Role & Organisation: CEO, Australians Investing in Women

What was your first job?

From the moment I was allowed to, I earned money babysitting, fruit picking, or working in hospitality and retail. As one of four girls in a single parent family we knew that if we wanted something, we would need to earn our own money and save up to buy it!  

My first full time job was in the Federal Public Service working at the Australian Taxation Office. My role was assisting taxpayers who had lost their (then) group certificates and needed to validate their earnings and the tax they had paid in order to lodge their annual tax returns.

I sometimes reflect on the irony of beginning my career in taxation and now working in philanthropy – both involve the redistribution of wealth albeit through different mechanisms.

When did you know you wanted to work in the for-purpose sector?  

While still with the ATO, I was fortunate enough to obtain a place on an Executive Development Scheme that the public sector ran to prepare high potential employees for senior management roles. That experience allowed me to step back and think more strategically about the issues that mattered to me and what contribution I could make.  It also coincided with the birth of my first child and that more than anything, crystalised and gave urgency to the desire to make the world a better place for my children and for future generations generally.  

I left government out of a sense of frustration with the slow pace of change and I went on to work for a university encouraging girls to choose careers in STEM.  I later worked in both music and television production in roles that leveraged entertainment to fundraise for charitable causes and that led me to enrol in a Masters of Philanthropy and Social Investment at what is now the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology.  The formal study and the connection to like-minded people proved to be great introduction to the philanthropic sector and ultimately led me to this role working in gender and philanthropy which is definitely my sweet spot.

When did you first discover the concept of Impact Investing? 

I had for many years been part of conversations about mobilising financial resources more broadly – not just philanthropic donations – for social good.

My introduction to the concept of impact investing came from exposure to some of the key speakers at the upcoming Impact Investing Summit, including a formal introductory session by Daniel Madhaven (when he drew a memorable analogy with a platypus).

Other leading voices in the movement at that time included Kylie Charlton, Rosemary Addis AM, Danny Almagor, and from memory also Christopher Thorn.

What’s one exciting development you and your team have in the pipeline?

Australians Investing In Women has collaborated with the Champions of Change Coalition to bring a gender lens to corporate giving – and that gives me cause for great hope and excitement. Sharpening our focus on corporate giving gender equality in the frame is a resource focussed on corporate giving in its many forms but it has the potential to ignite more thinking and action on gender lens investing and impact investing through a gender lens.

More generally I’m excited by the evolution in thinking led by Suzanne Beigel at Gender Smart and Joy Anderson at Criterion to bring a gender lens to impact investing (no surprises there).

It’s also encouraging that the Federal Government established a Social Impact Taskforce – and hopefully they will implement the recommendations designed to contribute to the COVID-19 recovery by focusing efforts on inclusive employment and support for women, youth and marginalised groups who are among the hardest hit cohorts.

What was the most interesting impact deal (from any team across Asia/Pacific) in the past 12 months?

It’s not necessarily a deal but I was very pleased to see the launch last year of The Global Gender Equality Fund led by Global Impact Initiatives Founder and CEO Giles Gunesekera.

Name one high impact social enterprise that people should keep their eye on.

I’ve got my eye on Mettle Women Inc but I will confess a bias here as the founder, Bronwyn Bate, worked with me for a couple of years during which the seed of this social enterprise was planted.

Mettle is in the gift box business—but they are far more than your average gift boxes. They also provide survivors of domestic and family violence with training, employment, and empowerment opportunities. Truly the gift that keeps on giving! 

What’s your vision for impact investing in 5 years’ time?

My vision is that every investment decision of any kind is made through a gender lens, that is, with intentional consideration of the impact of the investment on women and girls and gender equality more broadly. 

We work for this outcome in philanthropy and would love to see Gender Responsive Budgeting adopted by all state and federal governments but to have a gender lens on the investment of global capital generally would really shake things up and fast track gender equality– and that has to be a good thing!

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