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12 inspiring career women to take lessons from

By Yvette McKenzie | 13 July 2018

Strong career women can be an inspiration to women and men alike. Here, SkillsTalk looks at the career advice from some of Australia’s (and the world’s) top career women, in areas as vast as technology, publishing, start-ups and screen.

SkillsTalk previously covered Who Runs the World? Girls! - Leadership Growth for Womenwhere according to the new Conrad Gender Equality at Work Report released in March 2018, there has been a shift in the number of women employed in leadership roles compared to men.

What advice could you take from these 10 corporate and creative dynamos?


#1: Former Yahoo CEO - Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer is the former president and CEO of Yahoo!, a position she gained back in 2012. She’s been a tech executive, usability leader, and key spokesperson for Google as well as being ranked sixth on Fortune‍'​s 40 under 40 list. She now sits on several for-profit and not-for-profit boards.

Learn to manage others: "Management is defence. You basically say, 'This is the direction, this is where we’re heading,' and then it’s my job to get everything else out of the way,” she has famously said. “All the other things that can become a distraction keep us from executing well. Get those out of the way, because the team ultimately needs to run in that direction and execute well."

former yahoo ceo marissa mayer

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#2: Founder of Ingeus - Thérèse Rein

Also married to former Australian PM Kevin Rudd, Thérèse Rein is an Australian entrepreneur and founder of Ingeus, an international employment and business psychology services company. In 2010, she was awarded the Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“I am a very goal-oriented person," she has said.  "I think at work I am an A-type personality, so I am in control, and I make decisions, and I commission work, and I speak. It hasn't felt like the right time to do that, here in this role, until now, really.”

Founder of Ingeus - Thérèse Rein

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#3: Founding director of RedBalloon - Naomi Simson

Naomi Simson is the founding director of RedBalloon, an online experience gift retailer she launched from her home around 15 years ago. Her company is considered the pioneer of experiential gifting in Australia and has ranked in the Top 50 Employers by Business Review Weekly since 2009.

Solve people’s problems: “My suggestion is that if you are driven solely by financial success – think again,” she says. “Great businesses solve problems; they make life easier, they do things that had not been done before, and they make a difference.”

Founding director of RedBalloon - Naomi Simson

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#4: Personal trainer, author and TV personality. – Michelle Bridges

The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed this millionaire dynamo and found that on an average day she rises at 6am, runs 12 kilometres, then exercises at the gym for at least two hours before heading off to work, where she might be filming or training for 6 hours plus.

Get moving, no matter what! “Don't get ‘paralysis by analysis’: overanalysing what you think you should be doing, would be doing, want to be doing but are not doing as you sit on the couch talking yourself out of it. Put your joggers on, go into robot mode, and just get out the door.”

Personal trainer, author and TV personality. – Michelle Bridges

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#5: CEO at HerBusiness and Chairperson of its Advisory Board - Suzi Dafnis

Suzi is a recognised blogger, podcast host, media commentator, social media instructor, public speaker and long-time digital marketer, Suzi is an advocate for education and entrepreneurship amongst women.

Become an entrepreneur: “Promote entrepreneurship as a career option in school and start to train on the basics of running a business,” she says, “instead of only steering people towards careers as employees. Showcase the talent of great female entrepreneurs.”

CEO at HerBusiness and Chairperson of its Advisory Board - Suzi Dafnis

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#6: Editor of Australia's Mamamia - Mia Freedman

Mia is the founder, publisher and editorial director of Australia's leading women's website She began her career in the magazine industry, working at Cosmopolitan for seven years then spending time at publications Cleo and Dolly.

Don’t be afraid to change careers: “Assume that you will have a number of different jobs and even careers in your life,” Mia say. “Don't make the mistake of thinking what you choose to do after school locks you in to anything. Be open to changing direction.”

Editor of Australia's Mamamia - Mia Freedman

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#7: Editor in Chief of American Vogue - Anna Wintour

Anna Wintour has been the editor-in-chief of American Vogue since 1988. She has become an important figure in the fashion world, and has been known for her eye for fashion trends and her support for younger designers.

Take risks and be brave: “It's very important to take risks,” the editor says. “I think that research is very important, but in the end you have to work from your instinct and feeling and take those risks and be fearless.”


Editor in Chief of American Vogue - Anna Wintour

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#8: Director and actor – Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett has received critical acclaim including two Academy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards, three Golden Globe Awards and three British Academy Awards. She was appointed Chevalier of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government in 2012.

Learn to deal with things with grace: “Things present themselves to you, and it is how you choose to deal with them that reveals who you are,” this actor says. “We all say a lot of things, don't we, about who we are and how we think. But in the end it's your actions.”


Director and actor – Cate Blanchett

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#9: Chief Operating Officer of Facebook - Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl is an American technology executive, activist, and author. She is the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook. In June 2012, she was elected to the board of directors by the existing board members and became the first woman to serve on Facebook's board.

Work in teams to succeed: “Endless data show that diverse teams make better decisions. We are building products that people with very diverse backgrounds use,” she says, “and I think we all want our company makeup to reflect the makeup of the people who use our products.”


Chief Operating Officer of Facebook - Sheryl Sandberg

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#10: Writer and director - Lena Dunham

Her show, Girls is a TV standout. She created the plot and writes the script as well as directing and starring in the production. Lena then scored a $3 million book deal, as well as a slew of awards and was named TIME‘s Coolest Person of the Year.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself: “It's very easy for me to say what success is,” Lena says. “I think success is connecting with an audience who understands you and having a dialogue with them. I think success is continuing to push yourself forward creatively.”


Writer and director - Lena Dunham

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#11: Humanitarian, athlete, and author – Turia Pitt

Now a successful ambassador for Interplast Australia and New Zealand, Turia Pitt was a determined athlete who, in 2011, was competing in an ultramarathon when she got caught in a grass fire. Suffering burns to 64% of her body, Pitt was eventually able to rebuild her life after undergoing 200 operations and two years in recovery. Since then, she’s become an author, a motivational speaker, and completed the Ironman World Championship in 2016.

When life knocks you down, you get back up: “Never give up. You can do anything you want simply by never giving up.”


Humanitarian, athlete, and author – Turia Pitt

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


#12: Author – J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling is a woman who needs no introduction – as the mega-successful writer of the beloved Harry Potter series, Rowling boasts several Book of the Year awards, a runner-up spot in Time’s 2007 Person of the Year list, and an achievement as the world’s first billionaire author.

Learn from your failures! “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all - in which case, you fail by default.”


Author – J.K. Rowling

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock


Are you ready to make an impact in your own career?

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