This International Women’s Day, we’re celebrating a network of inspirational people—from women in leadership to those in agriculture, finance and design. Discover the stories that overcome industry, age and gender, and all the valuable lessons that get passed down the line.
SHARI & JACKIE
Shari is our designer for girls at Country Road. She grew up around the brand thanks to her grandmother Jackie, a finance clerk who worked with us for 15 years.
How did your journey begin with Country Road?
“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to start in this business when I was only 15 years old. Thanks to my grandmother, I got to complete my year 10 work experience in head office.
Two years later, I became a casual sales assistant. I continued my work during my studies and continued to help out the design team at head office. I then became a Design Assistant, and eventually got the position as Designer for girlswear.”
Who inspires you?
“The wonderful creatives around me as well as my family and friends. Nothing brings me more inspiration than being around ambitious and passionate people.”
What’s been your greatest professional achievement so far?
I’m a designer for a brand that has always been special to me! This is my greatest achievement professionally. Since I was a child all I ever wanted was to design clothes and now I get to do that every day.”
What do you think is one of the biggest challenges in the workforce today?
“Although I have grown up in this business, I’ve had to overcome a lack of self-belief. I really believe I have conquered this now. This is thanks to my grandmother and my wonderful friends, family and colleagues. There are so many inspiring women around me all the time and this truly makes me feel empowered and confident.”
What advice would you offer to someone starting out?
“If you love it, keep going and keep pushing yourself to be the best version of you creatively and personally. When I was temping, any opportunity I received, I would take it. This was not only to gain experience but also to build professional relationships within the industry. It’s also important to be confident in your abilities and what you are passionate about. As women in today’s society, it’s so important that we wake up every morning and believe in ourselves. The more we believe that it is our right to be equal the brighter our future will become.”
How has your grandmother, Jackie, influenced who you are today?
“As well as being a wonderful support to me my whole life I definitely owe my love of fashion to her. My grandma helped raise me and I remember her looking so incredibly chic every day. She still does! She taught me what style is and whenever I’m getting ready to go somewhere, I have her voice in my mind.”
Can you tell us about your journey so far?
“I started in accounts payable for stock suppliers at Country Road. I really enjoyed my time there, Country Road will forever hold a special place in my heart. I was able to work alongside so many wonderful people – not only in finance but all over the building. It truly was a family and I'm so proud I was able to work there and be a part of the brand's journey.”
What has been your biggest personal achievement?
“Being happy in what I’m doing, and watching Shari and her brother grow up. Shari and I have always had a close relationship. Seeing her achieve so much and watching her grow to become such an independent woman and an amazing person makes me so proud.”
What’s the biggest challenge facing people in the workforce today?
“I think believing in yourself can be a challenge. Even if someone is highly skilled, self-doubt can sometimes get in the way of success. You can have the qualifications, you can have the drive, but you need to push down those barriers and believe in yourself.”
Who inspires you?
“I come from a family of very strong women, who have always had a key role in providing for the family. This was instilled in me from a young age and this is something Shari has also grown up with: to work hard and achieve your goals.”
TAMARA & JODIE
Tamara is a third generation farmer and manager of her family’s cotton farm at Miles, Queensland. Her mentor, Jodie, is CEO of Nuffield Australia, a not-for-profit organisation awarding scholarships to Australian farmers.
Can you tell us about your journey so far?
“When I finished school, I became a nurse. I was privileged to work in a lot of different places and care for a lot of different people, with some amazing experiences. About six years ago, I took stock and thought, ‘What else do I want to do? Where do I want to go now?’ And I thought, ‘I really want to go home and pursue this interest that I’ve always had in agriculture.’”
Tell us about your family farm.
“We are at Miles, which is about four hours west of Brisbane, on the edge of the Darling Downs. My grandfather settled the farm and developed it after the Second World War, and our family have been there ever since… We grow cotton, cereals, wheat and some legumes like chickpeas and mungbeans.”
What traits in others inspire you?
“I'm inspired by doers, people who don't sit around, but look for innovation and solutions to improve the world around them. I'm also inspired by people who have new ideas and aren't afraid to chase them, whether that's my grandparents developing a new farming area, or my mum taking a leap of faith from the city to move out to the country.”
What advice would you offer to someone starting out?
“Follow your heart.”
Can you tell us about the work that Nuffield Australia do?
“Nuffield is a not-for-profit organisation that awards scholarships every year to primary producers—so farmers and fishers—to travel overseas, study a topic they're interested in, and then come back and write a report and present it to the industry.”
Can you tell us about your background?
“I’ve always been interested in agriculture and always lived in small country towns, or outside small country towns. You take it for granted, but you don't realize how much of your DNA is in farming and rural communities.”
Can you describe Tamara in a few words?
“All of our scholars are absolutely fantastic people. They're the type of people that you want to talk to. They're the type of people that can be your friends, and Tamara falls squarely into that category. We call farmers the salt of the earth for a reason.”
What insight would you give to someone beginning their career?
“I think curiosity is an underrated and undervalued skill. You hear the term 'lifelong learning' quite a bit, but I think that starts with curiosity in what's out there and what other people are doing. You can then translate this into yourself and what you do in your business…”
“The next thing is that every person you meet can potentially be an opportunity for you to learn something, or six degrees of separation. The whole world is connected.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“You are enough.”
ELLE & KAREN
Elle is the Managing Director of Country Road. Her mentor, Karen, is a constant source of inspiration, helping people find their passion and form better connections with the world around them.
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career so far?
“Learning the value of teamwork and financial independence, working at McDonalds through school. Learning the value of being passionate about what you do. I had many jobs before landing in the industry and when I did, I knew this would be my life.
Learning the value of empowering teams as I was very supported throughout my career and given opportunities beyond my immediate capabilities.
Throughout my department store experience I worked in menswear, childrenswear and Miss Shop, which spearheaded my career into youth fashion. I then became CEO of Sportsgirl, which gave me opportunities to work with the industry’s best.
Looking back, each role, each connection, each experience has led to my role at Country Road, and here I’m able to extend my desire for sustainable design.”
How did you meet Karen and why is that relationship so important to you?
“I've known Karen for about three years. She ran a leadership workshop for me in a previous role. When she spoke, her words resonated with me and I realized then I needed to explore my leadership journey with her.
Karen enables a safe space for reflection and growth. Karen listens, challenges and enables me to understand myself, my actions, my behaviours, my triggers. She's had such a positive impact on my whole life, that Karen now works with my leadership team and the retail team.”
What have you learned from Karen?
“Leadership is not a position or a title, it is action and example. Karen's in my corner always passing on wisdom and leadership concepts. Another saying she often says to me is to ‘own your space.’”
You have two young daughters of your own. What do you hope to pass down to them?
“There's a couple pearls of wisdom I give my daughters. First: it's not about how far you fall, because everyone falls, but it's about how you get back up that’s important. The second: may your words and actions be kind, and may your words and actions matter in life.”
This year’s International Women’s Day theme is ‘Each for Equal’. What does that mean to you?
“Each of us endure heartbreak. Each of us suffer setbacks and disappointments in life. Each of us have potential to embrace and believe in each other. Each of us have our own story that define our beliefs and actions. But deep, deep down inside, each of us are equal, no matter wealth, status or race. It's about time we all embrace and support that.”
What do you do every day?
“I help leaders build cultures of accountability, collaboration and alignment across their businesses. I'm a coach and a trainer, I also speak at conferences and events, and my whole premise is about having people connect and learn how to understand each other in new ways so that they can build greater results together.”
How did you get to where you are today?
“I was working in the corporate world for 10 years in financial services ticking the boxes of life and thought to myself, ‘Why do I still feel empty on the inside? Why is this not enough?’
I went on a journey of learning about life and what I wanted to do which took me in a few different directions… I started my coaching journey, I’ve been coaching for 20 years, and some of the work I’m most proud of was in the justice system with young people, facilitating conferences between victims and offenders. That was fascinating to me, and helped me understand that when people are willing to be responsible and connect through real conversations, that anything is possible.
That was the inspiration for me to think, ‘I want to take this work to a bigger audience, not just in the justice system.’ So that's what I did.”
How does Elle inspire you?
“Elle is someone I respect greatly for her substance as a woman and as a leader. By that I mean, even though she has a wealth of experience in her industry, proven success over time and revered for how she conducts herself, her desire to learn and grow is insatiable. She is always ready and willing to hunt down her blind spots and expand her knowledge and skills so that she can keep levelling up her impact and influence as a leader.”
What are some of the bigger challenges facing the workforce today?
“Many people are in a stressed state, working hard while hoping to find their passion. When we tolerate this for a while it can lead to frustration and even resentment, keeping us stuck in a survival cycle that sounds like ‘let’s just get to Friday’ or ‘I need a holiday’. With 86% disengagement at work in Australia, I find that many people are armouring up to get through the day but underneath are yearning for more.
A lot of people say, ‘When I find my passion, then I'll be passionate.’ but it’s the wrong way around. We need to relearn how to reignite our passion from within and when we do that our passion finds us.”
What’s one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out?
“A learning for me that changed everything on my journey, including my wellbeing and my results, is to care more about what you think about you and your heart, follow what lights you up and what inspires you, rather than trying to live up to other peoples’ expectations or what you think they expect of you. It takes courage and self-trust, but it’s where we find the sweet spot of life.”