Sydney-based philanthropist Caroline Sherman has a constantly whirling mind, and giving back is her focus: proof positive is her new endeavour, the launch of social enterprise brand Among Equals, as is raising three boys with the same passion and awareness.
What do you think has been the secret to your success?
Among Equals has grown organically based on my relationships with the women weavers in Papua New Guinea. I started with a plan of what I wanted but that was quickly abandoned as I started to really engage with the women’s age-old traditions. We take all of our cues from the community and the stories they want to tell. The business has flowed on from that.
Why do you think it’s important that women support and mentor other women?
I believe that mentors come in all different forms. At the moment, my mother-in-law Gene Sherman [the philanthropist, academic, chairman and executive director of the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation] has become an unofficial mentor. She has been a wonderful supporter of my business as well as a sounding board. My husband Emile [the Academy Award-winning producer of Lion and The King’s Speech] is my greatest ally and supporter and we spend many hours discussing my business.
Name the women who inspire you most?
Florence Jaukae Kamel, who is a Bilum fibre artist and head of a weaving community in PNG, for her determination and belief in empowering women. She is a stalwart believer in the power of women and girls in her country. She is the champion of her community with a huge capacity for empathy, and an incredible ambassador for Bilum.
What is your advice for young women at the beginning of their career?
The world is changing so quickly, don’t be guided by what has worked in the past. Figure out where your passions lie, find a niche, focus on it and aim high. Don’t be afraid to try something unexpected. PNG is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with violence against children and women. Every woman has a story to tell and I wanted to take their voice and amplify it internationally. I think it’s important to be open and to seek advice along the way. I’ve also learned so much just talking and listening to the inspiring leaders of other social enterprises.
What sentiment or life motto is your trademark?
Be present, show compassion, keep learning and find your voice.