Public Sector Leaders from NSW gathered in Sydney this week for Liquid Learning’s Women in Public Sector Leadership Summit, sandwiched by training intensives. I had the indulgent pleasure of chairing the event. I’ve worked with the Public Sector for a long time and it’s exciting to see the tide of innovation turning. Of course there are still pockets where red tape and ‘the processes we’ve always had’ rule completely. But the majority of women I spoke with this week are excited by the opportunities to make a difference and have an impact.

Incidentally the speakers by gender were 20 women, 2 men. Diversity by other measures (thinking styles, industry, age etc) were much more dramatic.

Here’s the most quotable moments I found:


Hailie Ryzak, Acting Group Manager Integrated Planning and Finance, at Blue Mountains City Council

"I have enough. I do enough. I am enough" Hailie Ryzak BMCC

Decide to have a good day, each day.


Tania Mihailuk, Shadow Minister for Family and Community Serices, Social Housing, Mental Health and Medical Research, Member for Bankstown, ALP

People will respect you if you can’t be rolled over on an important issue.

Tania Mihailuk: "Everyone brings great skills. Those skills and ignore your bias"


Teach yourself to cope with what you can do and what you can’t.


Kaylene Jones, Assistant Commissioner, NSW State Emergency Service

I’d call my mentor and say “this is what I want to say” and he’d talk me off the ledge.


My mentors were self-confident, unthreatened by my desires for my own career. They didn’t want to be heroes, they wanted to develop the people around them.


If you punish failed attempts, you shut down innovation,

Understand your capacity, but never rest on where you are - Kaylene Jones, Assistant Commissioner, NSW SES


I own my decisions and the failures if they exist, but my TEAM own the successes.


Natasha Mann, Executive Director of Policy Strategy and Support Branch at Liquor and Gaming NSW

"I've been told to fake it till I make it. I disagree. people can spot a phony" - Natasha Mann

Being empathetic as a leader is critical to our effectiveness at work.


Authentic leaders aren’t afraid to talk about their mistakes. It allows team members to know that when they make a mistake, they can tell you about it.


It’s easy to live your values when things are going well, harder when things are going off course. You need to remind yourself of your values here because you’re being watched and will lose credibility.


Rebel Talbert is the Assistant Commissioner of the Rural Fire Service

I feel an obligation to be seen, to encourage more women to senior roles.

 "Move into operations. It's a total boys club but the work is really interesting." - Rebel Talbert RFS


I felt the pressure to gain more qualifications to be credible, but I decided that experience was more important than qualifications.


Try to keep my priorities really simple. In my first management job I nearly burnt myself out. So I set clear boundaries about what I would and wouldn’t do. I don’t take work home. I’ll work back 2 hours if I need to, make calls in transit, but once I’m home my daughter is my priority.


I don’t do self-care very well, but every time I get a pay rise I outsource something else. Pool cleaner, house cleaner, ironing, we eat out a lot: time on my own is the best recharge for me, so I outsource the things I can.


Briony Foster, Director Cross-Cluster Operations and Business Support, Department of Family and Community Services NSW

I’m careful with planning in advance. Looking at the school agenda, we ask the kids which events they want us to attend and with my husband we make sure one of us is there.


I schedule in 3, 2 hour blocks a week for thinking/processing/admin time, so I can be responsive to my teams and my Deputy Secretary. I can move it around but not cancel it. That helps me get balance.


Qualifications gave me connections and a different way of approaching things

Liz Grist, Executive Director Clinical Services Nursing and Midwifery, at Hunter New England Local Health District

The key is resilience. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. Everything in health can have a sense of panic. You have to think ‘ what things can be left until tomorrow’. Trust that you’ve made a decision with the best information you have, then let it go.


Sonia Marshall, Director Nursing and Midwifery at South Western Sydney Local Health District

Seek support when you need it then accept things. If the ironing isn’t done the way you like it, in the end it doesn’t matter. What does is ensuring I have time with the people I love.


Jane Spring, Executive Director Regional Development, NSW Department of Industry

"I'd better get on with it because other people need to see it can happen" Jane Spring

Mitra Bhar, CIO NSW Education Standards Authority

Approach a person you respect “I really admire what you do, can you please mentor me?”


Gary Worboys, Deputy Commissioner Regional NSW Field Operations, NSW Police

Leadership is about connecting people and moving communities on, to be better places to be.


It’s a good time to be an innovative leader, because people are willing to allow you to step outside the box.


Tracey McCosker, CEO NSW Health Pathology

Give your team opportunities to shine with their strengths


Often people oppose change in fear that it will expose their own  shortfalls

"If you cant' change the people, change the people" - Tracey McCosker

Conflict in a team cannot be ignored. The rest of the team is waiting for you to call it.


Renee Kidson, Group Leader Force Design, Strategy & Joint Force Branch & Operations Analysis Division, Defence Science & Technology Group

The leader never has the monopoly on good ideas.


The way you get things done is to ask a busy person


For me, education and good leadership are intrinsically linked


Critical conversations, getting people on board are often the most valuable use of my time.


Leadership is wanting to do more for the community I live in.


"I dont' think leadership has anythign to do with career. It's who you are" - Renee Kidson


Stephanie Drew, Director Portfolio Unit, Department of Veterans Affairs

?How vulnerable is too far?

You have to let them in, but not so far that they feel they have to look after you. Be vulnerable, but still be the leader


Alex O’Mara, Deputy Secretary Arts and Culture Division, Department of Planning and Environment NSW

Think of the parts of your job you really love, and make sure you spend a significant part of your day doing that


Sometimes you need to take some risks. Particularly after a setback, you need to reflect on what you want and really go after it.


If you wait till there’s a problem, it’s very hard to build resilience


"If you're doing a job that means something to you, it's worth weathering teh storms that come" Alex O'Mara



And what about you? What inspires you? And what do you do with that inspiration? How will you take action and put that fire to use?


Cath Nolan

MD, Gender Gap Gone

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