Empowering women and communities

At Women in Focus, our purpose is to support women in business. One of the ways we do that is by sharing stories of women who are leading businesses and changing the business world for the better.

This issue we spoke to two women - Danica Leys, CEO of the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales (CWA), and Terri Janke, owner of Indigenous intellectual property legal firm, Terri Janke and Company, who have dedicated their careers to the empowerment of others.

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Terri Janke
Owner of Indigenous intellectual property legal firm, Terri Janke and Company

Terri started her business to empower Indigenous entrepreneurs and has become renowned for her holistic approach to business and as an advocate for Indigenous business owners. Terri guides businesses early on in their journey to prevent owners from encountering expensive mistakes. She’s driven by her desire for her clients’ endeavours to succeed. “I want businesses to start thinking about Intellectual Property (IP) and aspects of commercial law early, before a problem occurs… I teach my clients how to get smart and how to use their IP,” explains Terri. “We are with them at the start of the journey, we move with them through all of their journey and growth of the business. We can give them a support network or helpful introductions. We want our clients to succeed,” says Terri.

When the opportunity for the top job at Country Women’s Association of NSW arose, Danica saw it as the perfect marrying of her experiences and an opportunity to be an advocate on behalf of women in regional and rural NSW. “I think I spent all that time and energy in getting to the point where I am and I wanted to be able to use all of that to help others, and empower our members to go out and push for what it is that is important to them and to their community.”

Both women are passionate about providing communities and businesses with the tools to prosper, whether that be a forum for a woman on a farm in far-western NSW to discuss issues that are affecting her, or an artist commercialising her imagery needing support and advice. In 2010, Danica’s desire to stay in touch with rural Australia and regional issues saw her cofounding AgChatOz, a weekly Twitter conversation that provides a platform for people to explore issues facing people working in agriculture. “It was a combination of those issues; my desire to stay in touch with rural Australia after moving to Sydney and also seeing some of the issues discussed where there wasn’t really an organised or dedicated platform for anyone to talk about these things.”

Empowering people is something that is built into the DNA of Terri’s business and her team, she is an avid advocate of mentoring and the impact it can have on both mentor and mentee. “When I started to be a mentor I learnt so much, mentoring relationships can create space for those conversations about operating a business but they also provide someone who you can go to and discuss problems and ideas, it really helps. It’s so necessary and important.”

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Danica Leys, CEO of the Country Women’s Association of New South Wales (CWA)

Danica is focussed on the issues that are key for her members, and one of these is the issue of connectivity in the bush. In rural and regional areas, there is much that hinges off of connectivity, in particular the impacts it could have on health services and education. Health services and education are important to CWA members and have remained core issues for the organisation. “When you talk about health services, it was one of the main reasons CWA formed back in 1922, because of the concerns of women in the bush getting adequate health services, particularly for their children and babies.” Those concerns are still relevant today but with the emergence of health technology, there is an opportunity for services to contribute to solving key problems. “There is amazing technology, telehealth for instance, that can be put into place if we’ve got proper regional internet coverage. We don’t expect to have a neurosurgeon based in Wilcannia [far-western NSW], but there are ways and means to get that expertise in those remote areas digitally if there is also proper infrastructure around connectivity,” Danica explains.

Danica’s passion for providing a platform for people to discuss and overcome common issues is evident both in the creation of AgChatOz, and her role at CWA. “Empowering communities, empowering women in regional areas and in rural areas to initiate programs and processes, things that they think will benefit their community, that’s what I’m passionate about.”

Terri is inspired by her children and the next generation and channels that inspiration into her work. “I’m really inspired by my children to make the world a better place for them. It sounds clichéd but it’s just like the spark when I talk about my grandmothers, I switch it around and reframe it: my grandmothers had it bad so I’m going to do good [with my business]… I think what are my great, great grandchildren going to draw from me?”

To celebrate International Women's Day 2017, CommBank's Women in Focus are hosting events around Australia throughout the month of March, find out more and reserve your ticket. We’d love to see you there.
Congratulations Danica on your appointment to CEO of CWA, what exciting times ahead for you and the CWA. And Terri - I love your ethos around "I teach my clients how to get smart" - that's brilliant!

I am so happy every time a woman becomes a CEO. It shows we can do it, not only men. Great job!