The energetic buzz of hundreds of women bubbled from a harbour-side room in Sydney, Australia, as they eagerly waited for the third annual Women in Leadership Summit 2018 to begin.

More than 300 attendees experienced the powerful two-day speaking event held by The Leadership Institute featuring engaging and inspiring stories from the likes of Leigh Sales, Michelle Bridges and Janine Allis – all with the aim of empowering women.

With iconic Darling Harbour’s glistening water as the backdrop to the keynote speakers, businesswomen and school students were given the opportunity to learn from the experiences of industry leaders.

Seated at large round tables topped with dainty soaps and free-flowing coffee at Cockle Bay Wharf, the audience was inspired by Australia’s leading women including Suncorp CEO Customer Marketplace Pip Marlow, Tigerair CEO Merren McArthur, PayPal Australia Managing Director Libby Roy, Workplace Gender Equality Agency Director Libby Lyons, and The Heat Group Founder and MD Gillian Franklin.

“There are fewer women in top Australian roles than men named David, John and Peter,” – Libby Roy, PayPal Australia Managing Director

Some stories of the journey to powerful positions were filled laughter while others left many nodding in agreement or with teary eyes and heavy hearts.

As a way to dilute male-dominant industries, women were given advice on how to land powerful executive roles and further their careers. Whether in media, health and fitness, aviation or business, the 17 impressive keynote speakers all agreed that men and women have to work together to create workplace diversity and effect change.

“There are fewer women in top Australian roles than men named David, John and Peter,” Roy says. “Girls start ahead of the curve but don’t flow through the funnel to senior leadership roles.”

The focus of The Leadership Institute’s impressive two-day event was not only on giving women the courage and self-empowerment to climb the corporate ladder to the C-Suite, but also to educate young women, and more importantly boys, that gender diversity makes a stronger, more successful business.

"Girls start ahead of the curve but don’t flow through the funnel to senior leadership roles," – Roy

The Leadership Institute Executive Director and Konnect Learning Director Dana Lightbody led the sessions, allowing for attendees to ask guest speakers questions. The age-old dilemma of how a woman juggles a demanding career and family was ripe on everyone’s lips.

While some women detest the question that is never asked of men, Leigh Sales says it was important to share the tips and tricks of being a successful mother while also leading a successful career.

“Women like to know; we just need to ask men the question more,” Sales says. “Men don’t get the question, or when they do they view it as engagement with their children, but all women know exactly what it means.”

In addition to the two-day event, an additional two days allowed delegates to network, engage in workshops, training courses and panel discussions aiming to motivate, and encourage personal development and career progression.

From Janine Allis living in the South of France with 400 francs to her name to opening her 602nd Boost Juice store, to Susan Mitchell becoming the first female CEO at Mortgage Choice, to Michelle Bridges teaching fitness classes at 14 and now running her own fitness empire, the message is clear – women are changing the world.

We spoke to two-time Walkley Award winning journalist Leigh Sales. Find out the secret behind her successful career.

5 takeaways from WILS 2018

  1. Educate young boys and men on the importance of gender equality in the workplace.
  2. Gender diversity is not about pitting men against women, but instead working together to find balance.
  3. To land an executive role, women need to voice their goals to managers and not be afraid of self-promotion.
  4. More women in leadership positions doesn’t mean women have to start acting like men, instead they should embrace self-empowerment.
  5. Learn from mistakes by embracing failures and sharing them with others – they’re a catalyst for learning.

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