Women gather in Bendigo to discuss leadership, board membership

A THIRD of the women at the Centre for Non-Violence on Monday night were board directors.

A further third were seeking opportunities to sit on boards. 

They were in the right place, at Bendigo’s third Women on Boards event. 

Leaders from the Centre for Non-Violence, Annie North, ARC Justice, Loddon Campaspe Centre Against Sexual Assault and Women’s Health Loddon Mallee introduced their organisations.

Each organisation was then represented in a panel discussion, which provided insights into being part of a board.

“Women make up half the community. We should be making up half of the management,” AFS and Associates chief executive officer Kate Mannix said.

She was interested to learn about the leadership opportunities available to the young women within her organisation, and about organisations in the community involved in social justice issues.

“It’s a great way to experience a number of organisations in one shot,” Ms Mannix said. 

Samantha Oliver, also of AFS, said the event encouraged women to be involved in boards and in management positions. 

The panellists were passionate about the importance of women in leadership.

Women's Health Loddon Mallee board member and treasurer Karen Fazzani.

Women's Health Loddon Mallee board member and treasurer Karen Fazzani.

Women’s Health Loddon Mallee board member Karen Fazzani said she was brought up by a mother who told her she could achieve anything she wanted.

“And I have,” she said. 

She was one of several panellists to have excelled in traditionally male-dominated fields. 

“There were no female lawyers here for the first 15 years that I was in practice and it was a hard road,” June Wilde, of the Annie North Women’s Refuge board, said.

Her primary motivation to join a board was to give back to the community.

“I’ve been very lucky and I have a skill set and I thought I might be able to be useful,” Ms Wilde said.

Moments of self-doubt were common among the panellists.

But Sally Smith said she had become more focused on teamwork since joining the board of ARC Justice.

The panel welcomed the state government’s push for gender equality on boards.

“The next level is then taking up that chairperson role,” Ms Smith said. 

The proportion of women leading boards in Australia in 2015-16 decreased from 14.2 per cent to 12.9, while female board membership rose.