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What’s your dream job?

Hannah Wandel

Perhaps a fast-jet pilot, a financier or even the foreign minister?

Unlike our grandmothers, women are no longer bound by the shackles of formal workplace restrictions, and can sign-up as an infantry soldier, enrol as an electrical engineer or mount the CEO throne just like anybody else. And hell, so it should be.

But much is still preventing smart and capable Australian women from reaching their goals. Women only make up 6% of ASX 200 Board Directors, just 26% of the re-hashed Turnbull Ministry and a mere 16% of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) professionals. For decades, advocates have been working to improve these figures, but in 2016, we still have distinctly male-dominated professions (which historically attract higher salaries than female-dominated fields) and unacceptable gender-imbalanced leadership.

So, is it a generational thing, sexism, our education system or unconscious bias?

At not-for-profit Country to Canberra‘s upcoming networking and panel event, three inspiring leaders will answer these questions under the theme: Leading Change: empowering women in male-dominated industriesMC’d by the charming ACT Woman of the Year (and HerCanberra founder!) Amanda Whitley, the panellists will shed light on their fascinating career journeys, and articulate how each of us can personally drive a cultural shift.

Excitingly, the panel includes the Chief of Air Force, Air Marshal Leo Davies, who will explain his mission to recruit and train Australia’s first-ever female fast jet pilot, when countries like Jordan, Israel and Turkey have already achieved this feat. The former F-111 pilot will examine the RAAF’s culture, Defence’s ‘Pathway to Change’, and how he plans grow female representation in Air Force to 25% over the next 7 years.

Start-ups, STEM and entrepreneurship will also be at the heart of the discussion, lead by panellist and CEO of Canberra Innovation Network (CBRin), Dr Sarah Pearson.

A former scientist turned business leader, Dr Pearson founded CBRin to transform the ACT economy through innovation. As a renowned keynote speaker, she’ll examine why young women are less willing to dive into the start-up game, and how we can motivate more girls to pick up a microscope and study STEM.

No one could argue that the third panellist, Liza Maimone, hasn’t had a fascinating career. She kicked-off as an engineer and moved into professional services and board directorship, before impressively becoming the first-ever (and still the only) female Managing Partner of PwC Australia. She’ll delve into the ‘Big 4’ culture, and how to effectively change mindsets in a typically ‘blokey’ sector.

The entire event will be raising funds for Country to Canberra: a national not-for-profit that empowers young rural and remote women to reach their leadership potential. 100% of the money raised will go toward its Project Empower and Power Trip programs, which are run purely by volunteers to deliver education, career and mentorship opportunities. The aim is to empower the next generation of female leaders, by combating gender inequality, isolation and disadvantage.

On the same day as the panel event, Country to Canberra will launch its 2016 Leadership Competition to girls in rural and remote schools.

At least 10 winners are guaranteed to win an all-expenses paid ‘Power Trip’ to the ACT where they’ll meet inspiring politicians and CEOs (think women like Julie Bishop, Tanya Plibersek, Fiona Nash and Katy Gallagher), undergo leadership training with organisations like TEDxCanberra and receive ongoing mentorships.

During last year’s trip, the competition winners met with HerCanberra’s Amanda Whitley, and the impact was phenomenal. It was heartening to watch the girls’ faces as Amanda explained her career journey from public relations in rural Australia to media entrepreneur. Amanda explained the need to take risks, to centralise self-belief and to disregard the fear of failure. This type of role-modelling and mentorship is critical for encouraging young women to combat gender norms and pursue any career path they choose.

After witnessing this interaction and becoming an instant Amanda Whitley #fangirl, I knew she was the perfect person to MC next week’s Leading Change Panel Event. Her charisma and intellect will draw the best out of our stellar panellists, each of whom are proudly leading the charge for gender equality. So please purchase a ticket and join me this Wednesday, 27 July, for a glass of champagne, some canapés and an inspiring discussion, where we can all learn how to create a stronger and more equal Australia.

the essentials 

What: Country to Canberra’s Leading Change Panel Event
When: Wednesday 27 July from 5pm -7.30pm
Where: PwC Canberra, 28 Sydney Avenue, Forrest
Tickets: $35 per person, available at www.eventbrite.com

Find out more about the Country to Canberra 2016 Leadership Competition here: www.countrytocanberra.com.au/enter-the-competition

Country to Canberra’s Co-Host for the Leading Change Panel Event is PwC. Find out more about Country to Canberra  via Facebook, on Twitter @CountryCanberra or Instagram @countrytocanberra. 

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Hannah Wandel

Hannah Wandel is a social entrepreneur, gender equality advocate and the founder and CEO of the nationwide not-for-profit organisation, Country to Canberra. Passionate about creating meaningful change, Hannah leads the Country to Canberra team to deliver education, mentorship and leadership opportunities to young women across rural and remote Australia. For her efforts, she was named one of Australia's '100 Women of Influence' for 2015 by the Australian Financial Review/Westpac, won a 2015 Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Scholarship, was a 2015 Finalist in the ACT Young Woman of the Year Award and was a finalist the 2016 NSW/ACT RIRDC Rural Women’s Award – the first ever Canberran in the award’s 16-year history. More about the Author

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