The launch of the Canberra Women in Business awards at Rubik3 in Braddon on Thursday 10 September brought together a room full of laughter, glamorous fashion and individual reflections, ambitions, and survival in a year like no other for Canberra business owners.
Rubik3 chief operating officer Nadia Pessarossi launched the awards by expressing her excitement to be the award’s major sponsor for the second time and urged the women in front of her to fight their instinct to be humble but rather put themselves and their achievements forward for consideration.
“Today is about reflecting on the year that’s been,” Ms Pessarossi said.
“From bushfires to COVID, working from home and teaching from home, we’ll look back at all the things we’ve done and think, ‘how did I manage that?’
“This year, we need to think about the women we want to nominate and make sure we look at ourselves.
“In the best of times women are very humble, but this year especially, we really need to look at where we’ve come from and how much we’ve achieved.”
Current businesswoman of the year, Christine Marr, CEO of payroll service Bookssorted, said her win had given her personal confidence and a platform to promote her charity of choice.
Ms Marr said in the year since her win, she had mentored other women through the start-up stage of their business and set up a “mastermind group”, which included businesswomen of all levels of experience and different backgrounds, who met to workshop issues and find solutions.
Ms Marr said the experience had been so positive she would encourage anyone to apply.
“It can be daunting at first, but as you complete the application, you actually reflect on your achievements,” she said.
“I didn’t realise I had done so much.”
Indigenous Businesswoman of the Year 2019, Laurie McDonald, director of Canberra Furnished Accommodation, said she hoped last year’s applicants in her category would reapply because they were “incredible”.
The Ngunnawal businesswoman joined Canberra Women in Business 17 years ago, when she had just started out in business and was “quite lonely” at home by herself.
“I found such a friendly bunch of supportive women,” Ms McDonald said.
“It just opened up a world of friendship and connection, which is something I really needed back then.”
Ms McDonald said after having won the CWB Businesswoman of the Year award 10 years ago, she had since given up on the awards, but when the Indigenous category was created, she really wanted it.
“It was really important to me to apply and go for it,” she said. “Being a Ngunnawal woman and my fondness for CWB itself.”
Last year’s mentor of the year award winner, Sheena Ireland, managing director of Specialists in Communications, said she was passionate about supporting women across a range of industries and working on the phones and as a mentor at Lifeline Canberra.
“We owe it to each other to support each other and not just pave the way for each other but put a hand down and lift each other up and do everything we can to make sure we get equity,” Ms Ireland said.
“I’m a very big believer in making sure we give back to people around us as much as we can.”
Canberra Women in Business president Maryanne Gore, Chief Executive of Project Lighting, and a member since 2006, said through the organisation she had met “lovely friends” and made wonderful connections. She encourages more women to become members.
“I’ve learnt things that has saved my business money from tips and things I picked up from other colleagues,” she said.
“These awards are a vehicle for publicity, which attracts members, which we love. But hopefully they come along because there is something to be gained from belonging to our organisation.
“There are networks, friendships, connections, services, products for businesses, and an on-tap database of people you can go to because of our wide variety of services.
“Usually we run a networking event each month, but because of COVID we can’t run any events, meaning our purchasing power isn’t going into the Canberra community and we’ve felt that really badly.
“But we’ve planned our gala for 5 November, so hopefully that will go ahead in a socially distanced way – but no dancing,” Ms Gore smiled.