#BalanceForBetter: Conversations with Leading Women

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March, our Residential Mentors have sourced some profiles and had a chat with 5 inspiring women in leadership roles with connections to the University Of Newcastle.


Leah Armstrong

Director, Wollotuka Institute

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Leah Armstrong is a Torres Strait Islander with over 20 years’ experience in working with Aboriginal communities to create economic independence. Former CEO of Reconciliation Australia (2010-2014), Leah has a strong track record in achieving results through community capacity building, business creation and has strong networks and relationships working closely with governments and the private sector.

Previous board positions include Prime Ministers Indigenous Advisory Council – Chairperson, Aboriginal Housing NSW and Chairperson – Indigenous Business Policy Advisory Group and Fellow of University of Sydney.

In 2009, Leah was recognised by the AFR BOSS magazine as a True Leader and 2012 a finalist in the AFR and Westpac 100 Influential Women.

Information taken from Leah’s profile on www.cew.org.au

Do you have any advice for women that are struggling with self-confidence and motivation to succeed? 

Identify what you are passionate about, find others who share your passion and work together to achieve goals.

Do you believe the workforce is changing to allow for more women to hold executive positions? 

Yes, but slowly.  I believe more needs to be done to achieve cultural diversity in executive positions.  Affirmative action needs to be in place to increase diversity.

What is some advice you wish you had earlier in life that you know now? 

Find your voice and speak up. Although I never felt like I did not have a say, I have been reluctant to voice my opinion. Culturally I was taught to listen and think before speaking which has been a strength but then I would find it difficult to know when to speak up.

Persistence and perseverance are essential to achieving positive change and being able to maintain a positive outlook through the ups and downs is critical.

What traits do you believe make a great female leader? 

Humility and kindness.  The leaders I admire most are not afraid to demonstrate these personal, softer skills. They also open up pathways for younger women to step up and gain leadership experience.

What advice do you have for young women entering a male-dominated profession? 

I am the only girl and I learnt a lot from my brothers but I do strongly believe that women bring different perspectives and emotional qualities and so you do not need to take on male characteristics to get ahead.

Do you have anything else you would like to say? 

Never give up. Persistence and perseverance are essential to achieving positive change and being able to maintain a positive outlook through the ups and downs is critical.


Jo Kenny

President, Barahineban Residents Association

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Jo Kenny is a fourth year Civil Engineering/Surveying student from New South Wales Central West. Jo has been involved with on-campus living from the very beginning and has held multiple roles in her community, from First Year Representative on Barahineban’s Residents Association, to a Residential Mentor and finally taking on the role of Association President in 2019. Jo enjoys Keeping up with the Kardashians and plugging her social media (follow her on Instagram @oijokennyofficial).

Who’s the most powerful woman you know, and why?

The most powerful woman to me would have to be my mum. She is an amazing and hard working person and always pushes me to be a better version of myself. She is selfless, kind and everything I one day hope to be. She always saw so much more potential in myself and my siblings than we could ever think ourselves and she encourages me to pursue whatever I want to achieve. At the same time, my mum also taught me to acknowledge when I’ve messed up and apologise for my wrong doings which I believe is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned. She has shaped me into the person I am today, something I am so thankful for.

What is some advice you wish you had earlier in life that you know now?

I wish that I learned that you shouldn’t always care what anyone thinks earlier because I probably would have found new hobbies, met more amazing people and just had more fun, but I guess growing up you’re always going to have those thoughts about caring how others perceive you and what others will think of your actions.  You find amazing people in your life who take you for who you are, these include your family and friends and as Theodor Geisel (Doctor Seuss) once said “those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind,” which for me sums up the idea that people are going to like you for you, and if they don’t, you shouldn’t care.

My mum also taught me to acknowledge when I’ve messed up and apologise for my wrong doings which I believe is one of the most important lessons I have ever learned.

What advice do you have for young women entering a male-dominated profession?

Get in there! It isn’t as scary as you would think. I’m just about to start my fourth year of engineering and the men in these courses and the workforce aren’t as scary as we can sometimes be led to believe. At the end of the day, we’re all there to do a job and you just need to show that you can do it, regardless of your gender!


Dr. Eileen Doyle

Professor, Graduate School of Business

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Dr. Eileen Doyle has had an exceptional career in large corporations that has spanned more than three decades. She has a PhD in Mathematics and Statistics and started her career in a technical role in industry, but quickly moved to management. In 1993 she was Australia’s first Fulbright Scholar in Business Management. Eileen had an executive career in the steel and building materials industries and she is now a professional company director.

She has also had a long history of being a business angel and working with inventors and small businesses to introduce and grow their products. She is a conjoint professor in the Graduate School of Business at the University of Newcastle, Australia. From her varied experience and coaching of smaller businesses and business students, she has written a book called Back to Business Basics (Six Useful Toolkits for Small to Medium Enterprises).

Information taken from Eileen’s profile on www.cew.org.au

Do you have any advice for women that are struggling with self-confidence and motivation to succeed?

Believe in yourself. Celebrate each success however small and learn from the things that did not succeed.

Do you believe the workforce is changing to allow for more women to hold executive positions?

Yes I do. But it is an evolution not a revolution. There is a genuine understanding now of the value of diversity in a group.

What is some advice you wish you had earlier in life, that you know now?

Confront conflict early, always believe in yourself and match strategy with attention to detail.

What traits do you believe make a great female leader?

Resilience, clarity, respect for the team.

What advice do you have for young women entering a male-dominated profession?

It is much easier than it used to be, do your job well, act like and expect equality and learn from mentors who encourage diversity.

It is an evolution not a revolution.

Do you have anything else you would like to say?

  • Your future is in your hands,
  • Know your strength and weaknesses
  • If you are not a good fit where you are, go where you will be a good fit.

Emma Pooley

President, South Tower Residents Association

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Emma is the President of the South Tower Residents Association for 2019 and an active member of the Student Living community. The support of her peers and her diligent nature saw her thrive in her previous role as Secretary on the South Tower Association in 2018.

Studying a Bachelor of Social Work, Emma has used the skills she has learnt so far to succeed as a confident leader and support the community at South. Emma is a positive leader who encourages equality and inspires her peers to be confident in their abilities and represent the community with pride.

Who’s the most powerful woman you know, and why? Why are they the most powerful person you know?

Not to sound cliché, but it would definitely be my mum. She raised me to be confident and proud of my abilities as a woman. Mothers have so much power over how they raise their children and I am so lucky to be able to attribute any of my successes to the strengths she taught me.

What traits do you believe a great female leader has?

People skills are so important. A positive leader should always encourage and support their peers and not bring them down. This spirit will hopefully promote the abilities of others to become strong leaders as well.

Do you believe you would be the same person you are today if you didn’t go to college?

I definitely think the people and community spirit on South Tower allowed me to become confident in leadership roles. I always felt supported by my peers in my role as Secretary last year which gave me the confidence to run for President for this year. This self-assurance has carried on into other areas of my life and encouraged me to welcome challenging opportunities.

A positive leader should always encourage and support their peers and not bring them down.

Do you have any advice for women that are struggling with self-confidence and motivation to succeed?

Surround yourself with people who support you and your talents. See your own individual strengths and utilise them to succeed.

What is some advice you wish you had earlier in life that you know now?

Have confidence and faith in your decisions. Think hard about the choices you make and don’t doubt yourself, you got to where you are now from those decisions.


Denise Goldsworthy

Chief Commercial Officer, Autonomous Haul Trucks

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Denise Goldsworthy was appointed as Chief Commercial Officer – Autonomous Haul Trucks in September 2012. In this role, she is responsible for leading the negotiation of a multi-billion-dollar long term commercial arrangement between Rio Tinto and Komatsu for the supply of Autonomous Haul Truck systems globally. This is a key part of Rio Tinto’s Mine of the Future™ strategy.

Denise has held a number of senior positions within Rio Tinto’s Minerals and Iron Ore product groups, including marketing, strategic planning, expansion projects, operations, resource evaluation and development, and feasibility studies management.

Prior to her career with Rio Tinto, Denise spent 17 years with BHP Steel working in a number of areas including sinter plant, blast furnace and steelmaking at the Newcastle Steelworks. Denise holds a Metallurgy degree (BMet Hons and University Medal) from the University of Newcastle in New South Wales. Denise’s other honours is being named the 2010 Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year. Denise was also awarded the Hudson Australian Private and Corporate Sector Award.

Information taken from Denise’s profile on www.cew.org.au

Do you have any advice for women that are struggling with self-confidence and motivation to succeed?

Everybody goes through a period where they are lacking in self-confidence and motivation, so firstly don’t feel like this is a bad thing.  The key is to look at your current situation and understand what is driving it.  Maybe you are in the wrong job or with the wrong company, or you might be chasing someone else’s goals for you and not your own.  It may also be that you are just tired and burnt out and in need of a holiday or some “me time”.  If you don’t have enough “me time” in your calendar, even the best job with the best company sometimes becomes hard work.

Do you believe the workforce is changing to allow for more women to hold executive positions?

This is still patchy.  There are a number of great individuals and great companies who are making huge efforts to ensure diversity and inclusion allows everyone the chance to hold executive positions.  The hardest companies to change are the ones that expect loyalty to the company over everything else. Women are more likely to not make that choice than men. However, I regularly hear men say that this is a broader agenda that needs to be challenged, as they also want to have a balanced lifestyle, and they feel it isn’t OK as a man to expect one.

What is some advice you wish you had earlier in life that you know now?

Take the time to know yourself, believe in yourself and continually commit to being the best person you can be. Don’t strive to be a standard cookie-cutter individual. Enjoy being who you are, and if you respect yourself it is easier to respect others and gain the respect of others.

What traits do you believe make a great female leader?

The ability to ask questions and look for a balance around the content of the problem and the system and cultural challenges of implementing solutions. Most problems in the modern world are very complex, so expect the solutions to also be complex, and then plan for success around that.

What advice do you have for young women entering a male-dominated profession?

Men are humans too. Treat them that way and most of them will treat you that way too.

Take the time to know yourself, believe in yourself and continually commit to being the best person you can be. Don’t strive to be a standard cookie-cutter individual.

Do you have anything else you would like to say? 

Respect and embrace diversity in all forms – gender, race, age, knowledge, experience.  And learn how to ask a good question, which then needs to be listened to.

Find out more about International Women’s Day and #BalanceForBetter here.

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