NAB senior leaders take a closer look at Australia’s trade and export sector – providing all-important insights into how regional and agribusinesses can best respond to today’s challenges and opportunities.
NAB is proud to recognise the leadership and contribution women provide to their rural communities.
Raised on cotton and cattle properties respectively, lawyer Amanda Tolson and agri-entrepreneur Wendy Ferguson grew up believing women could do and be whatever they chose. Staying true to that ethos has helped them juggle business and family responsibilities, pursue their personal goals and overcome the gender bias that can persist in elements of Australia’s economy and society.
Amanda, Wendy and Melissa are passionate about encouraging other daughters of the land to do likewise as they make their own mark.
As a younger woman working in the male-dominated stud industry, Wendy encountered discrimination on a daily basis; it taught her a character-building lesson that’s still applicable today.
“Where I found my strength was, ‘Don’t react, but perform’,” she says.
Melissa adopted a similar attitude when, early in her career, a male client queried her ability to manage a large portfolio. “We ended up having a good working relationship… and in the end he said, ‘Thanks for being a fantastic banker’. But it was really challenging up front.”
With cost-of-living challenges continuing to bite, NAB research has shown women are experiencing increased stress around finances.
Staying on top of your personal affairs is critical, Amanda insists. “Whether you’re working or not, you need to maintain financial control and feel like you’ve got the right to.”
Wendy agrees this is advice for women to live by – that they need to be completely invested in their finances.
“We keep saying to our children… wherever you go, you need to be financially independent and you have to have control over finances in your relationships.”
Typically, women are perceived to take fewer risks than men but, in life and business, fortune often favours the brave.
“I’m really grateful I came from a family of entrepreneurs,” Amanda says. “I grew up watching my family pivot as they had to in business… Having that appetite for risk, that’s what gets you places.”
Whatever venture you’re pursuing, you should be prepared, mentally and financially, for a range of scenarios and outcomes, Wendy adds. “You have to do your research – it’s really important to understand the business you’re going into and get legal and financial advice from very reliable sources.”
Work-life balance can be difficult to achieve but, however crowded your schedule, carving out a few hours for yourself is critical, Amanda believes. “You’ve got the right to find something you like, allocate some time and not feel guilty about that.”
Giving yourself permission to relax is a sentiment Wendy agrees with. “It’s saying [to yourself], ‘Just go and have a couple of hours’. Spending that time with people who fill you with joy and you have a great laugh, it just recharges your battery. Don’t be a martyr and drive yourself into the ground.”
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