It’s International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021 and to celebrate, we spoke with some of the many inspirational female leaders from our industry. We asked them to share an achievement that they are proud of and how they’re helping to forge a gender equal world.
Sarah Rizk, Lawyer
“I’m extremely proud to have become a Partner at a young age, having only practiced law for just five years. The odds were stacked against me from the beginning. In my family, female roles are predominantly traditional. I wasn’t expected to apply for university, let alone get in and go on to become a Partner. Similarly, when I attended university, the imbalance between male and female students was phenomenal. It didn’t look like there was much room for women to succeed. In more recent years, and particularly during my time teaching at ACU, it’s evident that there’s been a shift in that balance with the female presence dominating the classroom. The future of law is most certainly female.
I choose to challenge gender bias for the next generation. Every day as a mum of two young girls, I choose to show up and forge ahead despite the additional pressures of motherhood bestowed upon me by my traditional family, society, and my own high expectations.
I’m also extremely proud to have been Chairperson of the Urban Development Institute of Australia’s Women in Property Committee (Vic Division). There are so few women in the property industry relative to men, and that Committee created a network for us to enhance our profiles, engage with industry and build each other up. There were several times along the journey that the Committee had to justify its existence. But now, there’s similar groups and forums coming to life across the broader industry, paving the way for our current, and future generations.”
Sheetal Deo, Lawyer, advocate and D&I Consultant (QLD)
“I truly believe in using positions of power and privilege to support others. I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, but I’m acutely aware that I was afforded certain privileges simply by virtue of where I was born, my able body or sacrifices my parents made – things outside of my control. So why should I have more access to justice than someone else?
That’s why after only four years PAE, I launched my own law firm, Shakti Legal Solutions – Shakti meaning the divine feminine. The firm’s ethos encompasses our fundamental human right to seek and obtain justice, and doing what we can, as lawyers and advocates, to facilitate access to it. Shakti Legal Solutions was created to bridge the justice gap and enable others to support our efforts.
In terms of challenging gender bias, one of my proudest moments was facilitating the establishment of the QLS Future Leaders Committee and the Diverse Abilities Network at the Queensland Law Society (QLS). In an industry that has an abundance of male leaders it was important for me to ‘pass the mic,’ to female role models of diverse backgrounds and abilities. Not only does this provide our future lawyers and leaders with visible representation but encourages and empowers them to ‘own the mic’ and elevate others in furtherance of a more inclusive and equitable environment for our industry and beyond.”
Carmel Noon, CEO of The Australian Institute of Conveyancers – SA division
“One of my greatest achievements and one I hold close to my heart was being appointed CEO of Kangaroo Island (KI) Council and the outcomes we achieved during my four-year placement – the KI Council looks after infrastructure in a substantial geographic area with a small rate payer base. At the time, I was the first female CEO in a decade to be appointed for a South Australian council – and there are 68 councils in the state. It was so “unexpected” that at Local Government functions, before we were introduced, my peers and elected members assumed that I was the Mayor’s executive assistant rather than a Council CEO.
By the end of my four years, the elected members (in my first three years), my team and I had the attention of both State and Federal Governments. We secured much needed government funding for roads and infrastructure and the KI Future Authority (KIFA) was established which enabled the revamp of the KI airport (with the airport and ferry being the life-line for locals), funding for roads and major infrastructure projects. It is still nice to read the written reference from the Mayor where she says, “The future of KIC is a positive one and can be attributed to Carmel’s legacy of management and leadership”.
Throughout my career, I’ve found myself as one of few female leaders in a cast of men, especially in CEO/Senior Executive roles across many sectors. I have never given airtime to gender bias. My personal approach has been to ignore assumptions and judgement that have come my way and practice inclusive behaviour in every part of my life. People are just people, not male or female, and we deserve equal opportunity based on merit not gender. My mantra is that Culture eats Strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner!”
Jodie Tai – Loans Processing Officer at P&N Bank
“A personal achievement for me is the growth in my self-confidence. Being female as well as a minority race in Australia, I couldn’t help but feel different or excluded. This impacted my confidence outside of home at an early age.
I have been fortunate to have an amazing manager who has supported me and provided the tools to develop my confidence. She has not only been a mentor but a strong female leader who encourages self-development in all her employees. Now, for the first time, I’m confident to be myself and feel comfortable in my own shoes.
I come from a traditional family background, with traditional expectations for women. For example, on my wedding day I was repeatedly asked when I was going to have children. The expectation being that I would, and soon. Every day, I challenge gender bias by pushing past traditional expectations and doing what makes me happy, as an individual, and setting an example for future generations.”