#WALA: An Inspiring Celebration of Australian Leadership

Posted on 13 October 2017 by Sharon Blesson in Xref News

You know it’s not going to be an average Friday when your diary includes lunch at Doltone House Hyde Park in Sydney, with around 350 business leaders. I was lucky enough for that to be a reality last Friday, after being shortlisted for the Emerging Female Leader in Tech category at the Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards.

To say it was an honour would be a huge understatement. The calibre of attendees was so impressive, not just in terms of my fellow finalists, but also the guest speakers, hosts, and those that had simply joined colleagues to enjoy the event.

And that’s before I even get to the inspirational, moving and hugely motivational speeches that were made. More on that in a minute, but I first wanted to take a moment to recognise my “competition” and, in particular, category winner, Dr Lucy Palmer.

The variety of industries and disciplines covered by the five finalists in the tech category really demonstrates the incredible scope and impact of technology in today’s economy. From the HR industry to medicine and healthcare, professional services and financial technology - the five of us had a broad range of markets covered. The rightful winner,  Dr Lucy Palmer, is doing some fascinating work in the field of neuroscience and mental health research, leading a fast-growing laboratory focusing on understanding how the brain interprets our external world and what this means to our daily functioning. What some people can do with technology to create such a positive impact on today’s society, never fails to amaze me.

It was fantastic to be able to celebrate the power of female leaders in Australia and as Women’s Agenda Publisher, Angela Priestley, rightly pointed out in her opening remarks, it was refreshing to celebrate female success in a world where, once again, men seem to dominate the headlines...albeit for all the wrong reasons.

But regardless of the female focus - the event itself was a hotbed of inspiration. A highlight being when Professor Gillian Triggs took to the stage. She was, on the day, inducted into the Women’s Agenda Hall of Fame and, as a result, out-ranked Taylor Swift on twitter while speaking at the event. Apparently, her kids would have been mortified by this but she was hoping Taylor Swift would wake up wondering who Gillian Triggs was and what song she sang. Personally, I’ll always remember Professor Triggs’ suggestion that it’s perhaps time for us to “be more vulgar”. I agree wholeheartedly that, as a leader, it’s critical to speak up and stand up for what we believe in - authenticity is key to creating your own personal brand, forming the team you want to lead, and inspiring them to do their best.

Xref may not have been successful on this occasion but with a growing staff made up of incredibly talented individuals, both female and male, I have no doubt we’ll be popping up on many more shortlists in the years ahead. To borrow a line from another fantastic speaker at last week’s event, Dr Kirstin Ferguson, I’ll certainly be throwing down the fishing net to bring up many more successful women at Xref and encourage them on the leadership journey.

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