Michelle has a wonderful partner, Rhonda and 2 adult children Brendon and Kelsey. Michelle is passionate about advancing women worldwide, gender equality and inclusion and has recently taken the leap out of the corporate world to pursue her entrepreneurial dream, her passion for mentoring, guiding and advising about female leadership and the advancement journey
What has made you so passionate about female leadership and advancement?
I’ve been a feminist my whole life. I was brought up alongside my two sisters by parents who believed in equality, inclusion and education. They had a socialist, egalitarian outlook and those were attributes that clearly shaped me. I was outraged when I started to encounter outright bias or exclusion throughout my teens and early 20’s and then as my career progressed, I was bewildered that I had to start making trade-offs and concessions because of my gender. I wanted a career, I wanted to better myself and create opportunities for my children, but found barriers along the way that were simply because I was a woman. That is unacceptable, so I decided to stop lamenting the issues and do something about it.
I know that a gender equal world, with greater female participation rates in business, leadership, sport and politics will make the world a far better place.
How and why did you leave the corporate world?
You know, I physically left the corporate world late in 2016. But my drive and spirit to keep climbing the ladder to the C-Suite had left way before that because I knew the corporate world was not allowing me to fulfil my worldwide agenda.
How? I planned with Rhonda, my partner about how we were going to ensure that we were set financially so that I could establish and grow my business into an enduring, sustainable and successful practice. I had been financially wiped out in my late 30’s after a divorce, so I am very very conscious about financial security and ensuring that we are being smart about assets, debt and cash flow. So, the decision to give up an executive career and salary did not come lightly! In saying that, I live by the mantra of “nothing ventured, nothing gained” and I needed to finally scratch the entrepreneurial itch.
You are driven by a passion for helping and educating others, is this something you always had?
Hmmm, good question. I think it was probably always there, but I was busy (argh that word) carving out my place in the world so didn’t start giving back until later. Again, my upbringing shaped my view. Mum & Dad were very community minded and both gave enormous amounts of time, energy and commitment to volunteering and community service throughout my childhood. So, I have always volunteered and given time to causes. What has happened over the last 10-15 years is that my skills and abilities along with my brand have developed to the point that I can now effectively educate others along with advocating, agitating and activating for change on the issues that matter to me.
So what’s next?
Oh the ideas I have! One of my challenges as a futurist is to remain in the here and now. The world just has endless possibilities and I am impatient to get on with exploring them all. However, the priority for me is to have impact as soon as possible. The vehicles to do that are:
It sounds like you really know what you want to do? Has that always been the case?
God no! I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up other than I always had that nagging feeling that there was something I was meant to be doing.
It took getting to my 40’s, doing an MBA and some other life shaping experiences to teach me that I was OK to think big, stop being scared and to tap into my creative, innovative and entrepreneurial self.
My biggest challenge has always been me! I spent to many years worrying about what others thought, might think and frankly being a slave to imposter syndrome. That meant I said yes to a lot of things I shouldn’t have, wasted energy on low impact activities and played safe for longer than I should have.
However, life is about learning, so now I use that lesson to help educate other women about how empowering not giving a f*** is!
On a practical note, the challenges of having a portfolio approach to my work is to make sure I am being focussed, targeted and working on initiatives that are high impact. Where that has become easier is that I am very clear about my vision, my mission, my strategies and tactics. That makes it much easier to say no to things that don’t align.
Who was your biggest support?
Apart from my parents and two sisters, Helen & Nicole who have always been my supporters, my biggest supporter is my partner Rhonda. We are a formidable team with shared values based on respect, complimentary skills and abilities along with a massive ability to fall about laughing at each other. She is the enabler for my life and work which is amazing. Having been in a relationship that was not all that, makes me appreciate, and educate, the importance of a life partner who ‘gets it’ and is a part of the journey.
What advice would you give to other women facing major life events or choices?
Purpose and support. Understanding your purpose right there and right now is imperative. Having your tribe to support you, be an ear or shoulder and to bounce ideas off is a must. No woman is an island!
When the major life events have occurred for me I understood, even at the most visceral level, my “why.” That was important, particularly when my courage started to waver or the going got tough. I remember when I moved from Perth to Melbourne in 2000, I came over here without my kids initially (which by the way attracted a level of judgement which sucked) and had some tough issues to deal with in the workplace. I sat in my office one day, in tears, thinking WTF have I done?
Then I rang my Mum, had a chat and reminded myself of my “why” I was here. Got up, dusted myself off and got on with it. If I had turned tail and run back to Perth at the first hurdle, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing today and be as happy and fulfilled as I am.
What advice would you give your younger self?
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