We asked women business leaders what Count Her In means to them

- March 8, 2024 9 MIN READ

It’s International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is Count Her In:. We asked female founders, women in business and business leaders  what the theme means for them.

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Lauren Karan CEO Karan and Co.

What does IWD mean to you?

International Women’s day to me is getting an equal playing field in the workplace and looking deeper at the systemic issues that make it difficult for women to often balance their family commitments and work. I think it isn’t about trying to rise at the fall of men. Its about raising awareness of sponsorship and advocacy and the role men play to support us when we are in the minority so we can have our voices heard.

Sponsors and male allies will be our greatest asset and building other women up around us because it takes a village to create the change we need. Flexible work is only one aspect, allowing school pick ups, looking at job share, staggered starts, remote working, cross skilling, reshaping jobs around school hours and looking at how we can make an industry or an opportunity more appealing for women

Count Her In

I think count her in starts early on in careers and then builds into the boardroom. What I mean is by encouraging confidence in women early on in their careers is critical but we also know on average girls are performing better in school then boys so this tells us when they get into the working environment they are missing out on some important opportunities and we need to look at overcoming those obstacles.

So how are we modelling an inclusive environment in our leadership team?

What are we showcasing to young women that tells them they can have a career and progress in the organisation? We respond to the right language.

We also need to start structuring the right support early on- things like early career programs for women in male dominated industries and assigning  a male sponsor who can also be assigned a recognised high potential young woman in a succession pathway can be a huge ally to helping overcome the barriers that exist to make real progress.

How are you fighting for women?

I’m doing it by leading from the front. I started my business when my youngest was 3 months old. 4 of 5 of our team members are mothers and we do the hobbies, drop offs and commitments we need to while focusing on an outcomes approach to delivering our work. We also help our clients attract a more diverse talent pool by removing the barriers in advertising that prevent women applying- we know that overtly erroneous job requirements can be daunting as statistically a woman will only apply when she fits 80 per cent of the role often on average. We also know there are women out there who want job share or school hours so we need to challenge the norm and look at how we can adapt a role, design a role or advertise an opportunity to attract a more diverse talent pool. Thinking from a different perspective and challenging our clients to think differently about their talent strategy is what it takes.

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Jennifer Gurry Founder Diamond Women

What Count Her In means for me…

This International Women’s Day, the theme “Count Her In” resonates deeply with our mission at Diamond Women. As an organisation dedicated to assisting pregnant women across Australia facing challenges such as mental health issues, poverty, homelessness, and domestic violence, our commitment to inclusivity and support for every woman in need has never been more aligned with the message of this special day.

With almost 20 years of experience working with women, I have seen firsthand the benefits of real and practical support for women as they navigate the challenges of unplanned pregnancy. The work of Diamond Women has grown to include centres in Sydney, Gosford, Wollongong, and across Australia, providing support and help for women as they navigate financial pressures, mental health, relationship challenges, unemployment or underemployment, potential homelessness, and domestic violence.

Establishing and managing a business, whether for profit or not, demands resilience, grit, and determination. These qualities are not just vital for us as an organisation but are also mirrored in the strength of the women we aim to support. Our journey from a small setup to a national presence underscores our dedication to making a significant difference in the lives of Australian women, embodying the spirit of “Count Her In” in every aspect of our work.

In the past year, we launched the ‘Fill Her Cup’ campaign, which aims to provide essential support to young and vulnerable new mums during the Christmas season. With a 35% increase in women seeking unplanned pregnancy support services, the need for support spikes over the holiday period, and with a lack of funding, many women are left to grapple alone. The Fill Her Cup campaign holds the promise of infusing positivity into the lives of women facing adversity across the country, through the combined power of emotional support and community strength.

We also advocate for workplace giving programs, allowing employees to donate directly from their salaries in a tax-effective way. Additionally, our initiative, The Village, is a group of monthly givers committed to providing a judgement-free space for women facing unplanned pregnancies, offering support for their options, the side effects of abortion, domestic violence intervention, and empowering them to thrive independently on their journey. “Count Her In’ underlines our operations, programs and resources while emphasising our commitment to inclusivity and support for every woman in need.

This International Women’s Day, we stand firm in our belief that every woman counts and deserves support, respect, and opportunities to thrive. By embodying the theme “Count Her In,” we continue to work tirelessly towards a future where no woman has to face her challenges alone.

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Kate Alpaugh, CFO at Shippit

Investing in women – especially young women at the beginning of their careers – is crucial to making the world a more equitable place. And this year’s theme is all about levelling the playing field; offering women equal access to education and employment, and empowering women to actually be able to take advantage of these opportunities. Accessible education is the fastest path for female equality. It enables women to reach their full potential, developing the skills and tools needed to not only become financially independent and build a sustainable future, but to also build strong communities.

This isn’t just a matter of promoting equal access to education, it’s also about challenging societal norms. We need to work towards identifying and dismantling the barriers that affect women more than others. There are many reasons why women are disproportionately out of decision-making roles, but none of them are justified. Elevating female voices in the workplace provides diversity of thought, ideas and perspectives that can help businesses build value. Showing a representation of women at the highest levels of business leads by example and empowers the next generation to set high goals and work with confidence to achieve them. Encouraging women and girls removes barriers and enables women to participate and grow in economies where everyone can thrive. It’s a win-win-win for women, businesses and the economy.

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Andrea Quinn, Head of Retail at Lightspeed

For me, this is a call to action for everyone; regardless of gender, age, race, socioeconomic status or anything else entirely. We have not come far enough – or fast enough – to create true diversity across industries and in leadership levels. The question is: Why? We all have a role to play. When did you last perform any action to make change? When did you last create the space for a female – or any under-represented – member of your team to speak up, to share their opinion, to take the floor, to start building their confidence in themselves. When did you last encourage someone to apply for a role, to push for a promotion or to seek greater equality? Many hands make light work, and through the simplest of actions, each of us independently can have a huge impact. Unfortunately, more often than not, people rely on someone else to do the work, and then wonder why progress isn’t being made. It starts with you. And it starts with me. So rather than ‘Count Her In’, what about ‘Count us In’?

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Lyra Mackay, Evangelist at Zoho

To me, this is a call to action to support women’s rights in not only the workforce, but in society more broadly. So often when we talk about gender equality, it becomes a conversation about today’s workforce and about pay. It’s about far more than that, though. It’s about investing in girls from a much younger age; when their expectations from themselves and society, and the hierarchies around them, are forming. Yes, we want to see more women on boards and in the C-suite, but we want to see more girls told that that is absolutely an attainable option for them. When you invest in women from a young age, and give them equal opportunities and equal vision for their future, you can accelerate progress by allowing them to positively contribute to first themselves and their peers, and then businesses, industries and innovation. When we invest in financial and educational resources for women, in women-owned businesses, and in education and training for girls, progress will be a long-term shift not a short-term trend.

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Gali Arnon, Chief Business Officer, Fiverr

It is a call to action. It reflects a commitment to building a world where women are valued, empowered, and fully integrated into all aspects of society, and where their potential is recognised and nurtured for the collective benefit of society.

Companies should embrace women in greater roles, not out of obligation, but out of a genuine understanding of the immense value they bring to the table. It’s about creating an environment where individuals are judged based on their skills, talents, and contributions.

Nurturing women in leadership roles involves more than just paying lip service to equality; it requires an effort to break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and provide equal opportunities for growth and advancement. It means creating mentorship and sponsorship programs tailored to the specific needs and aspirations of women, fostering a culture of continuous learning and development, and ensuring that policies and practices are inclusive and equitable.

Investing in women is not the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.

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Patricia Garcia, Director, Your Vision Financial Solutions

International Women’s Day (IWD) symbolises the ongoing journey towards equality, recognising the achievements of women across various spheres while acknowledging the challenges that still persist in achieving gender equality. It’s a day to reflect on progress, call for change, and celebrate the vital role women play in every aspect of society.

This year’s theme, “Count Her In,” emphasises the importance of inclusivity and the active participation of women in all areas of life, advocating for equal opportunities in the workforce. It calls for a collective effort to dismantle barriers, whether they’re societal, economic, or political, that hinder women’s full and effective participation.

In the fight for women, actions can include:

  • Offering guidance, mentorship, and support to women in their professional and personal development. This can help empower women to achieve their potential and aspire to leadership roles.
  • Raising awareness about the issues women face, such as the gender pay gap, underrepresentation in leadership, and gender-based violence. Advocacy can influence policy changes and societal attitudes.
  • Actively creating and promoting opportunities for women in all fields, especially in areas where they are underrepresented, such as leadership and entrepreneurship.
  • Working towards creating safe, inclusive, and respectful environments in workplaces and communities where women can thrive without fear of discrimination or harassment.
  • Supporting businesses, projects, and initiatives led by women through investment and collaboration.
  • Providing education and resources that empower women to make informed decisions about their health, finances, and rights.
  • Building networks and communities that connect women with resources, opportunities, and each other, fostering a sense of solidarity and support.
  • Advocating for policies and practices that promote work-life balance, recognising the caregiving responsibilities many women hold and supporting them in managing these dual roles effectively.

As a female adviser and a member of the Financial Advice Association Australia, I am involved and very supportive of the Inspire Community, which focuses on bringing women together, attracting women to our profession and fostering a supportive community.. I am personally passionate about empowering women through financial advice and education and contribute back by providing pro bono advice and implementing a charity commitment in my business where 1% of profit each year goes to charities that support women. Additionally, I mentor young women within my profession and those who work for me.

Serving on the Board of the Financial Advice Association Australia and running my own business has positioned me as a go-to source for other women in my profession who approach me for mentorship and guidance. I love to help where I can and am often guiding and providing advice to young ladies entering the profession or making the leap into business ownership or advisory roles.

This International Women’s Day, let’s recommit to the principles of inclusivity, support, and empowerment. By “Counting Her In,” we not only celebrate the achievements of women but also pave the way for a more equitable and just future for all.

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