grow in confidence. Having someone helping you navigate the organisation can make you more confident in your approaches with others.
  • Model good behaviour. Your sponsor is in their position for a reason; observing how they interact with others can act as a model for your own conduct.
  • Understand different perspectives. Having someone challenging you, and give you feedback can help you to expand your mindset.
  • Grow your network. Sponsors help you to establish relationships across the business and externally where possible.
  • Help to raise your profile in the organisation. This can lead to increased opportunities including promotion into management roles.

For all its benefits, sponsorees should be aware there can be some resistance from non-sponsoring management or co-workers.

This is where good people skills can come in handy. “You need to communicate well with these people and build a relationship with them too. The sponsor can assist with this through behavioural coaching and general support.”

The responsibilities of the sponsor should be taken seriously as their role is to truly guide the sponsoree on their path to success.

“There is an imperative with sponsors that they have to deliver; they can’t let you down.”

Angela will be presenting a keynote address on the role of sponsors in leadership at the Macquarie University Faculty of Business and Economics ‘Women, Management and Work Conference’ at Sheraton on the Park, Sydney on Wednesday 12 November 2014.

For more information about the event visit the website here.


What experiences have you had with a sponsor relationship? Did it benefit you within the organisation?


Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher at a global education company amid the chaos. 


The recent 50|50 Future Leaders event held by Leaders in Heels in Sydney saw some of the country’s top leaders (male and female) discussing gender equality in the workplace.

The panel speakers were keen to share actions you can take today that will pave the way for a 50|50 future of equal gender representation in leadership roles.

Here they are:


“Every woman should articulate her career aspirations in the workplace. Then, ask and encourage the next woman in your path to do the same.” Diana Ryall, AM Founder and Managing Director, Xplore for Success


“Take the ‘Plus One Pledge’ and add a woman to your team. Also, make yourself known as the manager that makes flexibility mainstream.” Andrew Stevens, Non-executive Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand


“Go and ask your HR department and your managers about their policies on gender equality. Intel has a policy that ensures all middle management roles include at least one female in the recruitment process. Do you have that policy?” Kate Burleigh, Managing Director, Intel Australia/ New Zealand


“What we need here is a culture change – each and every one of us has to change. Have the courage to say no to discrimination and call it out when you see it happening.” Gordon Cairns, Chairman, Origin Energy


 “Work with the children in your life to understand gender equality – show your sons in particular that equality is the only path forward.” Elizabeth Broderick (Chair), Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission


“Don’t wait for someone else to change things for you. Decide to make the change yourself and go and do something about it.” Cassandra Kelly, Co-founder and Joint CEO, Pottinger

An enthusiastic audience member also offered some great advice:

“Pay rises don’t just happen, you need to ask for one – every year!”

The event had a particular focus on encouraging men to participate in the gender debate. The audience comprised 24% men and 76% women.

The men were all encouraged to take action and engage with other men in their organisations to open up conversations about workplace equality.

What also came up in the discussion was the need for women to support and empower other women, which traditionally has not been a strong point.

Cassandra Kelly through her work with The Glass Elevator, and Diana Ryall from Xplore for Success were both passionate advocates on this issue. Diana strongly believes that women should empower each other.

Cassandra agreed.

“Be a little bit selfless and think about how you can support another woman. Be authentic in your encouragement. It’s time for a new movement: Behind every strong woman should be another strong woman” She said.

Thank you to all the wonderful panel members and their inspiring advice.

Read more about the 50|50 Future Leaders event here.

What are you going to do today to build a 50|50 future?

We encourage you to share your comments below.


Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 

Last night at the Swissotel in Sydney, Leaders in Heels hosted the event: 50|50 Future Leaders.

Over 175 guests witnessed some of the nation’s top leaders discuss gender equality in the workplace.

The panel consisted of:

  • Elizabeth Broderick (Chair) – Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Gordon Cairns – Chairman, Origin Energy
  • Kate Burleigh – Managing Director, Intel Australia/ New Zealand
  • Andrew Stevens – Non-executive Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand
  • Cassandra Kelly- Co-founder and Joint CEO, Pottinger
  • Diana Ryall AM – Founder and Managing Director, Xplore for Success

Men featured in the discussions, probably because that’s where the inspiration for the event came from. Kasia Gospos, Founder of Leaders in Heels and event organiser said:

“I was inspired to create this event because I had been to so many events about gender equality which were attended solely by women. If we truly want change to occur, we need to engage men in the discussion.”

Elizabeth Broderick echoed Kasia’s sentiment stating:

“We are where we are today because of women’s activism, but it’s not enough now – we need men stepping up beside women to see where we can achieve gender balance.”

The whole event aimed to have 50|50 gender participation and managed to achieve a 24% men / 76% women split in the audience, which in itself is commendable.

The discussion covered issues for working mothers, the pay gap and organisational accountability. The need for men to be champions of change was a clear mandate for future change.

Elizabeth Broderick opened discussions by describing ‘gender asbestos’, a term she often uses to describe the unseen discrimination that is more common nowadays than the overt sexual discrimination of the past. “It’s built into the walls, floors and ceilings of so many organisations that you hardly notice it, but it’s there.”

Women in labour

In July this year, the Human Rights Commission released its report: Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review Report. It found that ‘One in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

‘One in five (18%) mothers indicated that they were made redundant/restructured/dismissed or that their contract was not renewed …’

As the findings of this report were discussed, Andrew Stevens acknowledged that the ‘family years’ usually result in a steep decline in female representation in the workplace but highlighted that only 1 in 10 of those who experienced discrimination during this time made a formal complaint. Often making a complaint led to firing, redundancy or restructuring – and even being encouraged to terminate the pregnancy.

He implored everyone to ask of themselves: What level of discrimination are you comfortable with?

“Is a 49% discrimination rate okay? 20%? 5%? I’m not happy with it, are you?”

Diana Ryall pointed out that discrimination can begin long before a pregnancy is announced: “Once the engagement ring goes on, people will ask ‘So, when are you going to have babies?

Breaking down old beliefs

Some of the issues around returning to work were discussed and it was clear that at least two ‘old-fashioned’ beliefs needed to be broken down in order to find solutions for today’s workplaces.

The first, Kate Burleigh articulated: “Let’s not perpetuate idea that only women make good carers.” Allowing for men to be included as carers in flexible working arrangements is a good start to breaking down this belief. Elizabeth Broderick pointed out that Telstra recently mainstreamed flexibility by introducing company-wide flexible working options for everyone.

Secondly, Andrew Stevens pointed out that we must alleviate the myth that we can’t pay someone unless we see them. “A big change is the ability to control your own schedule by working wherever and whenever you can. Input measurement of hours in the office no longer equals output measurement.”

The gap under the carpet

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) announced data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in August 2014. It shows that the average man working full-time earns 18.2% or $283.20 more than the average full-time working woman.

This figure has risen from previous years.

It was clear that Cassandra Kelly was not standing for this. Infuriated by a recent interaction with a female senior executive who stated that the pay gap was ‘Not for women like us’, Cassandra pleaded for everyone to not think like this.

In fact, it’s the opposite – the higher up you go in seniority, the great the pay gap can become.

Gordon Cairns cautioned that looking at just the averages may not reflect what’s really going on. He suggested the need to look at every case in context and conduct the analysis in a sophisticated way in order to do this issue justice.

Diana Ryall pointed out that organisations are generally not open about their pay gaps and that employers have a responsibility to disclose this information and do something about it.

What we measure, we improve

Kate Burleigh put Intel under the spotlight stating that although the company was 46 years old and had been working on equality for a long time, there was still only 25% representation of women in senior leadership roles. She admitted that the more senior you go, the worse the figures get. “This is the reality in the IT sector and it’s appalling.”

However, there is a way forward in making organisations accountable and creating real and lasting change.

“As recent as the last six months, the industry has decided to publicly print and share statistics and data around this. When you have a target or data, there’s something to rally around. Now we are starting to see some effective processes being put in place as the industry aims for 50/50 equal representation.” She said.

Leading by example

In response to a question about what pressures we need to put on the advertising industry to improve gender perceptions, Gordon Cairns – who has recently worked with this industry –  highlighted the imperative for any change agents to ‘get their house in order first’.

“McKinsey has worked with advertising agencies on what the proven path is. They are sharing statistics with one another and progress is being made.”

He also mentioned that at Origin Energy, they believe in a supplier multiplier where diversity is required right down the supply chain. “Unless you have a diversity program in place, you won’t be called upon to pitch your business, let alone partner with Origin.”

Kate Burleigh outlined a policy at Intel where the recruitment of any middle management roles have at least one female in the candidature. HR departments are held accountable to this requirement.

It is this sort of action that will pave the way for equal gender representation in leadership roles.

What can you do?

The entire panel of speakers were enthusiastic to share their recommended actions not only the audience, but all Leaders in Heels community members.

Read more about the actions you can take today to build a 50|50 future.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future events.


Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

See more photos from the event at Zahrina Photography Facebook album.

Sally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 

Interview with Kate Burleigh, Managing Director, Intel Australia New Zealand

I recently interviewed Kate Burleigh, Managing Director of Intel Australia New Zealand. Kate is one of Leaders in Heels’ key panel members in the upcoming 50|50 Future Leaders event (September 2nd, Swissotel Sydney).

Initially I was to write a quick profile piece about her career path, but what struck me was that regardless of the path she had travelled to get to where she was, underlying it all seemed to be some outstanding qualities.

Kate has a remarkable blend of confidence and determination.

Both of these qualities seem effortless, and both seem to have been pivotal in carving out her career path.

She is a confident communicator, which is something she admits she had to work on when she was starting out.

“Earlier on in my career, I think my voice wasn’t heard as strongly as it should have been. I learnt pretty quickly that I have to re-articulate my message in order for it to get through.”

Her determination is evident in her track record of taking on and mastering new challenges.

It’s the nature of the fast-moving tech industry that has allowed Kate to work her way through various roles at Intel. The company often takes on new projects and moves in new directions. Kate has always stepped up to meet new challenges and learn unfamiliar parts of the business.

“I would say I identify pretty quickly where I need to work harder to improve my skills and what’s needed to get to the next level. There have been times in my career where I dedicated myself to that. I’d put myself on a steep learning curve and then at other times it would flattened out as I settled in and focused on excelling in that role.”

Her innate confidence and determination to grow has her perfectly positioned as a Managing Director with a deep understanding of many parts of the business. Kate is certainly suited to working in the tech-sector.

“I have a natural inquisitiveness around technology and invention. You have to in this industry.”

She is passionate about the future of technology. She encourages her children to not only use technology, but understand it deeply.

“We want our children to understand how technology works – to not just be consumers, but creators. That’s really prudent, otherwise they will be at the mercy of what’s being pushed down at them.”

She is amazed at how creative kids can be with technology and encourages all ages to be fearless when it comes to trying new things.

“The main thing to remember with most technology is that you can’t really break it. There’s always a reset button or start again. Just go and do it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Kate will be one of the panel members at the 50|50 Future Leaders event on September 2nd. Secure your tickets here.

What qualities do you believe you need to carve out your own career path? Share your comments below.


Sally MilesSally Miles – Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and  squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos. 


This month, Petra Buchanan takes on the role of CEO of the McGrath Foundation. She takes over from Kylea Tink who resigned earlier in the year.

Petra talks about the experiences that have brought her to this role and where the future is headed.

A global perspective                   

Petra has over 20 years experience in the media, television and technology sectors. She has worked for companies overseas and in Australia including the Discovery Channel, Unisys and ASTRA (Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association).

Having such a depth of experience both locally and globally has benefited her perspective and understanding of places, cultures and people.

“Having diverse experience has definitely influenced how I am able to connect with people and embrace new ideas. Coming from a business-dominated background, I am very excited about bringing my skills to the McGrath Foundation.” Petra says.

Glenn McGrath AM, Co-founder and President, and John Conde AO, Chairman of the McGrath Foundation are both enthusiastic in welcoming Petra to the team.

“Petra has an enviable reputation for achievement that will be important in leading the McGrath Foundation at this critical stage in its development.” John says.

Branding and trust

Part of Petra’s experience has been in working to develop and build awareness for leading brands.

“Branding is so important to an organisation. It reflects how they feel about an organisation and therefore how they will contribute to it. People must feel motivated to support an organisation.

Importantly, a charitable organisation must be trusted by the public. The McGrath Foundation has done an amazing job in such a short amount of time to build this trust and brand. I look forward to continuing this work.” Petra says.

Next year the McGrath Foundation will celebrate its 10th year. The organisation has experienced organic growth. From its beginnings of Jane and Glenn McGrath working together to leverage Glenn’s celebrity status and raise breast cancer awareness to a fully-fledged support network with over 100 breast care nurses. It is one of Australia’s fastest growing charities.

Having diverse experience has definitely influenced how I am able to connect with people and embrace new ideas

Growing the organisation

Petra’s mission will be to further grow the organisation in line with the Board’s ambitious goals.

Why the need to grow? Petra conveys her passion for the cause:

“Because breast cancer is a major issue and it continues to be a rising problem. Every day 42 people are diagnosed in Australia. It is one of the most common types of cancer.

We need to work hard to ensure we can bring more breast care nurses into the lives of cancer victims, to offer them and their families the information, counselling and support that they need.”

Petra doesn’t hesitate to raise a call-to-action for interested parties that align with the values of the McGrath Foundation to get in touch with them.

“We are looking for opportunities to work with organisations to diversify what we are doing and connect in all kinds of ways to achieve significant outcomes for breast cancer patients.” She says.

She’s got so many ideas about where to take the organisation, and will be working on a strategic plan as she steps into her new role.

Mentoring and leadership

Last year Petra was awarded the B&T Women in Media award for mentoring.

She acknowledges how lovely it is to be recognised, but feels that a mentor can get just as much out of the relationship that a mentee can. She has always felt this way and has always sought to work with people and offer them her time and attention. She is part of the Wendy McCarthy mentoring program. She mentors two individuals, both from very diverse backgrounds and from different organisations.

She goes on to talk about the need to support each other in the workplace. She has had her share of supportive people and also confrontations but overall has had a positive experience of working alongside both men and women.

“I have been fortunate enough to have worked with really supportive leaders. It’s all about bringing everyone along with you and setting the right example.” Petra says.

We need to look outside the square and not be limited by past beliefs … We should be embracing more diverse backgrounds as there could be a wealth of experience and potential richness we are not tapping into.

Women leaders

Petra is a great role model for aspiring women leaders. She recognises that we have a way to go until women have equal representation on boards and other positions of leadership.

“Challenges exist for everyone and certain challenges can be unique to an organisation, or be common to a nation. The Australian business environment can be challenging for women. Take board representation as an example, we are not as far down the track as we should be.

“We need to look outside the square and not be limited by past beliefs. Traditionally, boards look to place individuals from certain backgrounds, particularly women with legal or finance backgrounds. We should be embracing more diverse backgrounds as there could be a wealth of experience and potential richness we are not tapping into.” She says.

Thank you Petra for contributing your time and thoughts to Leaders in Heels.