I was at the Women’s Leadership Symposium in Sydney this week, speaking with men and women from across industries and across Australia about specific career paths and the collective journey to full participation. There was a scientist, a zoologist, a University Professor, a number of corporate high flyers (oh what a breath of fresh air carsales.com’s General Counsel Nicole Birman is!!) and (drum roll, yes), the Tara Moss. More on that another day.

But sincerely the biggest highlight for me was Annabel Crabb. You see I think she’s brilliant and her ideas beg listening to, but as well as that she prompts a particular question that I’ve wondered about for a few years now.

Advocating for women in the workforce is not Annabel’s main hat, however she is a clear and resonant voice of reason. As she says in her book, The Wife Drought, if we had the full participation of women in the workforce, it would be the economic equivalent of adding another mining sector to our GDP.

I’d add that if we were doing better to attract female talent, then we’d actually attract a larger share of the world’s top female talent too. What financial impact would that deliver?

The Wife Drought is well researched and hilariously delivered. Truly, well worth the read. Annabel doesn’t shy from ANYthing. The premise, as is on the cover, is that women need wives, men need lives. She travels through stories and data on the value and the cost of wives, the benefits to careers and the realities faced when men and women do take more of the non-traditional roles, both at home and at work. Annabel challenges what make a good man, what makes a good woman.

But there’s one burning question I just had to ask. See there’s a lot to admire about Annabel Crabb, but in many ways she’s an anomaly. Annabel’s public image is a rare combination of actively feminine, formidably intelligent, she’s demonstrable competent. My question for Annabel?

“For many others, bringing your baking to work and speaking out in support of women can both be career killers. But not for you; those parts of your voice don’t define you. How have you managed that – do you filter when you reveal the parts of you, or have you just been lucky?”

According to Annabel, she doesn’t filter, ever. So if its important to her, the world hears it. Annabel said that particularly with the 24 hour news cycle and the constant ‘microphone’, if she was to be inclined to filter or to craft her messages for an outcome, then she’d be exhausted at remembering what message was for who, for when. However, she said that she thinks the reason it works for her is because when she speaks with passion, its so obviously authentic.

As for the baking… Annabel says Kitchen Cabinet (an ABC program where she interviews senior politicians in their home while they cook her dinner and she brings the dessert) was initially a great way for her to claim her vanilla beans as a tax expense. [Hearty audience laughs] And that she’s never been organised enough with the receipts to get around to doing the actual claiming part. [More audience laughs]

In rounding out her response, Annabel said: “it’s just luck”. That Annabel along with your authenticity, the undeniable runs on the board, your impeccable reputation among those who count, your grace, your talents and your enthusiasm- etc etc.

Its funny how for so many of the most successful people I’ve spoken with, luck plays such a big part of their success. Interesting how often that luck is layered over delivering exceptional work, and unabashed honesty when things don’t work.

Annabel was every bit as fabulous in person as she is in her podcasts with Leigh Sales and her political media presence. If you have ever, like me, been asked the question “Why does this gender gap still exist?”, you’ll appreciate The Wife Drought.

Cath Nolan

Managing Director, Gender Gap Gone

Gender Gap Gone deliver Women’s Leadership Programs, Career Wellness and Corporate Diversity. Our Brave Leadership program kicks off on July 25th. You can see our upcoming events, HERE, including Brave Leadership and The Diversity Collective.