Creative Disruption at the 5th Annual Women in Focus Conference

This interview by Natalie Candarakis was originally featured in the Women in Focus magazine.

What are your top three takeouts from the conference?

1. Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.

I found the conference quite challenging in some ways because it booted me out of my bubble and forced me to engage with the mainstream business world. It had been a while since I'd been in a room where I knew almost no-one and I was surrounded by people with very diverse backgrounds and reasons for being in business. It was a challenge to communicate what I do to people outside my own industry (sustainability, social impact etc), but I have become much better at it as a result. The 'comfort zone' idea was brought home again by stories of women who women who had pushed through their comfort barriers in terms of their skills, what roles they thought they were capable of and the business ideas they were going 'all in' on. 

2. The importance of placing a 'gender lens' across all aspects of work and life

Julie Abram's discussion of gender equality and the statistics around professional women in Australia was a real wake up call. Gender inequality is still a rife and ingrained, and largely because of subtle (and often unconscious) gender bias. To counter this bias, Julia's advice was that we need to put a gender positive lens across all of our work and life - and therefore enact the mantras:

1. profile a woman entrepreneur
2. mentor a woman
3. fund a woman's business
4. recommend a woman
5. inspire a woman (tell your own story)

3. 'Digical' experience

The incredible Dr Catriona Wallace introduced the conference to the concept of the 'digical'. That is, where the real world and digital meet, a term coined in a report by Bain & Company. It was reassuring to hear the language of digical as well as human-centred design on stage because at Wildwon we have been working with these concepts for some time, but as they're so new, they can be difficult to define and explain. Catriona was speaking our language and it was wonderful! These are powerful concepts for the future of business that it was fantastic that she brought them to the main stage of the conference.

How will you take what you learned and experienced at the conference and incorporate it into Wildwon's work in the future?

I was bursting with ideas while hearing from the incredible speakers at the conference, and the change I will incorporate will be around implementing more of these ideas - even if it's in a small way. I think this is a powerful way to seed innovation in your company - knowing that many ideas will fail, many will be mediochre, but some will have an extraordinary impact. The more you test and experiment, the more chance of these runaway successes. I was reminded by Denise Meyerson from MCI of the need to have a 'Yes AND' culture in our business - rather than a 'Yes BUT' culture - when discussing ideas. The idea here is that an idea is never shut down, only built upon and explored for its full potential. I'm sure the ideas and energy that the conference provided will give me a whole year's worth of motivation to turn ideas and action so watch this space!

What was a highlight of the conference for you personally?

A highlight for me was hearing Karen James speak about her insights into business and life - and later connecting with her. Karen now runs KBSN and I believe was one of the instigators of Women in Focus while at CBA. Karen spoke about her approach to business and community with so many clever insights and gems like:

- "the heart of the matter is always a matter of heart"
- lessons on how to live an "extraordinary ordinary life"
- the need to reframe issues ("the poor aren't the poor they're just people who have less cash than me!")
- how to create an effective 'third space' - a nurturing community space that is not home and not work
- how "nature has all the answers" and she gains wisdom from nature
- the power of the ripple effect

Karen was just one of the many incredible women I met at the Women in Focus Conference who I know will come to have a profound effect on my business and career - thank you CBA and Women in Focus!

Read 'Sustainability as the way forward for business' Women in Focus feature on Wildwon.

Read Creative Disruption winning competition entry (ie. why I ended up at the conference!)