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Mocking mediocrity

THE increasing prominence of women in all areas of business is a result of equal amounts of determination and resolve, skills and talent, not to mention the sweeping social change of recent decades.

While to some the so-called “glass ceiling” may be little more than a metaphor for the limits of success, for many in the current generation of businesswomen it is a barrier that must, and should, be shattered and left well behind.

Award programs such at the Telstra Business Women’s Awards, which shortly will be launched for 2002, have recognised the successes and valuable contributions many women make across a spectrum of industries in our economy.

Organisers of the Women in Business Conference and Exhibition, to be held from April 11-13, have a similar motivation. The conference and exhibition will provide professional development for owners of small businesses, according to event organiser Monica Newton.

“From our dealings with small business we saw there was a need for professional development. They don’t often get time away from their business and the fees are high and not flexible,” Ms Newman said.

While the conference was targeted at women because they made up a large percentage of small business owners, men were not excluded.

Ms Newton said the support for the conference had been strong and was particularly pleased with the efforts of the speakers, including American businesswoman Marilyn Wheeler.

“She is funding her own airfare to attend the conference. She was initially conducting the workshops Turning Conflict into Opportunity, but now also will speak about issues facing 40-plus women, which will detail career options,” she said.

Ms Newton will join other successful women, including Geraldine Doogue, Jenny Strachan and Shirley McKinnon to cover a variety of topics.

Recent WA Business News 40under40 winner and managing director of the CakeBox, Tanya Stolk, said that, in hindsight, these types of events would be something she would consider attending.

“I was self-taught and I learnt from my own mistakes,” she said.

“There are so many questions you have and you don’t know who to ask. Sometimes they are basic questions and you feel people will think you are stupid if you ask.

“Time management and the like you learn through life but finance, law, and those sorts of things are really important.”

Also a WA Business News 40under40 winner, Taxi Council chief executive officer Joanna Ammon said seeking information was important and developing networks was essential.

“It is important that women know how to access information. Places like business centres are good. What they need is networking,” Ms Ammon said.

Challenge Bank women in business WA State manager Michele Kilminster-Clement said her division was set up in WA to cater to the growing demand from women.

She agrees that women want networking and said the division hosted regular seminars and functions to facilitate business socialising.

Ms Kilminster-Clement said the decision to launch a WA division focusing on women was made two years ago.

“Our research showed more and more women were entering business and doing it well,’ she said.

“When we first set it up women were going into business three times more then men. It’s now dropped back to about two times the rate.

“We’ve found there is a higher concentration of women aged 50-plus. A lot of them have got to the perceived glass ceiling. More recently we are seeing the young entrepreneurs coming through.”

WA Business News 40under40 winner, Jones Lang LaSalle marketing manager Cathy Turner, said women now were more confident and willing to accept new challenges.

“Nowadays many women have realised that they do not have to be the best at everything, but excel in a career that they ‘want’ and will enjoy,” Ms Turner said.

“I feel that woman have ceased the fierce charge towards cracking the glass ceiling, but have branched out in other directions to achieve their own personal satisfaction and, in time and via other subtle means, the ceiling will shatter.”

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