Inspired / Inspiring. The Women in Focus conference

Never before have I been so blown away by a conference. And I’ve been to a few of them. (Remember that before StyleRocks, I worked at JPMorgan and so, was fortunate enough to attend a few sales conferences: Lisbon, Athens, etc). But this was something extraordinary. Not least because of the 120 inspirational women who attended.

Now I must disclose that there is some rationale for me to be saying this – Women in Focus ordered some StyleRocks jewellery to present to speakers at this very conference. Obviously there is an incentive for me to be positive in my review of the event! But I don’t even have to try to be positive about this: every word spoken, written, Tweeted is from the heart (mine), and absolutely 100% genuine.

To help me make sense of it all, I’ve categorised by topic as follows:

Outrigger Sofitel Noosa. ‘Nuff said. See the message that I ‘found’ when walking along Noosa Beach on the Wednesday afternoon…

As someone who has organised a lot of events, this was seamless. And all the CBA Women in Focus team – Ruth, Lauren, Mel, Kelly and others – worked so hard to ensure that it was nothing less than perfect for the 120 female delegates. The food was wonderful, I really enjoyed the morning workout session organised by Life’s a Gym, and there was even a bit of relaxation time. I somehow managed to miss the memo about the gala dinner being inspired by The Great Gatsby but in the end, it didn’t matter.

What I really liked about the conference was the balance of it. We had a fantastic mix of women, ranging from Non-Profit organisations, to social media leaders. We had women who have ‘made it’, through to other entrepreneurs who are trying to make it. The topics, networking and group activities were also well mixed.

The quality of the speakers, as well as the breadth and depth of what they spoke about was second to none. Clearly domain experts, what I loved was their passion for their subject matter. And I was taken aback by some of the ‘quiet achievers’ who spoke to us – Therese Rein of Ingeus and Linda Jenkinson of LesConcierges among others. Wendy McCarthy AO had chills running down my spine, through what she has managed to achieve for women in her lifetime, while Melinda Cruz of Miracle Babies had tears running down my face.

However, I was blindsided unexpectedly – by the CBA Team. Of course, I know how fabulous Karen James is; her authenticity and ability to speak from the heart really resonates with me. And Katie Mihell, with her quieter manner made an excellent MC. Andy Lark is a master at digital marketing and it strikes me that he is able to forecast our technology futures. But Symon Brewis-Weston spoke so passionately, so resoundingly about helping not only women in business but women in India who are truly second-class citizens, that I thought I was going to cry. Never before in my 15 years of financial services have I heard a man – any man – speak with such fervour and such a clear desire to change the status quo.

As Karen announced before she presented a StyleRocks item to the first speaker, Cilla Hegarty of NZ Tax Refunds, ‘We now have our own jewellery line thanks to StyleRocks!’ Woo hoo! And indeed – speakers were gifted with a beautiful silver bangle, or silver cufflinks with ‘Inspire’ engraved on them. And the Women in Focus team had, working with me (‘collaborative customisation’), created their own ‘Inspire’ necklace, based on existing StyleRocks designs. Here are some photos:

Catriona Pollard of CP Communications wearing her Inspire necklace

Kristi Mansfield of Greenstone wearing her Inspire necklace

Karen James of Women in Focus wearing her Inspire necklace – it was gifted to her from Catriona Wallace of Fifth Quadrant (pic quality a bit blurry due to the late hour!)

1. The realisation that I feel like I’d arrived ‘home’ spiritually: so many like-minded women who are all inspiring, amazing and achievers in their own way
2. Authenticity: each and every single person presenting, or attending, is authentic. 100% authentic.
3. CBA care. They really do actually care. Not only about increasing the number of women managers in their business, but supporting women-led businesses and making a difference in the wider community. To hear this from a financial services firm is…revolutionary, no?

There were so many. But here, in no particular order, are the ones that really struck a chord were:
“Just say yes. Work out how to do it later” Wendy McCarthy

“Throw your heart over the fence and your head will follow. But don’t forget to look ahead to the next jump” Cilla Hegarty

“You’ve got to know what you do so you can do it better” Nils Vesk

“You’ve got 24 hours in a day. You work 8. You sleep 8 and you play 8” Wendy McCarthy

“I have an inadequate sense of the impossible” Therese Rein

“Plan. Predict, Execute. Evaluate” Nils Vesk

“Love the no gossip culture. Down with the Queen Bees. We’re all fabulous” Suzy Jacobs of She Business

“If you don’t challenge assumptions around what women can do, you become complicit in not changing the status quo” Wendy McCarthy

“Small minds discuss people; great minds discuss ideas.” Eleanor Roosevelt via Suzy Jacobs

“Like poker, everything in life is a formula – you’ve just got to figure out what it is” Linda Jenkinson

“Better to die in the boardroom than die of boredom” Wendy McCarthy

“Don’t get seduced by success and don’t be broken by adversity. It’s all just a process” Linda Jenkinson

“Say yes. Figure out who knows how later” Loral Langemeier

“Feminism for me is a lot about finding equality in relationships” Wendy McCarthy

“I’ve raised $275m in 15 years – I know how to raise money” Linda Jenkinson

And of course, much of this was tweeted by the amazing Lisa Messenger of the Messenger Group who reached over 1 million impressions during the course of the 2-day conference!!

And of course, there was a lot of fun to be had too. Networking, dancing. And of course, what women-only conference is complete without some fierce nailpolish and some ‘Blue Steel’ moments with the gorgeous Lucie from Il Tutto?

But what to do with all this information? And all these ideas? Here are some of the thoughts buzzing around my head:

i) For me
– Find a mentor. Or mentors. Anyone free?
– Stay in touch with each and every single inspiring women I met. Connect and share stories.

ii) For StyleRocks
– Focus on promoting the ‘squeal’ factor, which is StyleRocks’ raison d’etre- it’s that moment of squealing when you open a beautiful box of beautiful jewellery which has been designed by/for you
– Talk to Andy Lark about his consulting services!
– Investigate Incubank – the new Women in Focus funding programe
– Write down the processes involved with each StyleRocks process. Work out how to simplify, make more efficient
– Possible brand extension (hee hee – this idea’s a secret until I research its feasibility)
– Work with some of the conference attendees re affiliations, possible joint ventures (watch this space – Karen, I hope to have another ‘connection’ story or two for you to present next year)
– Investigate moving StyleRocks banking over to CBA. Yes, seriously.

iii) For the greater good
– Think about how we might be able to pass the baton over to the younger generation re not losing all the groundwork and efforts that Wendy McCarthy and peers have achieved to redress those gender inequality issues. The gender gap in Australia is now 17.5% and continues to widen, according to Wendy. This might include reaching out to Liz Atkinson of League of Extraordinary Women and Wendy herself – find other women keen to join the project
– Think about a charity aggregator platform when policy etc is ready – note to self: this is a BIG project!!

One of the common themes we all face was how to juggle family and career. Wendy and Loral both described having a ‘tribe’ around them to make it all happen: run the household, help with the children, etc so they could be successful.

I returned to Sydney with energy, inspiration – but also having desperately missed Master & Miss StyleRocks. I was greeted at the airport by them literally jumping up and down with joy to see me, and ‘Welcome back Mummy’ ringing out throughout the airport. They covered me with kisses and were cackling with delight. Tears of delight from me.

Later on that day, I discovered that Master StyleRocks – all of 2 years, 3 months – can now RUN – not walk – but RUN in the au pair’s skyscraping stilettos.

Should I be worried – or do I just accept that to ‘have it all’ means that sometimes, you can be surprised about developments that happen when you’re not looking?!

Inspired. Inspiring. Thank you Women in Focus and CBA. Please continue to support such a valuable cause, for the greater good.

2 thoughts on “Inspired / Inspiring. The Women in Focus conference

  1. Thanks so much for a great summary of what was a truly wonderful, ‘inspiring’ conference. I feel so privileged to have been included in this event.
    I also feel validated about the way I’ve been doing business for the past 25 years & was thrilled to meet so many like-minded women & business leaders who agree that it’s not all about the bottom line, but also about life balance & giving back.
    Thanks & praise to the CBA, who are well on their way to de-bunking previous negative perceptions of what a bank is!

    1. Hi Judy
      Thanks so much for your feedback, and apologies for the belated reply.
      You make an excellent point about life balance & giving back: it’s so easy to lose sight of the last point in today’s stressed and busy society.
      While we didn’t get to meet at the conference, hopefully we will do at some other time!

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