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On Tuesday 8 November, 2016, former Chief Commissioner of the Victorian Police Christine Nixon APM spoke to girls from Wenona’s Gender Equity Group about her journey to the top of the male-dominated field and the lessons she learned in her 40 years in the police and public sector.
She met with the girls in a special meeting organised by Mrs Andrea Stringer ahead of Wenona’s Renaissance Women’s Leadership Networking (RWLN) event. RWLN is a group established in 2013 to connect women leaders in education, from across all school sectors and types. Salbi of Year 11, Katerina of Year 10, Mya of Year 7 and Rose of Year 10 later shared their reflections on the discussion they had with Ms Nixon.
“One of the things she kept saying was ‘always give it a shot’ and ‘if you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain’ – I think that was one of the most striking messages.
“She talked to us about the importance of leadership and how it's important to start from a young age,” Katerina said. It’s a message that is not only important for girls in Gender Equity Group, but across Wenona, Salbi said. “You have to start taking the steps from a young age so when you get there, you do so successfully, and people respect you.”
Salbi was thrilled to hear a first-person perspective from someone who had risen to the top of her field. “Having her recount what happened and what she had to do to get to that point puts [leadership] into perspective in terms of what it really is, how hard the struggles are, and how strong you have to be to get there,” she said.
Rose agreed that hearing from Christine brought the reality of being a female in leadership closer to home. “It’s easy to look at women in power or who have a public voice like Emma Watson or Malala Yousafzai – and they are amazing to look up to – but it’s different hearing from someone who is kind of from the same background. It’s really encouraging, and more realistic.”
Mya reflected on Christine’s advice to stay true to yourself. “She talked about being herself in that position of power and not changing herself to be more masculine, or in response to how people react,” she said. Mya was also interested by Christine’s mange to support other women in the workplace. “While its important to believe in yourself, it is critical for you to believe in and help others,” she said.
“[Christine] said she didn’t get to her positions alone, but had lots of support from past employees and families,” Katerina said. “That is important in our school. We have to work together. It’s not a competition between each individual.”