Business Chicks 2018, Sydney | What I Learned


I’ve just landed back in New Zealand after a few days in Sydney where I had the absolute privilege of attending Business Chicks’ annual “9 To Thrive” event.

Business Chicks is Australia’s largest and most influential community for women, and their aim is to give women the tools, connections and experiences they need to achieve whatever the hell they want in business. They basically don’t want to live in a world where a woman would need to work an additional 70 days a year just to earn the same amount as her male counterpart (that’s a fact btw…).

The event was incredible. You walk into this huge hall and are immediately surrounded by only women. Women roughly between the ages of 20 and 40, a lot from the fashion community, PR girls, tech girls, mothers, mothers-to-be, CEOs, writers, publishers, uni students and recent graduates – women from all walks of life who, like me, fizz for this kind of stuff.

The speakers throughout the day were so generous with their stories, honesty and humility, and I left feeling completely inspired.

First up was the always polarising but fabulous Roxy Jacenko. Love her or loathe her, you can’t fault Roxy’s ability to get shit done. She started her company, Sweaty Betty PR, when she was 24 and had never been to university, and it is now the most successful PR company in Australia. She spoke a lot about work ethic, explaining that because she didn’t go to university she had no qualifications to fall back on, so her work ethic became her CV. She was brought up with parents who said to her “If you want, you work”. And that work ethic is evident in every single detail of the way she runs her business – she said you should reply to emails as quickly as possible, “If you email me at 10am and I don’t reply by 10.02am, someone else will. It’s stupid to hold-off on replying to someone out of fear of looking too eager – it’s GOOD to be eager! This is business for God’s sake!”. 

Roxy is – unsurprisingly – cut throat when it comes to her employees, and makes no apologies for her philosophy to “hire slow and fire fast”. She said, “Human Resources is the hardest part of running a business and I don’t want a waste of space working for me. When an employee leaves after 5 or so years, I want to actually see the impact that person had on my business; on our sales, what clients they brought in and the relationships they helped build.” Roxy’s infamous work ethic is something she expects from her employees as well, “I’m not going to reward you for fulfilling your job requirements – I’ve hired you to do them and I’m paying you! I will, however, reward you for going above and beyond your job requirements.” 

Another person I was inspired by this year was Aisling Finch, Director of Marketing for Google and YouTube Australia. Aisling shared that she has a “litmus test” of three things that a job position must have in order for her to stay, “Education, impact, and fun.” In any role she acquires she wants to be constantly feel challenged, she wants to see the impact her work is having on someone other than herself, and she wants to find joy. I liked that. Something else I found really inspiring about Google is that Aisling said they have something called “20% Time”. It’s a company policy that means every single staff member is encouraged to have a passion project that has nothing to do with their job that they are allowed to spend 20% of their company time working on. So it has nothing to do with Aisling’s role as the Director of Marketing, it’s just something that she’s passionate about whether that’s fashion, charity work, yoga teacher training or mentoring a young girl. And staff are told to do this on company time! How cool is that?

Speaking of mentors, Natasha Belling, lead journalist and presenter at Network 10 said it’s crucial that young women have them. “Millennials need to value older generations and build relationships with them because they have such an invaluable tool: wisdom. Young people aren’t wise – they haven’t lived long enough!”. Natasha also encouraged us to embrace our emotional side, “Often in business we are told to compartmentalise everything, to separate our personal and professional lives, but when you’re a woman that’s impossible. We are emotional beings.” She encouraged us to use our women’s intuition to our advantage, because it’s the one tool that men don’t have.

Okay, I could keep rambling but this article is already far longer than deemed appropriate for some Sunday night reading material. So have a restful evening, a big sleep, and I’ll see you all tomorrow!

Header image by The Twenties Club