VIEW: We need to work towards equality for both men and women – Natasha Ritz

Natasha Ritz has owned three businesses, as well as held various senior marketing and brand roles, including Brand Lead for LUSH ANZ. She currently runs two businesses – an online retail business called ARNAonline, and a consulting service.

In this interview, Natasha shares the story behind the scenes, where she enrolled and quickly dropped out of university, managed a team of five from the age of 18, ignited a passion for women empowerment and has used her 15 years of work experience as a 29-year old in the world of business.

  • How have you used traditional or non-traditional education options to build the skill-sets you have today, putting you in a position where you own multiple successful businesses?

I have always been a learn on the job type of person, I feel like we can learn anything if we want to. After finishing high school, I started a business degree while also launching a business with my Dad. I quickly realised that the business degree was purely the theory of business but what I was most interested in was actually the practical, doing side of it all.

So, I dropped out of university and went head first into working alongside my Dad to fully run the business. 

I love to research things and basically hack until I find a solution. I’ve taught myself how to build eCommerce websites. I’ve taught myself digital marketing, social media, and many other skills just by doing it, learning, failing and trying again. The internet is incredible and you can learn anything if you ask the right questions. 

Over the years, I’ve also worked with amazing leaders and mentors who have taught me so many things – people who have believed in me and never once asked me if I had a degree but valued the experience I’d had instead. The most important thing I’ve ever done is to build strong and lasting relationships with people I’ve worked with. Friendships too, that truly last. There’s been nothing more powerful for me in my career than the people I know and care for. 

  • One of your current businesses, ARNAonline focuses on empowering women. Why is this goal important to you? 

ARNAonline’s mission is to empower women to make bold decisions and our vision is to reshape the stories women see and tell about themselves. This is so important to myself and my sister Arianne because we are women and we are learning from our own experiences and setbacks we’ve had at work, and we want to see gender equality happen in our lifetime.

It’s said that there are more than 208 years until we can expect to see gender equality. Not only do we want to change that but we want to recognise in ourselves what behaviours we have that are holding us back from the future we want. We want this movement to be accountable and work on what we can control. 

  • How have your personal experiences shaped the way you approach women empowerment today? 

I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside some incredible women in my life, women who all lift each other up, who support each other and share. I’ve also worked under some pretty tough leaders or people I clashed with – both men and women – and you always learn something so no lesson isn’t a good one to have had.

But the focus on women’s growth, opportunities, pay, self-love, self-talk, gender roles and societal pressures and the leadership I’ve seen at the top of large organisations, this drives me to want to see change.

Did you know there are more Andrew’s as CEOs than there are female CEOs in the top 100 companies in Australia? This is crazy! Especially when there is so much strong female talent and leadership out there. It’s started to make me think that us women are part of the problem that’s holding us back and we need to work on changing those thoughts now. 

Working towards a world where we can see equality for both men and women is what I’m so passionate about. A world where men get equal parental leave, a world where men can openly share their emotions and talk about the hard stuff, a world where women can be breadwinners and CEOs, and a world where all people are seen for their merit. 

  • For those currently deciding between whether to apply for university or get straight into the workforce, what’s a decision-making process you’d recommend they undertake to make the right decision?

It really depends on what you’re looking to do in your career. Of course, anything medical or science based, you have to go to university. But if you’re looking at something in the arts, or business or marketing… you could find a mentor, chat to some other people working in the industry, get an internship, put yourself forward for some opportunities. Get some experience by trying to build something simple yourself, a website, a great set of social media channels, etc. 

The main things to ask yourself when you think about what you want to do with you life are:

  • What is my purpose? Why am I here?
  • What do I value? 
  • What brings me joy? 
  • What’s the vision I have for my future? 
  • What tools do I need to bring that vision and purpose to life?

It’s never going to be about the money if you’re doing something that ignites a fire in your belly. 

About the expert

Natasha Ritz is a storyteller working to build brand advocacy first internally with staff, followed by externally with customers. Relationship building and trust is at the core of all the work she does.  She has spent the last 15 years building brands and teams within fashion, beauty and lifestyle with a key focus on social enterprise and making a positive impact on the world.

Natasha spent 5 years as the Brand Lead at LUSH cosmetics before moving into her own business ARNAonline alongside her sister. Focusing on the vision of reshaping the stories women see and tell about themselves has been the forefront of the work she is doing.

More recently, Natasha has launched another company called Teamo, where she works in partnership business leaders to bring their teams together to collaborate, creating powerful internal brand advocacy followed by even more powerful marketing. 

Image description: Photo of a woman with long black hair presenting on stage with a headpiece she is talking into, holding a clicker in her right hand. She’s wearing a black crew-neck t-shirt, black skinny jeans and a brown belt. On the stage behind her is a sculpture of a hand fist-pumping into the air, which is larger than Natasha. The fist is in front of a purple screen that has Brainscape in the top left corner and CHALLENGE written in bold, white capital letters on the right.


PEOPLE: Building a business school for women, by women

The culture, structure, and communities of business schools have altogether contributed to why women are still the minority among students. However, with significant improvements in each of these areas among many business schools internationally, the numbers are improving with 39% of students who enrolled in the top MBA programs being women according to a 2019 journal. Women highlighted the positive impact of a supportive and like-minded community, and changes from networking activities that were male-dominated to inviting and retaining women into these programs.

And this is good news for business leaders. With more female business graduates, there are greater chances of women joining or progressing within organisations to higher ranks, and businesses led by female CEOs and with female leadership present on boards demonstrate stronger business outcomes.

Peace Mitchell is an entrepreneur and business leader who recognised the opportunities presented by empowering more women, and also recognised the importance of continuing to invest in developing more accessible business school programs for women in order to truly reach gender equality and equity in corporate leadership.

  • Why did you start The Women’s Business School? Have your ambitions for the organisation changed over time? Why or why not?

My sister Katy and I have been in business since 2009. Our first business was AusMumpreneur, a community for Australian women with children running businesses from home.

We started the Women’s Business School in 2016 after recognising a need for dedicated business education for women. So many of the other programs out there were time consuming and inflexible and after listening to what women were looking for from a business program we created our own.

Our vision has always been the same, at its heart we believe when women are happy and well they’re better equipped to care for everyone around them and this includes their immediate family, their extended family and the wider community as well. Our delivery of this vision has evolved over time and has incorporated 4 key elements – community, education, celebration and investment.

  • How does your program differ to others?

Our program is unique in that is specifically designed for women. So many times when you hear about business, it’s stories told from a male perspective, books written by men, examples of successful men in business, photos of men in boardrooms wearing business suits.

Where are the women? What are their stories? What are their experiences? How do women do business? Where are the books about business written by women? How have the women who came before us navigated the world of business? What does success look like for women?

There really aren’t a lot of people talking about this and so we wanted to be pioneers in this space, highlighting examples of women leaders, business books written by women, and providing a diverse range of women mentors.

It can be intimidating for women to speak up in online spaces which are dominated by men so a learning environment where women felt safe to share, discuss and process their ideas, challenges and thoughts is important.

In addition to this the women we spoke to wanted to be part of traditional Accelerator programs but simply couldn’t commit to the 40 hours/week expectation to be in a coworking space, the research backs this up showing that women are less likely to enrol in postgraduate programs like MBA’s because of the demands on after hours time for group work and in person lectures. The universities know this and yet fail to address this.

That’s where our programs are different. We’ve created a time efficient and flexible program so that women can access them wherever they are and they can fit them into their busy lives.

  • What are some examples of how you’ve changed or adjusted the program in response to feedback from women?

When we started out most of our sessions were pre-recorded and available as transcripts, video or audio files but the feedback showed that they preferred regular live calls instead of precorded and we now do weekly live calls which has really developed a strong sense of community and collaboration.

Another aspect that has been really popular is one on one mentoring. We introduced this in 2019 and it has been really successful in providing a sounding board and deeper conversations around strategy and direction for the students’ businesses.

  • What are some of the most common challenges you worked with female entrepreneurs to overcome when you started out in 2016? Are they different to the challenges female entrepreneurs are facing today?

The most common challenge we see is self doubt. So many brilliant women are held back by that voice in their head telling them that they’re not ready, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not qualified enough, that no one will buy what they have. This voice makes them questions themselves and their ability and think, “Who am I to do this work?”

Because of this our program focuses on balancing both business acumen and personal development, providing a safe and supportive space for women to step out of their comfort zone and develop their confidence and self belief.

  • What’s your advice to female entrepreneurs who have been sitting on an idea, but are hesitant to act on it due to the current uncertainty in the market due to COVID-19?

My advice is always to listen to that voice in your heart that tells you to go for it, give yourself permission to indulge in the dreaming stage for a weekend and then go for it, take that first step, test it out on a small scale and see what happens. Don’t let fear stop you from following your calling.

About the expert

Peace Mitchell is a keynote speaker, author, CEO and co-founder of The Women’s Business School & AusMumpreneur, host of Women will change the World TV and Australian Ambassador of Women in Tech. Peace is passionate about supporting women to reach their full potential and create the life they want to live. She has helped thousands of women achieve their dream of running a successful and profitable business and believes that investing in women is the best way to change the world.

Peace Mitchell co-founded AusMumpreneur in 2009, creating Australia’s #1 community for mothers in business and co-founded the Women’s Business School in 2016 to provide entrepreneurial education for women globally. Today, her commitment is stronger than ever, to invest in the power of women to change the world.

PEOPLE: Dan the scientist, baker and glitter lover

Dan is a nutritionist and medical scientist by day, and a baker by night. Recently, he had the opportunity to share his passion on a grand scale as he participated and became a finalist in the 2019 Australian Bake Off.

Along with the joys of cooking and wanting to share this with the world, Dan is a new business owner whose business was severely impacted by COVID-19, and a LGBTQI+ community member who believes strongly in the need for change in how the TV and media industries represent LGBTQI+ experiences and stories.

In this interview, self-professed “glitter lover” Dan shares his views on representation in media, his experiences during COVID-19, and how he’s nurturing his passion for baking.

  • What opportunities do you think the TV and media industries are overlooking or completely missing when it comes to educating the community about important issues, such as LGBTQI+ rights?

We didn’t talk much about the LGBTQI+ because the main focus of the show was baking. I think the media industry is still far too scared to show an honest view of our communities in mainstream TV especially. And when there is a rare glimpse of something honest and maybe surprising to the mainstream, it’s unfortunately met with some negativity from a small few.

  • When you say an ‘honest view of our communities’, what does this mean to you?

When you even have a lesbian kiss (which is only touching the surface of our community) on Home and Away causing uproar in certain pockets of society, there are definitely problems. Mainstream media seldom features an in-depth look at the real problems that our communities face in terms of challenges in relationships, the workplace, and the fact that the fight for equality didn’t stop when the “yes” vote went through.

  • How can TV stations reflect this accurately?

Stop making the gay characters the side piece to main story lines. Start showing a more in-depth view at the real and detailed lifestyles we lead.

  • What drove you to audition for The Great Australian Bake Off last year?

I love challenges and I wanted to experience something new and exciting to do with baking.

  • What were the best and worst parts of that experience?

The whole experience was the best part of my life. I met so many beautiful people (friends for life), I worked with amazing producers, I baked so many things that I’ve never thought I was able to do. I think the worst part was on the last day was when we had to say goodbye and leave the shed where we were filming.

  • How has your passion for baking evolved since being on the show?

Since the show I have been busy baking for my Instagram and I launched my baking business called Dan’s Bake Lab.

  • Have there been any challenges with starting your own baking business?

It was a challenge starting a new business especially because you have to gain a great volume of clientele and there is a lot of competition out there. I think you have to create something unique and amazing flavours to stand out, but still that isn’t enough. You really have to learn how to use social media to your advantage and leverage positive word of mouth.

  • Have you had to make any changes to Dan’s Bake Lab since COVID-19?

Just a month before COVID-19 I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne and I was planning to start my business here in Victoria. As soon as I started working here to gain a new clientele, the lockdown started and I had to pause what I was doing. Since the isolation I have been working on new flavours and recipes and once everything is over, I can start selling my sweet treats to the Melbournians.

  • What are your thoughts on the recent spike in interest in baking since the coronavirus pandemic?

I love the fact that people are baking a lot at home and they are making so many delicious goodies. Baking is so relaxing and I feel like in this stressful time we all need some baking therapy!

About the expert

Dan is a medical scientist by day and baker by night. He is the creator of Dan’s Bake Lab. Dan is a self-taught, Melbourne-based baker with a passion for creating edible works of art which are truly one of a kind. Originally from Italy, Dan grew up baking with his mamma and nonna who taught him the traditional ways of making delicious dolci Italiani (Italian sweets). These days, he enjoys blending the old with the new and throwing in something that hasn’t been imagined yet, all to create something truly show-stopping.

ADVICE: How to develop and foster cultural intelligence

The business and financial benefits of diverse workforces and leadership teams are evident in the latest research, yet many businesses still struggle with hiring, empowering, and promoting diverse talent.

This is where Wesa Chau, CEO of Cultural Intelligence, intends to make a difference. In this interview, she shares why she started her consultancy, the challenges she faces at work, and her views on unconscious bias and how to manage it in the workplace.

  • Why did you originally start Cultural Intelligence and how have your goals for the consultancy evolved over time?

I started Cultural Intelligence after working in the multicultural Not for Profit (NFP) sector and started to feel frustrated by the lack of innovation in the sector and as I was using my managing consulting hat (that was my first job), there are many more things the sector can learn from the corporate sector on training and using an evidence-based approach to improve. 

When I first started, my clientele was mostly NFP and government organisations because that was where my networks were, however that has shifted to more corporate and University clients. The shift also happened because corporate Australia has started to have the appetite to talk about cultural diversity (extending from gender diversity).

Now Cultural Intelligence spends more effort on evidence-based approaches and data-driven approaches to cultural diversity, rather than “fluffy” talks about the importance of cultural diversity which is hard to get businesses on board. 

For example, last year, we launched our research on Asian-Australian leadership in Australia. The approach we took was not simply about the number of Asian-Australians in leadership roles (or lack thereof), but to understand the natural workstyles of Asian-Australians so we can have a much more nuanced conversation about what skills and contributions Asian-Australians bring into the workplace.

The cultural diversity I see is an imbalance of power structurally and so my consultancy helps organisations create processes and policies to balance out the power imbalance to ensure people from different cultures feel equal.

  • How have your personal experiences impacted the way you manage your business and deliver your services? 

I think personal experience will always impact the way businesses are managed and the services delivered.

For me, I come from an engineering and commerce background, so using data and tools are natural to me and so even for a human related topic such as cultural diversity, I still enjoy looking at data and interpret the data in a human way. What the NFP sector has taught me was the empathy, listening and to always understand things from an individual’s perspective. 

So all my experiences inform my work, the education in engineering and commerce taught me the tools and an analytical mind, whereas my NFP experience taught me the human experience, so I combine the positive aspects of each of the areas and bring a new way to look at cultural diversity – and a different narrative to talk about the topic.

  • When working with professionals and executives to understand the benefits of cultural diversity, what are the biggest challenges and how do you overcome them? 

One of the key challenges to get people to think about cultural diversity is the lack of interest and feeling people are being pressed to do “too much diversity”, because we have just been talking about gender diversity where corporate Australia is finally starting to understand the importance of it, but rather than patting them on the back, some feel like people are slapping on another form of diversity. 

My message to them is always, if you really do diversity well – gender, culture, disability, age and more – then we don’t need this conversation, but simply looking at the face of corporate Australia shows that they still don’t do it well.

Not having people of colour in teams and in senior roles highlights that the team does not value different insights and perspectives, because people born into a different culture have different lived experiences that cannot be replicated by people who have never lived it. For me therefore, diversity is more than just about skin colour, it is about better decision making.

This is one reason why I need a different narrative to talk about the issue. The business case yes, but I wanted to show that Asian-Australians are more natural at certain workstyles and skills compared to others. So our research showed that Asian-Australians are more natural at solving programs (especially in data interpreting). This is critical in the 21st century – the data-driven century and it has just becoming even more important after covid-19 where more and more businesses are shifting their operations online.

  • Is unconscious bias inevitable? Why or why not?

Unconscious bias is normal for humans, it is how our brain works to help us to protect us, so we should not think it’s just bad. However, what we need to do is to understand our own bias and be able to manage our responses, so we do not unintendedly disadvantage a certain group. 

For example, I hear people say “I’m colour blind” (meaning they don’t care about others’ ethnicity), I just look at their work, but what if people behave differently but it is understood by another group in a different way?  For example, some people do not look people in the eye to show respect, but in Australia that would be perceived as shifty or rude. For a “colour blind person”, they are likely to see this person not looking at them as rude, that is the bias of perceiving eye contact to mean rude.

Our biases build from how we were taught as kids, which uses a frame that fits in the society we live in – i.e. rude people do not look at me in the eye – so to remove that takes conscious efforts. We can only overcome the biases when we withhold judgement on another person based on behaviour, assume the best from the other, and probe deeper at every human interaction.

There is also an Implicit Association Test based at Harvard University that everyone can test to check your own unconscious bias. It is a great one, because it helps you understand your own biases. It is only through knowing about them that you can manage your responses. Again I want to stress to not be too hard on yourself, because we all have biases. It is about how you manage your own responses to biases.

  • Have you ever met someone you felt was not open to cultural diversity, and not worth convincing otherwise?

One thing I have learned over the years is not to take things personally.  Even if I feel I’m having tense discussions with people about cultural diversity and do not feel they are open to it, you never know what seed you have planted. 

Whilst there are people with whom I felt was wasting my time at the time, I later found out that our conversations have planted a seed and a few years later they said to me the conversation we had made them think more about it and changed them somewhat. 

I’m much more compassionate about where they are at in their journey nowadays and am willing to engage with anyone (including some tense conversations) about cultural diversity. I would recommend people to have discussions with all people, however I must say to have conversations with people who are totally against cultural diversity are always difficult conversations, because sometimes they trigger my emotional responses and I get angry. I’m much better at it now, so I can still have interesting conversations with people and not make judgements about people too quickly.

  • For those currently struggling with finding an appropriate way to bring up a lack of cultural diversity in their teams or organisations, what’s your advice? 

There is no one way to do it, it depends on the context you are in – who you are talking to, the support networks you have, your workplace, how it impacts on your role, how confident you are, and more. These all impact how you might bring it up.

I ran a session to explore these issues at the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit run by ANU, PwC and Asialink. People within the session suggested all these ways can work depending on the context: having allies, finding mentors and sponsors, having empathy, don’t internalise conversations, finding friends, setup networks within the workplace, educate people by sharing personal stories, try working out their strategic objectives and relate your cause to that, build other alliances (e.g. women networks, LGBTI networks), etc.

Personally, I will assess the power dynamics of the situation you are in as the first step before developing a strategy to get there. One thing that definitely is required is thick skin – keep bringing it up at the right moments and do not give up, because it is a long battle.  Just think how long it took the gender movement to achieve what they have and still not quite fully achieved, we have only started to get some traction, which means we have a while to go. 

Whilst it is hard, it is important to maintain compassion with people who have not yet joined the journey because they never had our lived experiences and some genuinely do not understand it. We need to keep educating them.

About the expert

Wesa Chau is an experienced manager, board director, speaker, trainer and specialist consultant on cultural diversity.

Wesa is the CEO of Cultural Intelligence, a specialist consulting firm that help organisations better understand cultural diversity and its impacts on design, decision making, customer service, messaging and policy setting. In her capacity as Director of Cultural Intelligence, Wesa has worked with clients ranging from government departments, educational institutions, corporations and not for profit organisations.

As a board director, Wesa’s diverse experiences include serving on the boards of Carers Victoria, Ethnic Communities’ Council of Victoria and InTouch – Multicultural Centre Against Family Violence. She is currently a board member of Glenuc (Holmesglen Foundation), the Victorian Ministerial Council on Women’s Equality and the Multicultural Business Ministerial Council.

Wesa was named as the 2010 Young Victorian of the Year for her commitment to gender equality, cultural diversity and social cohesion has been recognised through the Australian Leadership Award and an inductee of the Victorian Honour Roll of Women.

Wesa is currently undertaking her PhD at Swinburne University understanding what political skills are and how people develop them. She holds a Masters in Business Management, Graduate Diploma in Law and Bachelors of Engineering and Commerce with majors in software engineering and marketing. Wesa is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and is a qualified teacher.

ADVICE: Starting a business, pivoting during a pandemic, and backing yourself

Every year, thousands of professionals bite the bullet and take the leap into the world of business ownership. Perhaps it’s to action an idea they’ve had for years, or they’ve had enough of having a boss and are ready to be the boss. But one of the most common challenges all new business owners face, is timing.

When is the best time to start a business? And as the world changes around you, how do you know whether you’ve done the right thing?

This interview covers Amanda Leigh Doueihi’s journey as a business owner, how she’s pivoted during COVID-19, and how she plans to continue sustaining and growing her consultancy, Nomadic Breeze.

  • Why did you originally start your own consultancy, Nomadic Breeze? 

I was living in New York for almost 8 years, working as a lawyer. I was no longer inspired by the work I was doing and was also ready to home to Sydney. I’ve always wanted to work for myself and be able to offer a range of services that allowed me to tap into my broad skill set, while helping others gain clarity around their own businesses.  

  • Have you had to adjust, change or pivot your business since its inception, including during COVID-19? If so, how did you make and implement that decision? 

Yes, absolutely! When I started my business, I was working with smaller businesses and then got the opportunity to work with an ASX listed company. I was referred to them by one of their senior leaders and the team was really impressed with the quality of my work. It was the confidence boost I needed to work with the big guys.

However, the impact of COVID-19 required yet another pivot. I started consulting individuals and supporting them through the transition COVID-19 has required of us all. I was mainly focusing on consulting and supporting businesses, and now I’ve utilised the same skills and framework to support individuals. It’s been really fulfilling to be able to help people through this uncertainty and help them find hope to keep going. 

  • What has been the most challenging aspect of founding and running a business on your own? How have you overcome this? 

I struggle with dealing with the numbers, which is really what makes the difference between a business and a hobby. I’m a dreamer and a doer, but not so much a fan of accounting. I tried doing it on my own and wasn’t sure what to do, which took more time.

I decided to get a bookkeeper in who has made that entire side of my business effortless for me. It has allowed me to use my energy to focus on what I’m good at and what brings in business, and I also get to support another small business who makes it their mission to be experts on the numbers side!

The other thing that has been challenging is being alone. It can get lonely and it can also be hard not to have someone to bounce ideas off. So I started working from a co-working space in Parramatta (Grounded Space) and loved the camaraderie of the other business-owners working from the space. We all support one another. We cheer when there are wins and commiserate together during difficult times. It’s made the biggest difference in running a business alone.

  • For others considering starting their own business, what’s your advice on choosing the right timing? How do you know when the market is ‘ready’ for what you have to offer? 

There’s certainly research that can be done to determine if the market is ready. However, it depends on what the business is. Some businesses will absolutely need to determine the right timing, however, for others, there’ll never be a right timing. If you truly believe you can offer value with your unique service or product, I say go for it.

How many accountants, lawyers, shopping centres, restaurants are out there? You don’t see people saying “oh, there are too many cafes in the world, I won’t open another one”. We all bring our personality, vision and life experiences to what we offer. And people resonate with different services and products for different reasons.

You might not even realise that people have been waiting for you to start your business, and they might not have even known it themselves until you start. It’s not easy, it’s scary, but do your research and back yourself. 

About the expert

Amanda Leigh Doueihi never felt like she belonged in Sydney. So she went in search of her crew in New York. She felt such an intense connection to the city that she moved there without ever having visited and worked there as a lawyer for almost eight years.

Not knowing a soul, Amanda had to learn how to network like the locals in order to make new friends and find work. Her background in journalism equipped her with the tools she needed to discover the stories of the city she fell in love with and the people who inhabited it.

Amanda is obsessed with teaching others how to cultivate the power of forging their own path on the edge of the community and how to create their own crew with intention and purpose.

And she loves the idea of focusing this set of skills within the community she grew up in – the one she finally came home to.

ADVICE: Consider the possibilities of mobility from a business perspective, Look at developing nations

While Coronavirus is threatening the future of globalisation and its fundamental definition, Adele Beachley, Vice President JAPAC at Wizy EMM, believes strongly in the value of looking beyond one’s own geographical borders to generate innovative and progressive workforces.

In this interview, she shares her views on what businesses can learn from their international counterparts, and her advice on how to action the successes and learnings from innovators around the world.

  • In your view, how are Australian businesses and leaders performing on the global tech stage? Why? 

As we meet with representatives of global organisations or with local resellers or end users in Australia, we find they are only interested in who our customers are in this market and in understanding the use cases from this market. Of course, you can appreciate interest in local experience and proof points but they typically aren’t interested in hearing about learnings or implementations in other markets.

This is anecdotal, but it can extend to hiring practices as well, in that Australians returning from years of overseas work often find that experience isn’t quite as valued as it might be and they need to shore up local experience before they can get the role they’re seeking.

That has the potential to stifle the market. There is much innovation going on across JAPAC, in some cases driven by necessity to overcome obstacles that perhaps this country doesn’t experience to the same degree, that can provide inspiration for Australian business leaders.

When I meet with business leaders elsewhere in JAPAC, local use cases are valued but they’re interested to hear stories regardless of region because it helps with their own idea generation.

I would encourage Australian organisations to consider great use cases from elsewhere and how you can transfer that success to Australia. 

  • For most business leaders globally, innovation and digital transformation are top priorities. What are the best ways for businesses to ensure they’re approaching these in line with best practice, while also thinking outside the box? 

Consider the possibilities of mobility from a business perspective – Enterprise and business mobility extends well beyond the fleet of mobile devices used by office staff and knowledge workers, whether they be provided or BYOD. It’s the fleet of workers delivering groceries or mail, the retail staff. It’s about devices supporting the logistics industry, the  connected devices in organisations’ IoT projects and in industrial IoT settings. This kind of mobility is solving problems every day and there is so much more potential. It’s exciting!

Be open to new sources of inspiration – Many businesses and nations look to Silicon Valley as the gold standard for technology inspiration. Visit Stanford. Go to Salesforce. Visit a Google campus. Wander around Berkeley. Done.

I suggest looking to developing nations. India, Kenya, Nigeria all have fantastic mobile networks. They skipped some “progress steps” because there was no copper in the ground or network to upgrade, and went mobile from the outset. There are learnings there that can be applied to more developed nations now looking at solving problems with greater mobility.  

In India everyone has a digital fingerprint on record, which opened up digital banking, services, payment etc. for which ID is required where previously poverty and low literacy levels were hindering progress. Also in India is Bikxie Pink, an app-based two-wheeler taxi and on-demand delivery service for women by women. It provides a safe service for women, as well as training and jobs. Its efficiency, affordability and societal contribution are impressive.

Bikxie Pink helps people travel that “last mile” from transit services to home, solving a problem with mobile service, cheap smartphones, an app and affordable mobile device management. In Sydney, the B line bus and a bunch of parking stations were introduced to help solve commuter traffic congestion problems. But in many cases there’s no bus service to the B Line station, so people drive. Someone could set up a last mile service, perhaps a carpool or shuttle solution with a mobile booking app, but so far that’s not a problem I see anyone working on. 

In Indonesia, you can have many things delivered by motorcycle, thanks to a company called Gojek, which has become part of the vernacular. You can “Gojek” a ride, food, a manicure, a hair stylist, a handyman and much more. It’s a highly lucrative business; a logistics company, payment platform and online marketplace for myriad services enabling many businesses and sole traders to operate successfully.

If you are not looking to the innovation from developing nations you’re missing out.

  • What are some of the greatest innovations you witnessed in 2019? 

Bikxie Pink and Gojek are definitely up there.

Almost 2 billion people are living without electricity day to day. The Solar Puff solar powered lantern is an elegant solar lighting invention that leverages Japanese origami. They are beautiful, portable, eco-friendly, convenient and ship flat. Light allows students to study and do homework after dark, bathrooms can be lit so individuals can feel safe, families can see one another across the dinner table. This is the kind of life-changing innovation we need. 

The giant Tesla battery in South Australia is an impressive project and one that I hope will inspire more like it.

The Android operating system allows for low price point devices to be used as fleet devices, and for the creation of all sorts of connected devices at economical price points. Adding RBM (Rich Business Messaging), Android’s version of iMessage, to that is exciting because of the innovation it enables and encourages.  

  • How do you think those ideas will evolve in 2020 and what can business leaders learn from them when planning for their year ahead? 

The situation evolving right now because of the Coronavirus means that suddenly a more mobile and remote workforce is vital. Every organisation should have or develop a work-from-home policy in response to this situation, but in general it makes sense for organisations to be prepared for a natural increase in remote work.

We’re seeing mobility growth and innovation in ecommerce and along the supply chain. With situations such as Coronavirus and the rush on certain types of goods, further innovations will be forced in supply chain and warehouse management systems due to the need to move goods and restock shelves much more quickly. Mobility is central to this.

Increasingly, mobile devices will be designed not for the individual user, but for the task at hand, creating huge data sets useful for predictive analytics, that only make sense if you’re working in the cloud. 

What’s good for small businesses is that it means that the set of tools from a tech perspective are the same for everyone. You can be a business with 10 employees and have enterprise grade software and mobility without having to pay over the odds; you can leverage the cloud to scale up and scale down to needs.

About the expert

Adele Beachley leads Wizy EMM’s business and operations across the JAPAC region and also manages WizyEMM’s key global strategic Partnerships. Adele’s experience is rare: 25 years of experience in telecoms, mobility, hardware and software services in the enterprise and consumer sectors. She has lived and managed the wave of transformation from the introduction of the first mobile networks and devices through to the new era of big data and the possibilities cloud services can deliver. Her career has seen her take on senior leadership roles in large, multinational technology corporations all over the world, acting as a strategist, growth architect and sales innovator.

Shifting gears to a more dynamic, agile and startup technology world, at Wizy EMM, Adele’s exceptional track record in business development and partnerships, attention to detail and execution to plan coupled with a depth of industry knowledge, relationships, insights and understanding of international drivers and perspective,  accelerate WizyEMM’s global mission: to  provide the best innovative mobility and cloud solutions that give Partners and Customers a distinct leading edge in managing their businesses and associated costs.

Holding a BA (Hons) Degree from the University of Salford, Adele is a multilingual, passionate and proactive leader. Based in Australia, Adele works across JAPAC and has been recognised in the Indian market as one of the Top 20 Women in IT and one of the Top 25 Channel Heads. In her personal life, Adele has a family, is an avid gardener, beach lover, runner, volunteer, charity board member, fundraiser and diversity advocate.

VIEW: How to find, support, and empower female led brands to tackle gender equality

Around the world, gender parity at the leadership level is lacking. In some areas and corners of the globe, it’s improving, but the general consensus is we’re still far from reaching balance on our boards and leadership team.

Some reports say this could take 100 years to achieve.

In the US, 50.2% of the college-educated labour force is made up of women, yet women still only hold 25% of leadership roles. In the UK, women only hold one in three board positions in the UK’s top public companies, and a mere 15% of FTSE 100 finance directors are women. And in Australia, the rate of which women are appointed to boards has plummeted from 45% to 31.7% between 2018-2019.

Femeconomy, founded by Jade Collins and Alanna Bastin-Byrne, is on a mission to keep businesses, boards, and consumers both informed and accountable. Jade and Alanna shared their views on Femeconomy’s role in addressing the gender parity and equality issue, as well as their observations on how this has become such a significant global challenge.

  • Why does Femeconomy exists? What problem does it aim to solve?

Femeconomy is a national membership organisation that educates consumers, business owners and budget owners on how their purchasing decisions can create gender equality.

Femeconomy identifies and amplifies companies that have at least 30% women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. We encourage people to use their purse power or procurement power to support these companies.

Companies with female leaders are more likely to have workplace flexibility and less likely to have a gender pay gap, so they are helping to create gender equality for their employees and communities.

  • What is your vision for Femeconomy over the next 3-5 years?

2019’s Women for Media report states women represent 18% of sources in business reporting. Femeconomy’s female leader interviews with our community are a way to remedy this imbalance for the women achieving outstanding results in business.

Recently Femeconomy was recognised by the State Library of Queensland as being a subject of social, political, cultural, artistic, religious, scientific or economic significance and relevant to Queensland. As a result, Femecononomy’s website has been added to the Australian National Web Archive. This means Femeconomy’s website content will be able to be accessed by the public globally in perpetuity. 

For those women who have shared their leadership wisdom with Femeconomy via our Female Leader Interviews, we are so immensely proud that their voices, and thought leadership, will be captured and preserved forever. 

We want to continue sharing the stories and amplifying the voices of women leaders who are the gender equality trailblazers of our generation. We believe if you see it, you can be it.

We also want to continue our advocacy around using economic levers like consumer purchasing power, and procurement power to drive the growth of women led businesses. All organisations, including corporates, governments, not-for-profits and small businesses can implement gender equality procurement principles in their supply chain and create more sustainable, profitable organisations.

  • Why are female-driven businesses often overlooked, undervalued, or misunderstood? 

It’s a mixture of our legacy social and workplace structures, including the male breadwinner model, and unconscious bias. As a community, we have progressed, but gender equality and social change take a long time. It was only in 1983 that an Australian woman’s passport application no longer had to be approved by her husband!

In Australia, we know that our organisations are still overwhelmingly led by men, and much business is done via relationships and networks. 

34.8% of Australian business owner managers are female. Yet women owned businesses access less than 2% of the global procurement market, a significant economic disadvantage to women.

To help address this disparity, Femeconomy recently partnered with The 30% Club and leading Australian Board Directors to develop a Gender Equality Procurement Toolkit, to support organisations to implement procurement strategies that create gender equality across their supply chains, and foster ethical supply practices.

Femeconomy also developed an example Gender Equality Procurement Policy that is targeted towards Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs), and encourages women led businesses to adopt these principles themselves, and trade with each other.

  • What can both women and men do to better support gender diverse businesses? 

As consumers, identify and purchase from brands with women leaders. Most people have a top 10 brands they habitually shop with – think groceries, insurance, banking, clothing, gifts, cosmetics, toiletries, electronics. Using Femeconomy’s approved brand directory, check your favourite brands are Femeconomy approved, and if they aren’t, switch to like brands that are.

Within businesses, ensure you procure goods and services from women led businesses.

This will create gender equality across industries, and more profitable and sustainable businesses. It’s a win-win.

  • What is the most commonly misunderstood aspect of gender diversity in the workplace? How do we overcome this? 

Intersectionality is the topic that most often gets raised with us. That is where another trait such a woman’s age, marital status, parental status, childfree status, cultural background, skin colour, linguistic differences, disability, or sexuality for example combine to mean that there is a ‘double whammy’ of disadvantage and stereotyping faced by that person, because of our unconscious bias.

People may claim that they treat everyone the same, or see everyone the same, but research has proven again and again that this just isn’t true.

The way to overcome it is to identify and examine our own inherent biases, and start to question them. Many of our stereotypical beliefs about gender have been culturally normed and formed, and reinforced by the people who surrounded us as we grew up, and our life experience.

Challenging ourselves to be inclusive, and seeking to understand each other is the way forward.

About Femeconomy

Choose female led brands. Create gender equality.

Femeconomy approved brands have at least 30% women on the Board of Directors or are 50% female owned. So far over 850 consumer and business brands meet our criteria.

Further information is on Femeconomy or view Jade and Alanna’s TEDxTalk.