Women represent less than one-fifth (17.1%) of CEOs in Australia and make up less than one-third (31.5%) of key management personnel, according to figures from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA).

With a strong appetite for women to take up leadership positions in Australian business and tech companies, we invited four leading female executives to share what International Women’s Day means to them and why organisations need to lead by example.

Gordana Redzovski, Vice President APAC, Vend

International Women’s Day is the perfect time to recognise the resilience and grit demonstrated by so many women in retail over the last year, Redzovski says.

“We spoke to thousands of retailers during Covid lockdowns, many of them women, whose perseverance and innovation have been a constant source of motivation for me personally and Vend as a company,” she told Retailbiz.

“I am passionate about supporting, uplifting and celebrating women in retail, at Vend and in the community, and I am proud to work for a company where the CEO, chief people officer and chief product officer are all women. What’s more, there is strong representation of women across leadership roles in all teams, particularly across typically male-dominated departments like sales and engineering. Despite the uncertainty and ever-changing post-Covid retail landscape, with such a strong female representation at Vend we believe we are in very safe hands.

“Every time I hear phrases such as ‘girl boss’, ‘first female CEO in the company’s history’ or ‘mumpreneur’, I realise just how much more needs to be done. Unfortunately, Global Gender Gap report 2020 indicates that it will still take almost 100 years to achieve gender parity. More needs to be done to ensure there are not only more women in leadership roles, sooner, but that women everywhere are given the respect and recognition they deserve. The retail industry should actively push to lead by example.”

Suzanne Mitchell, Senior Marketing Director, GoDaddy Australia

International Women’s Day is an important celebration of the inspiring contributions women make, both large and small, every day, was the view from Mitchell.

“While as a society we’ve come a long way, IWD also serves as a reminder that there’s a long way to go. Unfortunately, women still face challenges juggling all of life’s priorities – family, career, personal health and fulfillment. Today, I believe that women should feel empowered to pursue whatever makes them happy, whether that’s career, family or personal fulfilment. Especially so considering we’re often at our most inspiring when doing all three,” she told Retailbiz.

“A key value at GoDaddy is to live passionately. This is a powerful value that allows women, and men, to be the best they can be, and dedicate time to the things that are important to them. In my role, I’m fortunate to interact with talented female colleagues and inspirational female entrepreneurs. At GoDaddy, we’re proud to empower these entrepreneurs and we’re proud of the diverse and rich communities they represent.”

Simone Caroll, EGM Customer Experience & People, Catch.com.au

This year’s theme, #ChooseToChallenge is important for so many reasons, according to Caroll. It’s a day to celebrate and mark the achievements of women, to support other women, as well as inspire and get behind those who are trying to make the world a better place.

“During 2020, we listened to local and international voices telling us who we could see, where we go and what we could do, with most of those voices being male. What 2020 also showed us though, is despite the noise some extraordinary examples of driving positive change has primarily come from women,” she told Retailbiz.

“Women on the frontline, women in politics and women around the world working hard to keep our communities safe. The message that the world and aspiring female leaders need to hear is that while there are different styles and approaches to leadership, it’s still so easy to fall into our unconscious biases about what leadership is. That’s why it’s important to assert ourselves, value ourselves, and get behind those who #ChooseToChallenge.”

Michelle Price CEO of AustCyber (part of Stone & Chalk)

Price believes there has never been a better time to be a woman in cyber security – “it’s such a dynamic and exciting field”.

She told Retailbiz: “There is a leader in all of us and demonstrating the standards we want to see in our workplaces requires us to walk the talk, something I’m particularly passionate about doing at AustCyber. But diversity is not just about gender. We all have a responsibility to speak up and challenge workplace gender and diversity behaviours that are not up to standard. Accountability is needed for good workplace culture, and leaders need to empower staff to call out bad behaviour.”