A Powerful Network Provides Role Models for Others

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We learn a lot just by observing people who display the characteristics we seek. When we witness confident people interacting with others, we learn ways to increase our own confidence. Modelling how to act and their behaviour provides a template we can refer to as we develop our skills and build our networks to achieve our goals.

On this International Womens Day, and infact every year, I particularly think of the plight of women and what they are capable of achieving with the right support, drive and tenacity.

I would like to introduce you to my mother- Ellen Smith. She played many roles throughout her life: mother, mother-in-law, nana and great-nana. Like me she was a sister, a cousin, an aunt, a colleague and friend. While our career paths have similarities, her life story was different to mine, yet in many ways I can see myself in her. She developed a strong sense of confidence and, no doubt, I watched and learned from her.  

I am not sure who modelled confidence for her.  Sadly, her mother died when she was only twelve and she was shipped off to boarding school along with her sister who was two years her senior. Perhaps my mother’s confidence resulted from having to look after herself before she was fully grown or from following her elder sister’s lead and the teachers at her school.

In the 1970s it was uncommon for people to divorce. My parents did.

My mother had the courage to leave our family home and was acutely aware that she had become the sole provider for herself and me. Only now do I fully appreciate her drive, resilience and determination to be independent and build a new life. She had no other choice but to step up, take risks, leave her comfort zone and push well beyond her boundaries to create space for us to thrive.

She was the first women to sell Ford motor cars, and then Holden , I recall her lack of confidence when I encouraged her to apply for a position at the  Listener-In-TV guide, a popular Herald and Weekly Times newspaper . She was reluctant and questioned her ability to sell advertising. I was surprised. Rarely had I heard her doubt her ability. I reminded her that she had vast sales experience from her years of selling cars and caravans within the family business, so advertising should be easy. All she had to do was apply the same principles in a different setting with a different product.

My mother had the drive, confidence and capacity to start well, learn quickly and adapt. Unlike many women, even today, she learned to be comfortable in male-dominated environments .

She had a range of interests which focused on helping others  and volunteered some of her time as a telephone councillor with Lifeline. Her community spirit shone through when Mum inducted as one of the first three women to join the Rotary Club of Melbourne and it was a significant moment for her when the Rotary Club of Melbourne acknowledged her contribution to Rotary International by awarding her a Paul Harris Fellowship in 2009. Our family attended the event to celebrate her achievement - my sister, daughter, niece, and the men in our family - all watched on proudly.

Her drive and determination exemplified that women can achieve more than their current circumstances allow, but they need opportunity and confidence to push beyond their boundaries and discover how far they can go.

Yes, Mum was one of a kind. She valued her friendships,  supported many and showed us how much there is to gain personally when we  think beyond our own needs. She always encouraged us to give things a go and demonstrated it was possible to achieve beyond our own expectations. She demonstrated courage, embraced fear knowing that it would create change, and then, one step at a time, reached out and grasped the outcomes she hoped she could achieve.


 I would love to hear your story of women that have had an impact on your life..please comment below.


This is an extract from Kerryn’s soon  to be released book…. “Two Ears, One Mouth and A Big Heart- Conversations to Amplify and Inspire.”


Kerryn PowellComment