Meet the judges of The Australian Women’s Weekly AGL 2018 Women of the Future Awards

The Australian Women’s Weekly AGL Women of the Future Awards celebrate inspiring young women who are making a difference. As we begin our search for this year’s winners, our 2018 judges offer insight and encouragement.

The judges of the 2018 The Australian Women's Weekly AGL Women of the Future Awards

Lisa Wilkinson, TV presenter and journalist

Lisa Wilkinson believes that “there has never been a better time to be a woman than right now”.

She is reflecting on #Time’sUp, #MeToo, and her own public stand for equal pay, which heralded a move to Network Ten’s The Project.

“In the last 12 months, we’ve learnt just how powerful we can be when we come together for a common good,” she says.

A longtime Women of the Future Awards judge, Lisa is thrilled to be back.

“There’s a beautiful humility and gratitude and honesty to Australian women,” she says. “We must remember to embrace those qualities, embrace each other, and reject the sometimes inbuilt self-criticism and criticism of others. We become the best version of ourselves when we forgive ourselves and others.”

Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs & Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party

It’s five years since she became Australia’s first female Foreign Minister and almost 20 since she made her first speech in Parliament, and today Julie Bishop is probably the most powerful woman in Australia.

Raised on a cherry farm in South Australia, Julie says the qualities that have got her where she is today are “resilience, determination and a belief in what I can achieve if I set my mind to it” – which she learned from her mum, Isabel.

She’s faced moments of self-doubt constantly and at these times says you have to, “trust your own judgement and don’t let others define you. Only you know what you can do … I have met many young women here and overseas who have been extraordinary in their ability to overcome challenges and make the most of opportunities. It’s inspiring to see what empowered young women can do, and that’s what these awards are all about.”

Ita Buttrose, Journalist, author and TV presenter

Ita Buttrose is one of Australia’s highest profile women, and a powerhouse of Australian media.

A Women of the Future judge two years running, Ita says it’s not easy choosing between such outstanding candidates.

“In Australia we’re breeding young women with a great entrepreneurial spirit, prepared to work hard to make their visions come true,” Ita says.

She advises young women to believe in themselves.

“If you don’t believe in yourself no one else will,” says this game-changer in the publishing industry. “And do the things you have your heart set on.”

We asked Ita, if she could erect a statue to one outstanding Australian woman, who would it be? She suggested that the 21st century might be “the women’s century” and that she would like to see a sculpture that captured the diverse spirits and cultures of all the women in Australia.

Lisa Harrington, Executive General Manager, Stakeholder Relations, AGL Energy

Lisa Harrington’s mother escaped from communist Yugoslavia when she was just two years old and, says Lisa, “I grew up being very aware of the sacrifices that had been made for me. I wanted to work hard and make those sacrifices worthwhile. My grandma used to read our school reports and cry.”

So, hard work is one of the secrets to Lisa’s success in business. Another is an ability to overcome self-doubt by thinking of others.

“I try to remain focused on what other people need, rather than worrying about whether I measure up. If I start to doubt myself, I take my cues from my team.”

Communication and sharing stories are also important to Lisa, which is one of the reasons she was delighted to join The Weekly’s team of judges.

“It’s so important, at the moment, that we share our experiences, good and bad, so we can learn from each other and bring along the next generation.”

Tanya Plibersek, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Shadow Minister for Women and for Education & Training

One of the many hats Tanya Plibersek wears is Shadow Minister for Women, which gives her the opportunity to meet extraordinary young women. And judging the Women of the Future Awards will allow her to meet even more.

“This whole generation fills me with optimism,” she says.

Tanya is inspired by previous generations, too, and says that if she could erect a statue of one woman it would be Margaret Whitlam, “partly because she herself was a fantastic human being but also because she was symbolic of a generation of women” whose talents weren’t always recognised.

“There is no question that Margaret could have been Prime Minister,” Tanya insists. “She was a de facto member of parliament. She did as much work as Gough in the electorate and she raised four kids almost single-handed. Why is there no statue?”

Nicole Byers, Editor-in-chief, The Australian Women’s Weekly

The Weekly’s Editor-in-Chief, Nicole Byers, has had a long and successful career in magazine publishing. Nevertheless, she knows nobody is immune to the creeping doubt that comes with stepping up to pursue your dream.

“I think I allowed myself about 20 minutes of unadulterated joy when I was first offered my dream job as Editor-in-Chief at The Weekly before my nagging inner critic crashed the party,” she says.

“It was actually reading last year’s Women of the Future judges’ interviews that helped me overcome the wobbles. Learning that someone like Lisa Wilkinson, whose work and career I have long admired, had also struggled with so-called Imposters Syndrome went a long way to allaying my fears and allowing me to acknowledge and celebrate my success. Something I would encourage all women to do more of.”

Whenever she needs a fortifying dose of courage, Nicole thinks of something her father told her when she was young: “Fear is the greatest enemy of success.”

Ronni Khan, CEO and founder, OzHarvest

Ronni Kahn founded food rescue organisation OzHarvest in 2004. Her passion and courage enabled her to create a not-for-profit that saves surplus food from going to waste and distributes it to charities.

Ronni says her natural optimism has helped to achieve her goal.

“If you think something’s possible, you don’t actually question that it’s possible, you question how you’re going to get there.” She wants to inspire young women to dig deep and find their inner strength. “When you’re in alignment with your values, there’s nothing to doubt … listen to that voice and trust in that voice. It is what will guide you.”

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