30/01/2008 - 22:00

Building networks

30/01/2008 - 22:00

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When Bronwyn Barnes met WA Business News, the stock market was in free fall and she seemed quite relieved to get away from the carnage that was taking place on the screens.

Building networks

When Bronwyn Barnes met WA Business News, the stock market was in free fall and she seemed quite relieved to get away from the carnage that was taking place on the screens.

In fact, the company Ms Barnes runs, Subiaco-based Graynic Metals Ltd, lost 26 per cent of its market value by the end of trading, only to regain almost all of it in the rally the next day.

It’s all part of life at the speculative end of the market, a sector Ms Barnes shares with a handful of women.

Of the few female CEOs in Western Australia’s listed sector, Ms Barnes’ career appears to have been one of the most mobile. It has zigzagged across sectors as widely dispersed as technology and mining, at big companies and small, and included roles alongside some of Perth’s most entrepreneurial characters, such as Peter Malone and Andrew Forrest.

She developed investor relations skills as Mr Malone’s assistant at Transcom International Ltd, before shifting to Mr Forrest’s Anaconda Nickel Ltd to run government and community relations.

Her last role before Graynic was as external affairs manager for BHP’s Nickel West. Along the way, she said she collected the managerial skills most needed for a CEO position.

Ms Barnes said little differs from what has to be done at executive committee level, except managing and raising money.

Even there, she says, the similarity to attaining and working with a budget is very close.

The Graynic chief’s background in external and public affairs does make her stand out in one area – that of access and networks, a cornerstone of these roles and something that’s often considered as lacking in women in management.

While several of the women executives WA Business News spoke to complained of inadequate networking opportunities, Ms Barnes has been involved in founding (with lobbyist and former parliamentarian Megan Anwyl) a semi-formal group which combined fun with serious business.

Lightheartedly called the Fifi Book Club, the group has about 30 members, with anywhere between half to two thirds of that number coming together regularly, generally over dinner and often with a guest speaker.

Books are most definitely a banned subject.

“That forum has been really valuable and really interesting,” Ms Barnes said.

“It was not really a support group but it did allow senior women to get together and talk candidly about their career and building relationships outside their own industry.”

The value of a female network is underscored by Ms Barnes’ experience in male-dominated business and how left out she often felt because her interests were different.

“I find it amusing that, in any meeting you go to, invariably you will be the only female in the room,” she said.

“I often wonder how any of those men would handle being the only man in the room.

“That is something you learn to handle. It can be hard to grasp, though, when the topic is football.

“Cricket is even worse.”

STANDING BY BUSINESS. TRUSTED BY BUSINESS.

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