Over the years, when asked to facilitate leadership programs designed exclusively for women my initial response has been “why?”
Of course, women are faced with a unique set of challenges; women are under-represented in positions of influence and there are many examples to highlight that women face peculiar – and sometimes destructive – forms of marginalisation.
In my view though, women and men both face the same challenges in leadership and in seeking useful behaviours that allow them to lead lives of purpose and integrity.
If I were to facilitate women-only programs, I feel like I’d be supporting a view that women need more development than men. My experience over 20 years is that leadership is available to everyone and that gender makes no difference to whether someone is a great leader, an average leader or just someone with a job title.
With that said, this article is about acknowledging women who have made a powerful and positive impression in my life. I’ve had the privilege of working with most of these women and their teams, and each of them have opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and seeing the world.
While some of these women are flying under the radar, each of them are women of substance, intelligence, compassion, authenticity and drive – each making their own unique impact.
The winemaker with a social conscience
Rose Kentish, winemaker and entrepreneur
Rose is a busy mother, wife and winemaker in McLaren Vale who brings an international perspective to her business and to her life. She has a strong social conscience and believes that brands and businesses can serve a higher purpose than merely commercial profit. This is typified in her start-up brewing business ‘Sparkke’, co-founded with Kari Allen.
Sparkke was formed to ‘spark’ conversations around social issues – from marriage equality to asylum seekers – and has raised more than $10,000 for social causes since releasing four products onto the Australian market in late January 2017.
Rose stays true to herself and her family, and rolls with the punches. Among many accolades, she was named the Australian Women in Wine Awards 2015 Australian Winemaker of the Year.
What I love about Rose is the focus and sense of purpose she brings to her life, and her insistence that her work makes a difference for those that it touches.
A coach who is happy not to have all the answers (at least not all the time)
Jane Woodlands-Thompson, former dual premiership coach of the Adelaide Thunderbirds
Jane Woodlands-Thompson specialises in high performance sport in both netball and women’s football.
She is renowned as an elite and successful coach in the ANZ Championship Netball Competition. Jane’s commitment and hard work shows up in her results, and at least part of her success is due to the depth of her own self-awareness and willingness to being coached herself.
Jane understands that success demands a balance of process and content. To leverage both, she recognises you need a strong network of experts to extend your repertoire and ultimately increase your opportunities for success.
Jane starts with the end in mind; she’s a quick thinker and decisive, without being reactive in her decision-making.
Jane is measured and analytical, and I admire her focus and discipline.
A passionate and driven collaborator
Jan Angas, Hutton Vale Farm
Jan Angas is a familiar face in South Australia’s Barossa Valley, being one of the custodians of Hutton Vale Farm – a business with a philosophy of sustainable farming.
Jan is a board member of the Barossa Grape and Wine Association and was the driving force behind Barossa Food – the regional food industry body for the Barossa.
When you talk to Jan you know that she is both passionate and serious about protecting and promoting the international reputation that the Barossa has earned. She is driven by a purpose that is greater than herself.
Jan knows how to harness the support of others and works hard to ensure her approach is never one-size-fits-all. Jan brings a long-term view, underpinned by strong values without ever being dogmatic.
She also has a strongly grounded sense of family and community that rests on the best of traditional and pragmatic values.
What strikes me personally about Jan’s approach to her work, family, community and to her business is her daring pursuit of something greater than now.
Whether it’s bureaucrats, a competing business or everyday naysayers, it takes real courage to take up a battle with eyes wide open and it’s rare for Jan to take a backward step.
The articulate debater
Penny Wong, Labor Senator for South Australia
My admiration for Penny isn’t based on her party’s political platform; it is her intellectual agility and the energy she brings to the way she articulates her message.
Whether you agree with Labor’s values or not, there’s no doubt that Penny is able to humanise the issues she is debating.
Penny also has a strong physical presence; her energy occupies space with poise and authenticity.
A curious educator and mentor
Philippa Bond, CEO and founder of Inform Training and Research
Philippa (Pip) Bond is the CEO and founder of Inform Training and Research.
With one of the sharpest minds in learning and development, she is intoxicating as a facilitator and is an uncompromising coach. Subsequently, Pip is in high demand internationally and now spends little time working in Australia.
Pip is avidly and restlessly curious about the world, without ever confining herself to one philosophical or academic perspective. As a result, she remains open to her own learning.
I admire Pip’s capacity to access higher performance in others. With clever, elegantly crafted questions she will open someone’s thinking just enough to stretch them in directions they may not have considered possible.
Vanessa Walker, Senior Cricket Operations Manager, South Australian Cricket Association
Vanessa’s new role in a South Australian sporting and social institution comes after 18 years working in executive roles in human resource management and leadership with Australia Post.
Vanessa has shown her ability to adapt and thrive in a challenging corporate environment with relentless change.
Her leadership style is measured and earnest, underpinned by her intelligence.
Vanessa doesn’t indulge a sense of ego, has a big heart and is a loyal colleague. She is able to deliver challenging messages elegantly, convincingly and with absolute sensitivity, that create meaning and direction for others.
Vanessa has also been a successful athlete, pursuing outdoor events where her adrenal glands get a real workout! This includes being part of a world championship winning Rogaining team, amongst other outdoor pursuits.
I could write pages on each of these women and I encourage you to find out more about their careers, causes and businesses.
At AltoPEOPLE we work with people who want to make a difference in their world. And we believe strongly that finding authenticity in purpose and self is a fundamental first step. Each of these women have done just that and if you or your team are curious about what it might mean for you, please go ahead and contact AltoPEOPLE, so we can have a conversation about the opportunities.