International Women’s Day: What advice would you give your younger self?

Observed since the early 1900’s, the theme for the 2018 International Women’s Day is #PressforProgress, no doubt due to the release of the World Economic Forums’ Global Gender Gap Report showing that it will take 217 years to close the gender parity gap.

To celebrate this important day, we sought advice from our network of female business leaders and previous podcast guests asking What advice would you give your younger self?” Spoiler alert – their advice is a must-read for all current/aspiring executives of all genders.

Get out of your comfort zone

“Be courageous.  Don’t accept the status quo and remain in your comfort zone.  To achieve your full potential be prepared to STEP OUT of your comfort zone and STEP UP to the challenge.”

Kim Franks, General Manager of People, New Hope Group

“Put your hand up and put yourself forward – even if you are unsure that you have the skills and experience, stretch yourself. It’s better to take the opportunity and learn, than to miss out.”

Laura Jones, Head of Shared Services, People and Culture, UnitingCare Queensland

“Life is short, go for it. You learn more from your mistakes and failures than you do from the successes and if you don’t have a go, then you are not going to realise what you need to learn or what you need to overcome. You can always laugh at yourself when something goes wrong, but if you haven’t had a go, you will be left wondering and doubting.”
Margaret Haseltine, former CEO Mars, Non-Executive Director

Follow your passion

“Some great advice I received – if you get to a point where going to work is de-energising you rather than energising its time to go and do something else.”

Julia Davison, CEO, Goodstart Early Learning

Seize opportunity

“Grab opportunities when presented and have the courage to do that even though it might be scary and out of reach.  Luck comes your way quite a few times during your career, and it’s about whether or not you can capitalise on that luck – when I say luck I mean opportunities. The more times you challenge yourself, and you manage to achieve, the more confidence you will have in yourself going forward.”

Merren McArthur, CEO, Virgin Australia Regional Airlines and Virgin Australia Cargo

“If you would not be happy working for someone who you know will apply for a role – apply for it yourself – you can do more than you think you can!”

Merryn York, Chief Executive, Powerlink

“If a job opportunity makes you excited and terrified at the same time, even if you don’t have every single qualification, throw your hat into the ring. You are ready, and the worst thing that can happen is they say no. And who is afraid of two letters?”

Tracey Vieira, CEO, Screen Queensland

“Don’t spend too much time mapping out your life, rather be open to opportunities, say yes, and then put your best foot forward. When you feel nervous and scared, take strength from those feelings, they will almost always mean that you have made the right decision.”

Heidi Fagan, Senior Manager Coal, Safety & Human Resources, Aurizon

Hard work pays off

“Life is an adventure: work hard, ask lots of questions, be brave – and build an awesome girl squad.”
Sharon Doyle, Managing Director, InterFinancial Corporate Finance

“There are no shortcuts – it does take hard work, lots of hard work and you then reap the rewards.”

Fiona Berkin, CEO, Morris Corp


“…Methodically network, take risks and invest in yourself both with time and money.”

Andrea Staines, Non-Executive Director, NDIA, UCQ, QIC and others

Own your success

”Don’t let your successes embarrass you; embrace them, be proud and leverage them to keep learning and growing”

Melanie Thompson, Head of Foundation, Surf Life Saving Foundation


“Never underestimate the shadow of a leader – people do not listen to what you say, they watch what you do, and you are never ever off duty. It’s not what you do it’s the way in which you do it – the how – yes you have to have IQ, but also you need to think about how you make people feel – the EQ.”

Maxine Horne, CEO, VITA Group

“Seek out supporters and mentors who can help nurture and sharpen your business and leadership skills.  Also, try and broaden your network beyond your area of expertise and see what opportunities come from that space.”

Fiona Maxwell, CEO, Brisbane Powerhouse

“Seek out feedback, I did a 360 style feedback and was taken aback by the results.  My goal was to have a leadership career, so I had to learn how to be a nice human being to people. This ultimately led to me developing my own authentic style to create the outcomes I needed.”

Kate Farrar, NED, Managing Director, Executive

“Be nice and respectful to everyone as people always remember how you made them feel”.

Cathy McGuane, Executive Manager Member Experience, TUH.


What advice would you give your younger self?

At Arete Executive we actively support diversity in the workplace and work with clients on executive search assignments where clients are seeking gender diversity. To find out more about our executive search services please contact Fiona Cochran on 07 3010 9220 Email

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