Leonie Noble's leadership journey​

Leonie Noble

Leonie Noble is a renowned seafood industry leader based in Western Australia. Here she reflects on how she got started in the industry and what she has learned along the way.

Can you tell us about your leadership journey?

 Many years ago I was the mother of three girls staying at home. But that all changed when the government started sending letters that affected the community. One day I decided that I had had enough and so I started up a group of women to discuss these issues and lobby for better outcomes. After two years of lobbying the government I joined some government boards. It was on these boards that I saw the impact of gender equity. Usually, I was the only woman on these boards and I often encountered very strong men who did not see the use of having a woman on the board. By the end of my time on these boards, I convinced these men to see the value of having women on the board. 

 More recently, I was one of two private sector representatives on the Australian delegation to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings in Peru last year. In addition to my roles at the Women’s Industry Network Seafood Community (WINSC) and the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC), I currently mentor young women and men in seafood.

What are some of the most important things you have learnt about leadership?

 • If you do not have the capacity to take someone on a journey then you might as well step aside and let someone else have a go.

• Share the load. Share the journey to get the best results.

• It is lonely at the top if people do not share your vision so you need to impart your vision to others.

• You cannot be fearful of your decisions because it is quite paralysing. To overcome fear of decisions, I sit and do a list of pros and cons (i.e. success versus failure). If I believe that something will be a success then I will not be fearful. If I was not fearless about something, then I would not make a decision to do it.

Can you share any advice for our readers?

Get yourself a mentor, not necessarily a professional, who you can bounce ideas off and who you trust. I do not believe in failure so if something does not work, then take it on board, learn from it and move on.

What is the situation regarding women in seafood and how is WINSC contributing?

Gender diversity is economically smart and women in seafood is a very interesting space. 55 per cent of people in the seafood sector are women but women make up only five per cent of change management/board positions in the sector. These women might be visible within their community but they are often invisible to the wider decision makers. To increase the visibility of women as seafood sector leaders, WINSC sends profiles to the media and decision makers.

For women in seafood, the capacity is there but the belief is not. To change this, WINSC runs capacity building workshops and works with bodies like Women & Leadership Australia on leadership development.

WINSC has just commenced a renewal process and has new programs for the next 5 years. I advise women in seafood to sign up to WINSC and talk to me so that they can get on board. WINSC is the only national seafood board and we focus on gender equality. We build seafood women’s capacity, lobby and offer networking opportunities for women. We are also focused on board selection criteria. 

There is an unconscious gender bias in selection criteria for boards in Australia, across all sectors. Addressing this unconscious bias relies on addressing selection criteria language. For the seafood sector, WINSC is doing a project on this so that the language is more inclusive.

Do you have any final thoughts?

I do not do what I do to be known as a leader. I do what I do to make a difference.

Leonie Noble is National President of the Women's Industry Network Seafood Community. She is the 2017 Western Australia state winner of the Australian Award for Excellence in Women's Leadership.

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