Being authentic, not being afraid to put yourself forward for new opportunities and calling out sexist behaviour and stereotypical thinking were key themes at the inaugural Women Who Lead forum recently, where five talented leaders shared their experiences in the workplace.

Attended by more than 90 women from Ventia's Social Infrastructure business as well as subcontractor organisations, the audience initially heard from AFLW player for the Greater Western Sydney Giants and the only female coach in the code, Alicia Eva.

She shared with the group her story of playing in a male-dominated sport and her plans to grow the women's competition and nurture both males and females in the game.

Alicia then joined a panel facilitated by Ventia General Manager Community and Housing Angela Williams, which included Acting CEO NSW Land and Housing Corporation Deborah Brill, Virtus Health CEO Kate Munnings, Ventia Group Executive Digital Karen O'Driscoll, Star Property Maintenance General Manager Enas Toma.

The panel discussed their passion for leadership and how they have overcome obstacles to reach their career goals.


Pictured: AFLW player and coach, Alicia Eva


Breaking down barriers 

Alicia's presentation centred around her struggle to continue playing AFL as a woman at an elite level and breaking into coaching, as well as providing practical tips on how to be a successful leader in any industry.

Seeing diversity and difference as strengths rather than weaknesses, Alicia shared the difficult and rewarding aspects of being a leader when you're the only woman in the room, always having to prove yourself to people waiting for you to fail and burning a trail for other women to follow.

She also spoke about the importance of being authentic and staying true to your values, as "trying to be perfect can be exhausting", and how she developed resilience from the age of 12 when adults started saying she shouldn't be playing AFL and should switch to netball. 


Her practical tips for being a successful leader included:

  • Talk - "Stop being a leader all the time. Leaders need to talk to people, not just when things are hard but when you have successes."
  • Make time to switch off - Alicia plays the guitar each day for 30 minutes as part of her mindfulness technique.
  • Create an A-Team made up of family, friends, other leaders and people in your industry for mental and social support - "These are people who give you critical feedback to make you the best person you want to be. They also look at things through a different lens."
  • Every week is a new challenge - Have a game plan. You can't have all your eggs in the one basket, which is why Alicia has a Master of Psychology.
  • Create boundaries - Alicia doesn't read social media comments and makes sure she has down time.
  • Have perspective - Alicia said she was burnt out by 23. "Chasing progress can be exhausting." She took time out in Europe to assess what was important and what she wanted to achieve. 


Leading for change

Using these tools, Alicia is now leading change.

'I want to advocate for more women by doing my job and using my platform, and work with a leadership team that values difference and progress.'


Pictured (left to right): Virtus Health CEO Kate Munnings, Ventia Group Executive Digital Karen O'Driscoll, Acting CEO NSW Land and Housing Corporation Deborah Brill, Ventia General Manager Community and Housing Angela Williams, Star Property Maintenance General Manager Enas Toma and AFLW  player and coach Alicia Eva.


The leaders panel provided further wisdom on how women can be better leaders and generated enthusiastic discussion and participation among the group.

The panel agreed women shouldn't be afraid of having a go, with Kate saying she feared not trying rather than failure.

Take the risk, don't fear failure. Change your mindset from 'why' to 'why not?

Deborah agreed. "If you have a go and don't succeed, that's okay."

Alicia said there were positives in not always succeeding.

"Failure brings the best learnings, as we know what not to do again."

As a leader, Enas exhibits the behaviours she values with her team and others.

"Sometimes it's not just about being a leader, but showing kindness, love and respect. What you show you get back."

Karen reminded the group that it's okay to say no sometimes, as women often feel pressure to say yes to everything.

"Trying to do everything is impossible. You can't be good at everything."

Alicia reminded the group to use their teams to get the job done.

As a leader you don't have to do everything. Delegate.

Staying true to your values was also a key theme of the day.

"Look at what your values are and remind yourself what's important," Deborah said.

Influencing others was something many of the women were interested in learning how to do better, and Kate had some sage words of advice.

"Who influences the person you're trying to influence? At my organisation, using doctors to talk to doctors is much more effective than using someone in management.


Pictured (left to right): Ventia General Manager Community and Housing Angela Williams, AFLW  player and coach Alicia Eva, Star Property Maintenance General Manager Enas Toma, Acting CEO NSW Land and Housing Corporation Deborah Brill, Virtus Health CEO Kate Munnings and Ventia Group Executive Digital Karen O'Driscoll, .


"The Women Who Lead forum was held to compliment the award-winning HousingConnect mentoring program developed by Ventia's Commercial Manager Laura Jasiulec and sponsored by Angela Williams. 

"It was great to see many of the mentors and their mentorees in attendance, as well as key leaders from across the social infrastructure business and some of the valued subcontractors who support Ventia's focus on delivering service excellence to clients," Angela said.

Since 2021, the program has provided more than 50 mentor connections for women working on Ventia's NSW housing contract.