How did you come to be a long term support of Fitted for Work?

Renata Singer [co-founder of Fitted for Work] came to speak at a lunch being held at my women’s club. Renata introduced us to the idea of Fitted for Work based on her experience in the US. Immediately I thought: this is for me.

Now why was this for me? I think it goes back to values and deep concerns. And mine have always related to the place of women in society. That probably comes from the fact that I’m brought up in a small country town.

In a small country town you see all sorts and conditions and you just saw what women were doing. There were many strong women around, including in my family (my grandmother for example), who were really achieving but you sort of knew they weren’t out in the big world. So I always ‘knew’ about women.

Secondly, my mother had a strong view, which was very unusual at that time, that girls should have a good education. In my home town there was no high school after year 3, so most girls left school. But my mother sent me to a boarding school in Melbourne where the world just opened up to the possibilities.

It was a school with a very strong attitude towards girls having a role as opposed to girls being raised to be the wives of businessmen, which was very common in that time. I sort of had a sense, then, that all of a sudden I could do things and women did things. So in a sense I have always been interested in women and women’s possibilities.

So when Renata spoke, she was really speaking to me. I want women to share in the possibilities that are there, to be enabled to do a range of things. Sometimes they need support to make that step and I wanted to be part of that sharing of a vision for what women can possibly do.

Why do you define yourself as a social investor rather than a philanthropist?

I’m investing in outcomes. If you’re a private investor, you invest in big companies because you want to secure outcomes. As a social investor, you are investing in enterprises to ensure outcomes but these are social outcomes. It’s interesting, in a couple of organisations that I have been involved in, they have adopted that language and I think that’s very encompassing. It brings people in.

I want the outcomes to be social outcomes and they are outcomes that accord with my values. And I would like society to value all women and recognise that some need a bit more assistance than others, for a whole variety of reasons.

You take an active interest in the organisation and you have seen it evolve.

Yes. I feel quite strongly about being a longer term investor because I know how difficult it is to maintain the cash flows and all the rest of it and that’s quite important to me.

I like seeing how Fitted for Work has evolved. And it’s given me great pleasure to see people who have come into the organisation and to see how they’ve developed. I’ve seen that happen and am quite pleased to see that. That’s the benefit of a smaller organisation.

I also like the openness of the organisation. You walk into the [Fitted for Work] office, and you’re not told to sit out front somewhere in a waiting room and then whisked off to have a coffee. You always get a feel when you walk into the place of how it’s going.

I like to see that the numbers of women supported are growing, which is superb. I also find if you’re an investor for an organisation you become an advocate for it – you talk about it.

I think it’s very important to acknowledge donors, for that reason alone, and to get the donors to be willing to be acknowledged publicly. People know you’re connected with an organisation, you’ll talk about it, you may well encourage other people and you don’t know who but it does happen.

I’ve learnt, from being involved at Fitted for Work about the business of philanthropy myself. That it’s a two way thing. It’s not me sitting away at home, making a [bank] transfer once a year, and not thinking about it ever again. It’s a relationship. And one that gives me satisfaction and learning as well as supporting the organisation whose values and objectives I like.