Suzi Finkelstein

Program Director

With over twenty years of leadership development experience, Suzi brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as WLA’s Program Director. Over an exceptional career, Suzi has built a reputation for designing and delivering quality professional development with a particular focus on transforming the performance of women leaders and their teams. As a development consultant, Suzi has worked across all levels of leadership and management in partnership with many of Australia's leading organisations.

Working alongside Australia’s highest achieving women, as well as personally guiding hundreds of individual female leaders to career success, has enabled Suzi to develop a deep understanding of, and appreciation for, the challenges women face in the workforce today. This extensive insight is critical in enabling Suzi to design and deliver highly impactful development programs with a focus on practical and achievable outcomes.

Passionate about nurturing talent in others, Suzi takes great pride in her work with WLA and is deeply committed to helping more women step up into leadership positions across all facets of the workforce and broader community. She is consistently acknowledged for her ability to connect with diverse audiences and create innovative learning environments focused on inclusivity and collaboration.

Suzi regularly speaks at local and international conferences about her lifelong passion for developing and empowering female leaders. Her academic studies and ongoing research help to inform a rigorous, evidence-based approach to her work. 

“Our work takes me to the coal face, creating a space for our female leaders to connect, identify and challenge the barriers they are facing both internally and externally. I deeply admire the women that I work with. It is so inspiring learning of their experiences, achievements and insights. We witness their empowerment as they discover their true potential. It is their courage, wisdom and ability that take them forward.”

Damien Farrell

Group Managing Director

Over the past twelve years Damien has been Group Managing Director of the Australian School of Applied Management, the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative and Women & Leadership Australia. Previously, Damien held various executive positions across organisations including Fairfax Media, BD Media, and Ocean Internet. Damien is passionate about leadership, both as a leader himself and as a champion for the development of other leaders. His focus on empowering all team members to thrive within a values-based environment carries through to ASAM’s best-of-breed leadership development programs.

Damien is also passionate about overcoming gender inequality in Australian workplaces. In 2003, he founded Women & Leadership Australia. His ongoing work within WLA reflects a deep commitment to supporting female leaders and assisting their organisations to increase opportunities for their advancement. Damien believes that through effective leadership, men and women can be equally supported to reach their potential and thrive in their workplace environment. Damien has supported numerous NFP’s as a board member and advisor including the 100% Project and Parkinsons Australia.

“We seek to create new solutions to an old problem. A substantial part of our mission concerns engaging men in the dialogue. We aim to create advocates and, where necessary, disrupt and change deeply ingrained biases. Whilst we are inspired as we see talented women making the mark as leaders across many domains, there is a long way to go. We hope you will join us in our efforts to create a more equitable and dynamic future.”

Dr Janet Smith

Academic Director

Alongside her ongoing work with Women & Leadership Australia and the National Excellence in School Leadership Initiative, Dr Janet Smith is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Education at the University of Canberra, where she has taught and researched Educational Leadership and Teacher Education for the past twenty-five years. Janet’s recent work at UC involved managing and teaching national and international professional learning courses, specialising in leadership, mentoring, coaching and social and emotional learning.  Prior to her work at the university, Janet was a high school teacher and school leader. Janet has also worked extensively as a development consultant, focusing on education, leadership, coaching, mentoring, spirituality and professional learning. Janet holds a PhD, Master of Education, BA, and Graduate Diploma of Secondary Education.

Whilst the focus of Dr Smith’s concerns about gender in education and the broader workforce has changed over time, her passion for improving outcomes for female leaders has not. The first three schools she taught at were single-sex public high schools. Dr Smith considers teaching in these schools as a seminal experience as she became acutely aware of the defining role that gender plays in education, wellbeing and learning outcomes. It also became apparent that a teacher’s gender has a major impact on their leadership aspirations and outcomes. As a result of this, Dr Smith completed a Masters degree focusing on girls’ education, and a PhD exploring the impact of gender on a teacher’s work and identity. Later, as an academic and leader in higher education, these same threads continued to weave their way through her teaching, research and experience.

“It is a great pleasure and privilege to be working with WLA on all kinds of initiatives to support increased opportunities for women leaders both in the education field and beyond. I sincerely believe our work is helping to improve opportunities and outcomes for women leaders at all levels.”​

Dr Anna Dabrowski

Senior Associate and Program Evaluation Specialist

Anna Dabrowski is a researcher and lecturer in the area of gender, education reform, and tertiary education. As a qualitative researcher, Anna is interested in the ways that we can learn from and best utilise data to inform and enhance our experiences, with a particular interest in transforming the experiences of women across organisations and sectors. Anna is dedicated to lifelong learning and continuous self-development. As well as being one of WLA’s most highly regarded facilitators, Anna plays a pivotal, ongoing role in the evaluation and measurement of WLA’s suite of development programs.​

“As an academic, I understand the challenges facing female leaders, but rarely bear witness to the impacts of those challenges. As women, we often feel like imposters, regardless of all we have accomplished.  I continue to be humbled by the incredible women we work with, and the admiration I have for our participants continues to drive my work. Within WLA, there is much opportunity in the lessons we can learn from our experiences, and each other. I am proud to contribute to the continual empowerment of our participants, and enjoy watching women grow and learn as individuals, become key players in leadership communities, and champion the work of other female leaders".

Veronica Lake

General Manager Events

Veronica has been the General Manager Events for WLA for close to 4 years and heads up a team that runs over 30 events per annum. Her position involves the beginning to end production of speaker driven events that focus mainly on leadership and wellbeing. She works closely with her team to deliver a quality, world class experience. Veronica completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Business (Event Management) in 2014 and has broad experience in all forms of event management including festivals, meeting, conferences, sporting events and expos.  She has a specific interest in gender equity and is currently undertaking gender studies at Macquarie University.  Before starting with WLA, Veronica worked over a 7 year period in the UK, Netherlands and Canada as a retail, projects and hospitality manager. She spent a great deal of time volunteering in Mexico with an orphanage and believes that it is possible for one person to make a world of difference in people’s lives.​

“Working in the gender equality space has always been a dream of mine and I truly feel like we are making a difference, every single day. Leadership equality, diversity and inclusivity are such major issues and every day we come across challenges which do not necessarily have a simple solution. Through our events we help to facilitate discussions that make real everlasting change for both individuals and organisations. Gloria Steinem once wrote “You can’t empower women without listening to their stories” and I like to think that the events we create, elevate and highlight these stories whilst providing context, support and practical advice. WLA is one of the most dynamic, flexible and supportive places I have ever had the pleasure of working and I feel empowered to do my job well and with confidence.”

Jenny Pesina

Head of Education Design

Jenny is a highly experienced eLearning and blended learning designer, educator and project manager. She is focused on delivering pedagogically sound and innovative teaching and learning solutions through thoughtful planning, coordination and outcome based delivery. Jenny has extensive experience in higher education and commercial sectors, including engagement and maintenance of strategic relationships with a diverse range of stakeholders. Prior to joining WLA, Jenny worked at the University of Melbourne and Open Universities Australia on a number of high profile education projects. Jenny has undertaken extensive research into educational technology trends and applications in teaching and learning in the UK, Ireland and Australia. She is proficient in qualitative research and evaluation methodologies and is passionate about improving the quality of the learning experience.​

“Despite a number of developments nationally and internationally on increasing gender equality in leadership positions, there is still a lot to be done. I am delighted and proud to work with so many amazing women as part of WLA. This is complex work which requires tenacity, resilience and agility. I am constantly evolving and learning as part of this life-changing experience.”

Betti Tovishazy

General Manager Client Solutions

Betti is a seasoned business professional with experience in a diverse range of industries including manufacturing, hospitality and education. Betti migrated from Eastern Europe and, having successfully established her own business operating within a predominantly male environment, she gained an insight into the challenges facing women in business today. Completing a degree in Economics and Business Studies, Betti developed a keen interest in strategic people development with a strong emphasis on female leadership and gender equality.

Bringing this experience and insight to her role as General Manager of Client Solutions with WLA, Betti works tirelessly assisting clients to articulate their business needs whilst identifying opportunities to develop their high-potential female employees. Betti has also worked in the areas of Operations Management and Career Development and, as National Corporate Solutions Manager at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) implemented strategic learning and development solutions from frontline to c-suite level.

“Women really do represent an enormously under-utilised national resource. It is an honour to be working here at WLA, where I can assist organisations to train and empower a greater percentage of women to step up into leadership positions. It is my belief, that the work we do here will create very real and tangible benefits to Australian society.”

Alistair Young

General Manager, Partnerships and Communications

Alistair joined WLA in 2015 and is primarily responsible for developing and managing a portfolio of strategic partnerships and promotional activities that are inherent in supporting WLA’s aim of being a positive agent for change in driving gender equity and equality throughout society. Alongside the partnership framework, Alistair also heads up advertising, communications, digital marketing and industry research. Alistair has more than 15 years’ experience in marketing, communications and partnerships, and his career has seen him work for a variety of industries, including telecommunications, finance and tourism. Prior to starting with WLA he held senior marketing roles in London and New York for 7 years.

“WLA is such an exciting organisation to be part of. I love working with a group of passionate, like-minded colleagues that are utterly committed to our overall objectives. There is a lot of work to be done in our fight for workplace gender equality, but I could not imagine being with a better bunch of people to undertake it.”

Alexandra Rodrigues

Manager Engagement and Support

Alexandra has extensive experience in online and face-to-face program management, education-based analytics and reporting, and participant support and engagement. In her role as Manager of Engagement and Support she is primarily responsible for the smooth rollout of all WLA’s public and in-house development programs as well as the overall participant experience. Alexandra also manages WLA’s Engagement and Support Services team that handles all in program communications, on boarding of new students and student enquiries.

“Working closely with WLA’s participants really gives me a first-hand understanding and appreciation for the challenges women still face in today’s workforce. As an up and coming female leader myself, it’s inspiring to see so many women striving for their own version of success and being able to help them on their journey is very rewarding.”

The scope and quality of the WLA initiative is underpinned by the Australian School of Applied Management and the amazing work of a dedicated and passionate team of women and men. Coming from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds the WLA team share a common belief that women still represent an enormously under-utilised national resource, and that by supporting more women to step up into leadership positions, tremendous cultural and economic benefits will follow.​ A number of key individuals involved in the WLA initiative are included below.​

Key people

Associates, Facilitators and Coaches​

Lisa Geerlings​

Jo McAlpine

Jennifer Witheriff

Dr Genevieve Armson

Fiona Klat-Smith​

Michelle Taylor​

Emma McQueen​

Samantha Tomkinson​

Wendy Jocum​

Eva Bernat​

Janet Horton​