2020 in review for Women & Leadership Australia

Here at WLA, we began the year with event venues locked in across Australia and New Zealand, a new online learning hub ready to launch, and our facilitators looking forward to bringing groups of women leaders together to learn and develop their leadership skills. We quickly realised that this wouldn’t be possible this year, and quickly pivoted to an online delivery of leadership development programs and events.

The Australian Women’s Leadership Symposiums were held on zoom, with the chat function in the event replacing the conversations that we used to have over morning tea. The insights from our presenters and the authenticity that everyone brought to the days was something we hadn’t anticipated. As one of our delegates put it; “You held space for others in a way you wouldn’t get if everyone was in the room.”

With the launch of our first membership platform, WLA Connect, we created an online hub for leadership development, discussion and contribution. We are so grateful to each and every woman who has joined us there, we now have a new online community!  Some of the articles that resonated were ‘The Business Case for Diversity is the Answer, Not the Question’ and ‘How to stay true to your values as a leader,’ which reflects the joint focus on development and advocacy that we work on every day at WLA.

Alongside Catherine Fox’s ‘Women’s Work’ column for WLA Connect, she joined us once again as our Director of Diversity, and led our Advisory Board. We were delighted to confirm that all our original board members have joined us for another year, with the exception of Adam Fennessy, who has embarked on an exciting new role in the public sector. Mark Schubert from Origin has consented to fill his position and we look forward to gaining new perspective from Mark. Thanks also to Julie Chai, Professor Rosie Campbell, Virginia Haussegger, Dr Terry Fitzsimmons, Kat Henaway and Michelle Dixon for their continued insights and advocacy in this space.

For our leadership development programs, online spaces became the norm, with our course participants coming together for whole day online workshops in place of their face to face days. It was unexpected , but everyone made the most of the connection and time to spend working on their own development. We extend a big thank you to our dedicated Associate faculty who worked behind the scenes to ensure that the learning would be engaging and accessible. Thank you to everyone who came along on the ride with us. The connection in this space was so positive that we will be keeping it as a permanent option, and we have every one of our program participants to thank for this new opportunity.

In a broader sense, 2020 was an interesting year for the state of women and gender equity in Australia. Overwhelmingly, women were the most likely to lose work or carry the burden of home schooling children. With women over-represented in caring roles, women were also more likely to be at risk of contracting COVID-19 in their workplace. It wasn’t all bad news though; for the first time in Australia’s history, we finally welcomed working dad’s home, clearing a space for them on the dining table or the couch and involving them in the day to day routines that working mums have been juggling for years.  And of course, no employer will ever again be able to argue that flexible working conditions are simply not possible. We proved, in the space of two weeks (if that), that we can and will work flexibly.

Overwhelmingly, what we learned this year was that above all else, we needed connection. Our participants, our delegates, our Connect members jumped at every opportunity to come together, to learn, to discuss, commiserate, comfort, develop, listen; any form of connection was much needed and welcomed.

Looking forward, I hope to see all of your next year- ideally in person. I hope you find a way to work that is better for you than it was at the start of the year. I hope you have the opportunity to stretch yourself, develop your skills and reflect on what you have achieved in this all-consuming year. I hope that dads stay home and share the tasks and care and the balance is shared in a way that works for you.

We appreciate your referrals and your engagement and hope that WLA is your first port of call when you are ready to take that next step. Together we can certainly make a difference!

I hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year.

Bring on 2021!​