The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is ‘Press for Progress’ – an admirable sentiment, indeed.

IWD is an important day to shine a light on brilliant women and issues that still affect our personal and professional lives. But I find it hard to believe that, just last year, Vanity Fair headlined an article about on Hillary Clinton’s appearance at the Vital Voice Global Leadership Awards in Washington, D.C. (in honor of International Women’s Day) thus:

Seriously. I kid you not.

I do wonder, however, if she knew exactly what she was doing debuting a new ‘do’ at a speech about gender equality. After all, she is quoted in the article as having quipped in 1995 that, “If I want to knock a story off the front page, I just change my hairstyle.”

Little wonder, then, that International Women’s Day claims that, at the current rate of ‘progress’, gender parity is still two centuries away.

I believe that being a entrepreneurial woman in a position of leadership and managing a young family gives me a distinct perspective on much of this.

One thing I know is that women tend to lead differently to men. Not better. Just differently. I also think we are often held to higher standards than our male counterparts. Our failures and mistakes are not always so easily forgiven. We have to pedal faster and juggle more to prove our worth. It’s the darndest thing.

Women are, however, well-represented in leadership positions in the travel industry, in Australia at least. I’m not exactly sure why we seem to be a bit of an outlyer in this way, but there are some magnificently clever and capable women at the top right across the industry. I work with some of them. I’m on Boards and committees with others. And I see dozens of them providing direction and inspiration as mentors to the next generation of (female and male) leaders in our industry through the Travel Industry Mentor Experience (TIME) organisation I founded in 2009.

International Women’s Day has me thinking about women who inspire me at close quarters and from a distance. I’m fortunate to have had many of them in my life. Like my mother.

My mother has been my mentor for as long as I can remember. She worked two jobs to put my brother and myself through private schools and has 100% encouraged me every day of my life to be whatever I want to be. She encouraged and supported me through motherhood and as an ambitious young business woman.

I know it’s a cliche, but I really wouldn’t be where I am today without her.

Ann Sherry is another inspiration. Even the quickest glance at Ann’s LinkedIn profile will have you wondering ‘How on earth can someone fit all of that into a single lifetime?’ As CEO of Carnival Australia, Ann led the cruise line through some particularly difficult headwinds, but her career and influence extend well beyond the travel industry, into banking, politics, retail, even rugby as a Director of Rugby Australia.

In the early 90s, Ann accepted the position of head of the Office of the Status of Women, a role in which she advised the Prime Minister on how to improve the status of women in Australia. And if that’s not enough, there’s the Order of Australia for corporate management policies and practices addressing issues of gender, family life, and social justice.

Little wonder I’m thinking of her in the context of International Women’s Day.

I’ve written before about my admiration for Hillary Clinton. She may never become President, but to have provided leadership for so long on a global stage dominated by men and old-thinking, she has inspired a generation of women to believe they should aim very, very high. Bangs optional.

As IWD 2018 approaches, which influential women do you think about when you reflect on your life and career? Who are your female champions of change and progress?


Original article on LinkedIn: