Last September, a young Australian woman’s tech start-up hit a valuation of US$40 billion, which is to say, a company dreamt up in Perth was now worth double the GDP of Iceland.
Canva co-founder Melanie Perkins, 35, was only 20 when she started her company’s pre-cursor in her mother’s loungeroom.
In the spring of 2021, she became one of the richest women in Australia.
What made the milestone truly remarkable was Melanie then announced that she would give almost all her equity to charitable causes, saying, “We try to do the most good we can do through many different avenues.”
Melanie cemented herself as a leader for the future. She was driven to succeed and committed to making a meaningful contribution to the world.
In this way, she is emblematic of The Australian Women’s Weekly Women of the Future.
Now in its 9th year, the competition has a proud tradition of lifting up bright young women who see a problem, grit their teeth, and throw themselves into developing a solution.
Conservationist Camille Goldstone-Henry became the 2021 winner with her vision for saving Australia’s native wildlife.
The urgent issue is deeply personal to her. A Kamilaroi woman, conservationist and veterinary bio-scientist, Camille found herself despairing as she worked on conservation projects that were woefully under-resourced.
She was struck by how low-tech conservation was, so she decided to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that would make it easier to save our native species.
In April, Camille’s enterprise, Xylo Systems, completed its technical build and she started working with Taronga Zoo to test the program on a mission to save a critically-endangered snail.
“We landed on that species because it has a shorter life cycle so we can test using the technology and see if it has an impact for this program a lot quicker than if we tried it with a koala,” Camille says.
Camille laughs as she explains she’s more passionate about mammals than snails, but the point of her tech is that it can be used to improve the lives of all animals.
She has been working non-stop since winning Women of the Future last year, and says the prize gave her an incredible boost.
“In February I left my job so I could go full-time on the start-up, which was a credit to the award. It really gave me the confidence to step full-time into Xylo Systems.”
Winners from years past often talk about how much they value the connections they make through the competition.
As Melanie has said, “A truly crazy big goal cannot be achieved on your own; you need the talents, skills and passions from many people who all have different skills and strengths.”
That’s why the theme of this year’s Women of the Future competition is mentorships, collaboration and allyship.
In particular, this year the event will be supported by male champions of change.
While the competition will still be squarely focused on young women, we want to encourage men to become part of lifting them up. Like Taronga’s Director of Welfare, Conservation and Science Nick Boyle, who is an important supporter of Camille’s as she fights extinction.
Other finalists, JAM the label creators Molly Rogers and Emma Clegg, have collaborated with Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott to create merchandise for his podcast, ListenAble.
Their accessible clothing line is designed for people with disabilities, and since being 2021 Women of the Future finalists they have been awarded a government grant to hire a fashion designer with a disability.
In May they lit up the catwalk at Australian Fashion Week in the first adaptive runway show ever.
“The energy was spectacular,” gushed model Akii Ngo, who appeared on the runway in a wheelchair and a deep green two-piece. Akii told The Weekly that, as someone who is chronically ill, disabled and neurodivergent, “the world was not designed or built for me. Yet this is now finally changing and my presence as one of the incredible models for the show is living proof of that. In the show’s finale, the crowd was cheering, high-fiving and providing a standing ovation. The energy was phenomenal!”
Photos of activist and model Chloé Hayden in a JAM trench coat with the slogan, “Fix the system, not me”, went viral, showing what the determination and vision of Australian women can achieve.
Writer and disability advocate Hannah Diviney has also had a thrilling year after being named a finalist.
She landed a literary agent, is writing a book, and has made many television appearances.
“I left the [Women of the Future] event feeling like I’d won,” she says, “To have the opportunity to speak in front of that audience and pitch myself and the ideas that I have and the things that I value…Since then, more people in powerful positions of influence are taking notice of me. The things that have come out of that speech, and the Women of the Future Awards, have been massive.”
We’re searching for women aged 18-34 working to achieve success in their chosen field and make the world better. This is a chance to highlight your work and win a prize pool worth more than $100,000.
Six finalists will be flown to Sydney to attend the Women of the Future event held later in the year, and the overall winner will receive:
A $40,000 investment in a 12 Month Term Account with La Trobe Financial.
A full-page advertisement in The Australian Women’s Weekly to promote their cause.
A mentoring session with an ambassador or judge from this year’s panel.
Additional exposure and support for their cause in Marie Claire.
To enter, tell us in 250 words or less about yourself and how you would use the prize to achieve your dreams and benefit others by heading to the following link.
Full terms and conditions are available at https://www.aremedia.com.au/competitions/
You can read this story and many others in the July issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly – on sale now