How did you first hear about Fitted for Work?
Years ago Accenture, who I was working for, did a clothing drive for Fitted for Work. When I retired from Accenture, I wanted to get rid of all my clothes. So I went hunting, found Fitted for Work and I took in all my clothes. In the process, I noticed that you did mentoring and thought I would like to do that.
What led you to join the Board?
Well, I enjoying mentoring and really liked what Fitted for Work was all about. I really liked your purpose, and the way you were going about it. We were at a pre-Christmas function here and Michael Cohn [a fellow Board member) was there and I was chatting to him and one of the other mentors. The other mentor asked him about the board. He said they were looking for another board member – someone with some technical knowledge background and operational background. He sort of said ‘do you know anyone?’ and she just turned around and pointed to me. So I gave Michael my card. I had also met Donna [Fitted for Work CEO) and I sort of mentioned it to her. So there was a little bit of pushing on my part, because I was keen to get involved with a not-for-profit and my preference was one that I knew or that I was involved in.
Right, so we did well to pin you down when we did! Being on the boards of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Fitted for Work must be quite different.
Yes, chalk and cheese.
In what way?
Well the Commonwealth Bank is obviously a very large corporate and very complex business with many different aspects to it. I don’t have a banking background so it’s even more complex in my perspective. Given the nature, it’s very ASIC controlled and strict in the way it goes about things and very structured.
The agenda is not that different from Fitted for Work’s: strategic management and operational matters. The [CBA] Board’s role is more about oversight and sort of questioning and being comfortable with what they are doing makes sense. But if you go to Fitted for Work, it’s relatively young, it’s still growing. It’s just at a different phase in its maturity level and because of that it needs more hands on help.
And, with all of that in mind, is there anything about being on the board of Fitted for Work that has surprised you?
I don’t know if surprise is the right word but I have realised the journey that Fitted for Work has been on over the past couple of years. Some of the challenges that you’ve had: the changes of the board, the changes of management, the desire to get structure and use your own system.
Now you’re on a new journey, an exciting one with lots of opportunity on top of what you’ve already been doing. I just hadn’t realised that dimension as much until I joined the Board. It excited me a little bit because it means I do have a lot of experiences to offer. Fitted for Work gives me more of an opportunity to help.
In the time that you have been with Fitted for Work, what would you say would have been the most satisfying?
I think just the ability to sit down and have some really honest conversations with people and to be accepted so quickly. I felt very comfortable very quickly. So that’s the most satisfying to know that right from the outset I could make a difference.
What is the biggest change you’d like to see in the world for women?
Oh wow, I can think of multiple things. I think an acceptance in the corporate world. An acceptance that women are different and that difference has a lot of value. I would really like to see more women come up into leadership and the only way that’s going to happen is by people accepting that they have something very different to bring to the table.
Your personal experience in the technology space would have been quite interesting and challenging, I think.
I worked for an organisation that was pretty good at recognising women and not treating them differently. In general, they were a very strong organisation that treated women the same as men. I think generally women can get intimidated; it’s having the confidence to just step out there and say ‘I’m just going to do this’, or ‘I’m just going to say it, and hold my own against these guys’.
In that technology space I dealt with a lot of men, whether they were clients or they were executives and I just learnt over time not to be intimated and stand my ground.
Would you say that you had an innate confidence to stand your ground with ease?
It was a learned confidence. You would sit in your first meeting and it is with all men and you would want to ask your first question and you play it over in your mind over twenty times. And by the time you finally figured out yes, this is what I’ll ask it was too late.
To get beyond that and stop doing that and tell yourself to ‘just ask that stupid question’, because if it’s a stupid question fine, someone may say that’s a stupid question. But just do it. Me, I had to learn how to do that. I had to find the confidence to just be strong enough to go out there and say or do what I wanted to do.
It’s interesting of how you hear a version of that with women all the time.
It’s not uncommon; I’m not saying anything unusual.
If you had a theme song, what would it be that represented you?
That’s a hard question. I listen to a lot of music, but one that represents me, maybe I know, Helen Reddy, ‘I am Woman’.
Finally, if a friend or colleague was thinking about supporting Fitted for Work, what would you say to them?
Absolutely do it. And I have talked to quite a few actually. I obviously explain what the cause is, to help disadvantaged women get back into work. I say, ‘you’ve probably heard about fitting people out, but that’s really where they began, it’s not where they are at now.’
I explain that Fitted for Work have a lot more value to bring to the table with the way they help train women, mentor them and give them confidence. What I really like about Fitted for Work is the way you give women confidence to get out there and do what they want to do.