She Leads Conference

The She Leads Conference is back in 2022, and bigger than ever! After a sold out Conference in 2021, we can’t wait to bring emerging and established women and non-binary leaders together with some of Australia’s most inspiring, diverse and accomplished leaders for another packed day of learning and sharing.

In 2022, our Conference theme is Dauntless. At home, at work, and in the community, dauntless women and gender diverse people are rising up, showing courage and being advocates for change. Dauntless is a reflection of our strength, resilience and leadership in challenging the status quo and transforming traditional power structures. The dauntless approach also has ties to the founding women, values and long history of the YWCA in Australia.

Exploring the theme through the prism of finding it within ourselves and being dauntless, the 2022 She Leads Conference will be taking a look at leading through change, despite uncertainty; the pursuit of equality and values-based leadership even through adversity; and caring for positive mental health in ourselves and our teams.

The 2022 She Leads Conference will take place on 22 July, with networking drinks held the evening prior. Stay tuned for earlybird tickets opening soon. 

Don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly She Leads Newsletter to receive updates on  She Leads events and opportunities.

Our highly anticipated 2021 She Leads Conference returned to Canberra on Friday 23 July, following a short hiatus due to COVID-19 in the previous year.

2021 marked the 7th year that YWCA Canberra has hosted this event and this year it was held at the Kambri Cultural Centre, ANU. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and social distancing, we had a maximum of 400 people attending the event with a waitlist.

Our 2021 theme was Power – Have it. Own it. Challenge it.

The night prior to the conference we had a networking event that provided attendees with the opportunity to meet like-minded people prior to attending the conference.

Image of a person speaking to a packed conference hallOn the day of the conference, we had a packed program of keynote speeches, panels, seminars and networking session. Leadership was explored through the lens of Power and equipped attendees with skills, strategies and concepts to take back their professional and personal lives. By learning how to deconstruct and reconstruct notions of power and gaining an understanding of how power influences our systems and structures, attendees discovered how power can be used to the benefit of themselves and those they lead.

The Conference was emceed by Chris Ryan and keynote speakers included Dr Mehreen Faruqi, Cath Grassick, Nina Funnell and Amy Thunig.

With panel discussions centred on three different concepts ‘Breaking up the boys’ club: finding individual power within male-dominated spaces’, ‘Standing in the way of control: letting go of problems and things out of your control to create healthier outcomes’, and ‘Tipping the scale: readdressing power imbalances.’ Our panellists included Karen Middleton, Jo Farrell, Marissa McDowell, Olivia Thornto, Zakia Patel, Nipuni Wijewickrema, Celeste Trione (aka Mae Q Sqwheel), Nicole Short, Sally Gobson, Dixie Crawford, Misha Scubert, Caroline McDonald and Joanne Fenton.

This year we also had a VIP ‘Power Play’ lunch event where VIP guests were joined by leaders for the Canberra community to do a speed networking and mentoring style session. Leaders included Caroline McDonald, Holly Komorowski, Leanne Castley, Paula Goodwin and Frances Crimmins.

In the afternoon we had three streams of seminars available and were ‘Navigating difficult conversations’ facilitated by Nadia Pessarossi, ‘How to communicate effectively for productive outcomes’ facilitated by Llewella Jago and ‘Leading inclusively and authentically with self-reflection and purpose’ facilitated by Frances Crimmins.

Conference attendee feedback included:

  • “I really enjoyed the panel session on tipping the scale. I thought the moderator did a great job of keeping the conversation flowing, the panellists were really interesting and engaging, and I left with some really interesting ideas that I hadn’t considered.”
  • “I enjoyed the communications session because the presenter was relaxed and relatable, giving tangible takeaways that I have already started to implement in my job.”
  • “The atmosphere, timing, food, facilities etc were all fantastic. The conference was very successful in delivering its messages about empowerment. I loved the keynote speakers – very inspirational.”
  • “A really well organised day. A conference until 5pm on a Friday could be a big ask, however it was really interesting and involving. It was a really engaging day.”
  • “Thanks – the amount of work that must have gone into preparing the conference, with the impacts of increased restrictions, was greatly appreciated and noticed by man. It was a great conference despite the pivot to digital alternatives for some of the keynotes.”

Learn more about the 2021 She Leads Conference:

The 2019 She Leads Conference was held at QT Canberra on 1 August and showcased a diverse range of women and non-binary leaders from a variety of industries and backgrounds.

Throughout a full day of speakers and activities, around 400 attendees explored the theme Thrive which focused on providing the elements, skills and understanding necessary for us to thrive in our communities, families and workplaces.

Attendees were able to critically engage with key concepts surrounding learning how to fail and bounce back, the importance of self-care, acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake, and if you don’t see something make it for yourself.

The conference was emceed by Jan Fran and keynote speakers included Yumi Stynes, Deborah Cheetham AO, Debby Blakey and Marina Go. Panel discussions centred on two different concepts ‘What are your limits’ and ‘Great Expectations’. Our panellists included Karlie Noon, Zakia Patel, Commander Kelly Haywood, Tarla Lambert, Kemiso Matlho, Hannah Wandel, Nakari Thorpe, Kemi Nekvapil and Clare Moore.

Attendees rated the conference highly, with 100 per cent of attendees rating it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and 98 per cent of respondents indicating that they would attend the conference next year. Furthermore, 99 per cent stated that they were likely to recommend the conference to other women.

Our conference attendees said:

  • The diversity of topics and diversity of speakers/panel member was absolutely fantastic. Very inclusive and representative of our society. I learned so much from all the discussions.
  • It is so great that the conference featured speakers from diverse cultural backgrounds and was also inclusive of women with disabilities and non-binary people. Sometimes women’s leadership events can be a too white middle class. This one wasn’t. Loved Deborah Cheetham and Yumi Stynes.
  • The calibre of the speakers and their openness on their personal experiences was amazing.
  • The schedule was really well balanced with a good mixture of keynote speakers, panels, breaks etc. The mc and speakers were all amazing and really provided good inspiration. I cant think of anything that needs to be improved. What a great day!

Learn more about the 2019 She Leads Conference:

The 2018 She Leads Conference was held at the Rex Hotel on 1 August and showcased a diverse range of women’s stories, including accounts of how they overcame adversity and discrimination, and how they have used their position to encourage and lift women around them.

Throughout a full day of speakers and workshops, we explored the theme Rise, which focused on how women grow powerful by acknowledging individual successes and building up the collective. This theme was continuously emphasised throughout the day by each of the uplifting speakers and panellists who reiterated the importance of women supporting women across all platforms and stages of life.

Attendees were able to critically engage with key concepts surrounding acknowledging their own hard work and not simply dismissing it as luck, what it takes to be a good leader, and the importance of not only receiving however providing mentorship to other women.

The conference was emceed by Meschel Laurie and keynote speakers included Jamila Rizvi, Nas Campanella and Mary Delahunty. Panel discussions centred on two concepts: ‘Leading and Lifting’ and ‘Creating structural change to rise’. Our panellists included Dr Vanessa Lee, Natalie Walker, Bridget Clinch, Dr Raji Ambikairajah, Professor Marian Sawer, Dr Jessa Rogers and Corporal Laura Power. Our panel facilitators were Angela Priestley and Michele Fonseca.

Attendees rated the conference highly, with 100 per cent of attendees rating it as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ and 89 per cent of respondents indicating that they would attend the conference next year. Furthermore, 98 per cent stated that they were likely to recommend the conference to other women.

Our conference attendees said:

  • She Leads Conference 2018 was hands-down, the best conference I have ever been to. It takes a lot for me to step away from the office for the day, but this conference was totally worth it. Every speaker was top-notch, the program was perfectly curated and heck, there was salmon for lunch! Congratulations to all involved.
  • Loved hearing from such a diverse range of women and how different each one was.
  • I loved the informal, fun but also serious nature of the Conference. Lots of laughs but also shared journeys and experiences with a view to ‘lift up’ women. I was so engaged and glad to hear from wonderful women who are actively doing, learning and disrupting the culture of work and leadership we inherited.
  • No improvements! It was fabulous. Just loved the keynote speakers they were engaging enlightening and so inspirational. Brilliant day. Well done YWCA

Learn more about the 2018 She Leads Conference:

The 2017 She Leads Conference was held on Thursday 1 June at QT Hotel, and included a cocktail and networking function held the night prior at Lucky’s.

Despite all the gains women have made in obtaining formal leadership positions, the reality for many Australian women is that they are still locked out of decision making and leadership roles. Further, the significant leadership contributions by women within their family and community are often unrecognised and undervalued.

This ideology formed the theme for the conference: Challenge. The theme was woven through keynote and panel discussions, and saw attendees discover and discuss all the challenges they face in everyday life and potential solutions.

The conference was emceed by Tracey Spicer, and keynote speakers included Clementine Ford, Michelle Deshong, Nakkiah Lui, and Drisana Levitzke-Gray. Panel discussions centred on two different concepts of challenge: Challenging the System and The Challenge of Changing Gears. Panellists included Shen Narayanasamy, Elise Burgess, Christine Castley, Alex Sloan, Captain Stephanie Steel, Myfanwy Galloway, and Summer Edwards, and panel facilitator were Caterina Giorgi and Angela Preistley.

Attendees rated the conference highly, with 92 per cent rating the Conference as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, 91 per cent stating they would recommend the conference to other women, and 84 per cent of respondents indicated that they would attend the conference next year.

Our conference attendees said:

  • The diversity of voices was great. I was really impressed with the way the conference was run and the high calibre of speakers.
  • This is my 3rd She Leads and I have love all of them and gained so much. I leave feeling empowered, encouraged and last year I gained the confidence to stand up for myself and quit my job xxooxx
  • Great to attend a Conference based on leadership and not industry specific
  • Don’t change a thing – brilliant!
  • It’s great to see that no matter what journey a woman wants to embark upon, there are conferences like this and support mechanisms in place to help any woman achieve greatness, no matter what
  • The quality of speakers was OUTSTANDING.

Learn more about the 2017 She Leads Conference:

One of the primary goals of the 2016 She Leads Conference was to continue to build on the success of previous conferences and raise its profile on Canberra’s annual professional development calendar for Canberra women.

As well as crafting an engaging and stimulating conference program, our objectives were that as a result of the conference, women would gain:

  • a greater understanding of leadership
  • practical tools that they could apply to accelerate their leadership journey
  • greater awareness of the impact of gender bias on women’s leadership opportunities
  • more confidence to be a leader and
  • new contacts that they can learn and share knowledge with.

The theme for the 2016 conference was Transform, which was intertwined through all aspects of the event, including keynote speeches, networking opportunities, workshops, panels, and masterclasses.

The conference was emceed by Jane Caro, and keynote speakers included Marita Cheng, Indira Naidoo, Captain Jenny Daetz, and Lucy Perry. Panellists included Renee Carr, Carly Findlay, Kerrie Tim, Yen Eriksen, Amber Beavis, Tanya Dannock, Jeanette Purkis, Amanda Whitley, Philippa Moss, and Rita Joyan, and were facilitated by Caterina Giorgi, Ginger Gorman, and Zoya Patel. Breakout workshops were facilitated by Suzi Skinner, Heather Reid, and Rita Joyan.

Attendees rated the 2016 conference highly with 99.5 per cent rating the conference as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, 97 per cent stating they would recommend the conference to other women, and 95 per cent of respondents indicated that as a result of the conference they felt more motivated to pursue their leadership goals.

Our conference attendees said:

  • Unquestionably fantastic speakers! Brilliant and relevant topics
  • What a fabulous unique event for women. Thank you!
  • Lots of different ideas, and sharing of ideas. Genuine, inspirational presenters
  • Practical and interactive workshops
  • There were real strategies that will be easy to bring back to my workplace. Looking at leading in many aspects of life and how to get the best results.

Learn more about the 2016 She Leads Conference:

The theme for the 2015 conference was Discover. Connect. Ignite. based on YWCA Canberra’s then vision of Women achieving their potential.

The conference was an intergenerational event, and women of all ages and at all stages of their leadership journeys attended. The event combined education and skills development, an abundance of networking opportunities, and a mix of stimulating talks and workshops with some of Australia’s most renowned women leaders.

The emcee was Tracey Spicer and keynote speakers included Stephanie Lorenzo, Yamini Naidu, Clare Bowditch, and Professor Gillian Triggs. Panellists included Kate Carnell AO, Nipuni Wijewickrema, Emma Bennison, Tjanara Goreng Goreng, Rebecca Skinner, Dai Le, Hala Batainah, Stephanie Foster, and Jessica May. Masterclasses were run by Jacqueline Jago, Dr Sarah Pearson, and Angela Priestley.

Attendees rated the Conference highly, with 98 per cent of evaluation respondents rating the conference overall as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, and 93 per cent stating that they would recommend the conference to other women.

Our conference attendees said:

  • It was great to hear so many different perspectives from different people with different backgrounds and experiences
  • Really well curated selection of speakers and interesting topics
  • I loved it. Thanks for this great, empowering, networking opportunity.
  • What a wonderful selection of speakers who spoke from their heart and shared honest and personal stories. I feel privileged to have been able to share their stories with them. I look forward to attending next year and hopefully the master classes too. I will definitely recommend this conference to my colleagues.
  • It was nice to hear that everyone has a journey and we can change the direction if we want, given we are passionate and true to ourselves. I got more out of today than just ‘leadership’
  • I would love to keep She Leads in this price range for students – there is nothing of its kind and leadership and empowerment should be inclusive not exclusive.

Learn more about the 2015 She Leads Conference:

Our first She Leads Conference pulled together a diverse and inspiring line-up of women leaders from numerous industries to empower and motivate the 170 delegates in attendance.

The conference provided women leaders and those aspiring to leadership with the opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and networks to accelerate their leadership journeys, and focused on the theme Learning, Collaboration, Leadership.

The day was emceed by Susan Brennan and featured a keynote speech by Anne Summers. Panellists included Khadija Gbla, Casey Keed, Lauren Anderson, Virginia Haussegger, Carmel McGregor, Yolanda Vega, Helen Conway, and Caroline Lambert. Workshops were facilitated by Suzi Skinner, Di van Meegen, and Julie McKay.

Attendees rated the conference highly, with 98 per cent of evaluation respondents rating the conference overall as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, and 96 per cent stating that they would recommend the conference to other women.

Our conference attendees said:

  • Hearing the panel members speak about their different leadership experiences was very inspiring and unique. The conference is a great way to network (connect and reconnect) with other women who want to achieve a common goal.
  • I felt empowered to be in a room full of strong women promoting leadership and awareness.
  • Leadership is a complex notion and coming to conferences like this open your eyes to new things as well as reaffirm what you already know – and puts it front of mind.
  • I can’t praise the She Leads Conference enough! It had the perfect mix between leadership theory and discussion about how being a woman affects leadership style and capability. Thank you!
  • My expectations were well and truly met and exceeded. I’m leaving with many things to think about that will help me better understand myself and grow.
  • This has given me inspiration and encouragement to be strong and go for what I want to achieve.

Learn more about the 2014 She Leads Conference: