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Women Working for the Future: an inspirational panel discussion

REMONDIS Australia // 8 March 2023


Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a global day of focus on gender equity, sponsored by the United Nations


We gathered a diverse group from REMONDIS branches across the country for a live panel discussion to reflect on their career journeys, and share stories of success and inspirational advice


A common theme was the need for confidence – taking on a challenge, and learning just how much more you’re capable of


Wednesday 8 March is International Women’s Day, a global day of focus on gender equity, sponsored by the United Nations.

Here at REMONDIS Australia, we marked IWD by gathering a diverse collection of women – plus one brave bloke – from REMONDIS branches across the country, for a live, online panel discussion to reflect on their career journeys, and share stories of success and inspirational advice

Our panellists were:

  • Gordana Trajcevski, Commercial & Finance Manager, Wollongong NSW
  • Danielle Olrich, State Sales Manager, Wingfield SA
  • Julie Smith, Operationa Manager, Canning Vale WA
  • Sarah Collins, Resource Recovery Manager, Swanbank QLD
  • Alex Hatherly, CTO, Mascot NSW

Alex is the minority in this line-up, but as a father of daughters and CTO we were confident he’d have a unique perspective to share.

Moderating the conversation was Olga Fadeeva, GM People & Safety.

Here's an edited transcript of what was an engaging, authentic and inspiring conversation.

Olga: Today is International Women's Day, a day for celebrating the social, economic, political and cultural achievements of women. It's a day for celebrating women's achievement and increasing visibility of women’s achievement, and so we thought we would do just that – celebrate this day by showcasing some amazing stories of success that we do have here at REMONDIS.

On the purpose of International Women’s Day

Danielle: My first thought about International Women's Day was, well, I shouldn't be acknowledged for my past ancestors‘ oppression. I mean, I don't feel like I was oppressed in any way. But the more I read about International Women's Day and understanding gender equality, it was really only such a short step back in time when women were unable to vote, or to work, and pay inequality was quite real. So for me IWD is about creating awareness and inspiring progress in the right direction. I'm all on board for that.

Alex: Equity is absolutely critical. If we look across the world, there are billions – with a B – of women that do not have access to very simple things that we take for granted in our lives. One of the themes for International Women's Day this year is ‘embrace equity‘, looking at the difference between equity and equality and recognising that equity focuses more on the outcome than the input. It means that it's not about giving everyone equal opportunity – that‘s a ticket to the game now – but it's also about giving everyone the opportunity that they need to reach an equitable outcome.

Also, it‘s about embracing the energy and creativity that are unique to women and really focusing on the benefits those things can bring into an organisation, and being proud of being different because that diversity makes a company much stronger.

On career turning points, and those moments when you realise you can do more

Danielle: Someone quite inspirational once told me that you don't need to be perfect and you don't need to tick all the boxes to try something new. Fear of failure holds us back, so be big, bold and courageous instead. That was a really scary thought because no one likes to make mistakes or failure. And then I thought, what if I only get one shot at this? What if I don't try and I miss the best opportunity of my life? So my advice really is to be brave and bold, because if you're not afraid, you're probably not learning or pushing yourself in the right direction.

Sarah: I think you don't really know what you're capable of until you're forced to do it. Early on in my career, I was quite comfortable in what I was doing, but I was forced to take on an urgent project that was very much outside of the scope of what I was doing. It was thrown at me as the the last person standing, essentially, and [in delivering that project successfully] I realised that it wasn't always necessary to 100% know what you were doing walking into it; that you could learn as you go and that you weren't necessarily going to fall flat on your face by doing it. Though sometimes you have to do that as well!

That was really something that struck a chord with me. I no longer feel the need to be comfortable in everything I'm doing. I just have confidence that I'll be able to muddle through and pretend for a little bit until I catch up.

Julie: Back in 2004, I was thrown into the deep end by a manager who who thought that I could do more. I didn't believe that, but it was definitely a ‘sink or swim‘ situation and I actually came out on top. There were some things that didn't work, but what it taught me was to make decisions as if the business was my own – and that's something that I carry with me now.

Gordana: Number one on the top of the list is education. That's played a big part, setting the ground work for the career I chose in accounting and finance, and a key factor in equality as well. 

Determination and sacrifice played a big part, too. When I was first out looking for a job, I had the study and the certification, but no experience, so it was hard to get across the line and get that first opportunity. I found that at TNT in Mascot... I had to catch two trains and a bus to get to work every day, but I was determined to be successful at that job and get the experience I needed to further my career.

Later, family support was key. I wouldn't have been able to do the commuting and extra study without support of family. As we all know, juggling work and kids is a tricky thing to navigate. [At the time] I had a really understanding General Manager who supported me, allowing me to drop down to three or four days... even though other managers said it was five days or nothing. I guess he saw the potential in me and gave me the oppportunity, and I just took it and ran with it. Having that bit of faith from my peers and my family really affirmed that I could do it, and I didn't have to compromise my family or my work. I got to have both. 

On role models

Gordana: It‘s not something that you reflect on every day. But I have to say, hands down, my parents were a major, major factor in my success. They migrated from the old Yugoslavia in the 50s and 60s and they, like most migrants, had nothing. They learned the language, they studied. My Dad worked in the mines, doing very long hours. My mum bought a business and she ran the business on her own. And she still provided for the family. So my parents were very, very good role models to my sister and me. They supported us 100%.

Sarah: The role models that affect me the most are the people I interact with day-to-day. They're not necessarily people who are setting out to be role models, but are people you see walking the talk, so to speak. They're very sincere. They're very capable at what they do, but it's more about the way they go about their life... I would like to believe that in the team here we're treating everybody as as as we would like to be treated ourselves. That‘s something we strive to do here and that I appreciate in others – somebody that's living their day-to-day life sincerely and thoughtfully.

Danielle: I really love listening to podcasts, and about seven years ago I came across this amazing woman and called Brené Brown. And she's an American professor, very well known for her TED Talks on shame and vulnerability, and how to be kind to yourself. I need to mention this because I can see a theme coming through this conversation about people being courageous. I didn't really understand the concept until I was introduced to her.

On inspiring women to achieve more

Julie: I think the biggest thing is just to get out of your comfort zone. That's really difficult for a lot of people because that's a nice place to be, but you do not grow if you stay in that position.

Alex: I've got I've got two little girls and they're both so different from each other in almost every single thing that I sometimes can't believe it. But the piece of advice my wife and I have given to them consistently is to grab every opportunity and to throw themselves into it fully and make it their own. For our younger daughter, that's probably backfiring a little bit at the moment because I think at last count, she has got nine separate extracurricular activities every week! I'm just so, so proud to be their dad, not because they're succeeding at everything, but because they are trying everything with all of their effort. They're throwing themselves into it and giving it a shot.

Olga: I‘d like to introduce another name to this audience – Reshma Sajani, who's the CEO of Girls who Code. Her advice to women is be brave, not perfect. She’s given an amazing TED Talk on that, and written a book about it.

Alex: As we've been talking, I just had a quick look around. I think we've probably got 100 people on this call at the moment, which is really inspiring in itself – that so many people are wanting to join this conversation.

I’m in the the privileged position of being able to influence the way that we design jobs and to some degree the way we search for applicants. We need to change the way we look for people [because] ultimately that helps us to find different people and bring different skill sets into the organisation, which helps both women and the organisation to succeed.

Danielle: Be kind to yourself. I think we all know that terrible voice in our head that is negative self talk and if we were projecting our own talk about ourselves on a megaphone, we might be institutionalized because we talk terribly to ourselves! Don't compare yourself to other people, just find your strengths and work with them, because you'll be far more successful if you are kind to yourself... We all are amazing, inspirational people in our own right.


That’s a great place to end.

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