Strength, inspiration and humility.

marnie mckewState and Territory finals for the 2013 Telstra Business Women’s Awards are currently underway culminating in a glittering celebration dinner on the night of Thursday 14 November. Marnie McKew, General Manager for the Awards, shares some insights about the importance of the Awards for women currently in business and for future business women.

“I am honoured to manage a program that celebrates incredible women. Launched in 1995, the Telstra Business Women’s Awards were established in the belief that gender equality in business can be encouraged by the public recognition of women. Since then, the Awards process has helped to shine a spotlight on women who, through their courage and conviction, have become inspirational leaders in their field.

The Awards reflect trends in Australian business and over the years, some things have changed. The first advertisement for the Awards had an image of a woman in a business suit with a cape on her back, flying through a corporate building and breaking a glass ceiling. This depicted how many women felt about their role within the business world at that time. This no longer applies. The Award process has moved from a space of clearing the way for younger women to become a conversation about inclusion. We’ve seen a strengthening of nominations in the business owner category, which reflects the increase in the number of women starting their own businesses.

The important aspects haven’t changed: the exceptional qualities of the women chosen as finalists and winners; the inspirational and emotion-charged events; the acclaim given to the winners, and the way in which they become role models to other women in business. There is humility amongst the women who are nominated. They are hesitant about promoting themselves and their achievements. Nominees often comment that someone else asked them to step forward. It’s not until they stop to write their submission and reflect on their achievements that they realise they’ve done so much.

The change in the way women see themselves in the business arena over the past 20 years is most evident amongst the young women who are entering the Awards. They’re more confident about being themselves and know they don’t have to perform in a particular way. At one time it was considered that if a woman was achieving a lot, she did this by acting more like a man. Now there’s greater emphasis on being themselves. We see this during the interviews and presentations for the Young Business Woman Award category. They demonstrate a level of personal strength, an extraordinary confidence and are comfortable in front of their peers.

Last year, the Awards underwent a big review. We knew the program was awesome and the presentation evenings were filled with moments of total inspiration. We asked ‘How do we bottle these emotions and stories and share them with the rest of the Australia?’ Telstra brought together 50 past winners along with past and present judges, young graduates from Telstra and staff who were currently involved in the Awards program.

They concluded the Awards were more a celebration of extraordinary people, who just happen to be women. They recognised that broadening the process to incorporate telling the stories of the women involved was gold. Others could see and be inspired by what people achieved regardless of fear or other circumstances. The Alumni of past winners will continue to stay connected. They will be active in inspiring the next generation – going to schools and mentoring young students, encouraging them to follow something they’re passionate about.

At Telstra, we’re confident the Awards will continue to celebrate the lives of extraordinary women. We encourage women to consider nominating themselves or women they believe deserve recognition. ”

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