Wonder Women: Leading innovation in Australia

There are some extremely talented women in Australia, who are standing up leading innovation, creative industries, investment and entrepreneurship. But they are often just not seen. 

A few weekends ago I attended a 54-hour Women’s Start Up Weekend here in Brisbane, which was organised and run by the team at River City Labs.

The reason behind the weekend was interesting. At their usual start up weekends, the River City Labs team noticed that there were often a large number of men heading along to their start up weekends, pitching ideas, swarming around to develop a concept, pivoting, designing, developing and marketing.

But there was a noticeable absence of women.

Which is interesting, and yet sad at the same time. There are extremely talented women in Australia, who are standing up leading innovation, creative industries, investment and entrepreneurship.

But we aren’t turning up to these events.

So a new event was created to specifically encourage women, who had ideas, or who wanted to be part of a wild, crazy ride of a weekend, to come along, innovate, network, meet fellow creative thinkers and be part of something extraordinary.

And it was extraordinary. But as I stood up on the Friday night ready to pitch my idea to a bunch of strangers, I was utterly, UTTERLY terrified.

It was only 60 seconds but it honestly felt like I was about to heft myself off a cliff with no parachute and no way of knowing whether it was jagged rocks or soft, pillowy marshmallows at the bottom.

What if they all hated my idea? What if they thought I was a crazy dreamer? What if my nerves got the better of me and I was a gnarly mess before the 60 seconds had even begun?


Of course this was simply my inner voice going nuts, so I found my courage and was the first to stand up and pitch.

As a result of this 60 seconds of bravery, a team of amazing individuals swarmed around the idea of a simple and sophisticated platform matching individuals in corporate organisations with non for profits that shared their values, and needed their skills.

It wasn’t until the insanity of such a concentrated weekend of awesome died down after the final pitches on Sunday night that I wondered about all the other amazing and creative women in Brisbane who weren’t there.

What is preventing them from doing a Sheryl Sandberg, and leaning in and participating in developing something, which could potentially change the world?

Many organisations are now putting in place policies, mandates and programs to encourage, and ensure that women are getting a seat at the executive table. Many boards now have mandate to have a specific percentage of the board positions occupied by women.

More importantly there is now the UN Global Sustainable Goals which aim to improve gender equality globally.

So if we’re on the right track at the executive level, how do we encourage this same level of diversity and equality in innovation?

Well, it starts with support and capability development mechanisms put in place to encourage women to; stand up and be heard when they have ideas, to participate in innovation and creative start up events, to share their stories, and embrace the fear of failure to be involved regardless of the outcome.

It also starts with organisations putting policies, processes and allowances in place to ensure they are continually tapping into this silent but abundant well of ideas, creativity and enthusiasm to support their transformational efforts.

But ultimately, the drive to have more women standing up, leaning in and leading innovation starts here. It starts with us and it starts now.



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