A little under a year ago I had the absolute pleasure of speaking on a Guest Panel for a ladies' lunch on the Gold Coast with Ex-Olympians Michelle Mitchell and Samantha Riley.
Left to right: Carla Tooma, Michelle Mitchell, Moi, Sam Riley - Women of Influence Event
To say that I was star-struck is an gross understatement. The topic for discussion on the day was "goal setting like a champion" - clearly something my esteemed co-panelists were experienced in. And given the number of challenges I've put myself through over the past 20 or so years, I definitely qualified as a somewhat expert as well.
But I digress!
You know when you meet someone and you automatically like them and enjoy listening to what they have to say?
Michelle was one of those people. She's smart, successful and obviously very passionate about sport. What intrigued me the most was that at the time, Michelle was working in a very male-dominated sector as the Player Development Manager for the Gold Coast AFL Suns.
Maybe, may be not.
For a woman North of 45 though this is definitely part of a new movement and slowly shifting attitude towards women and the career roles that they carve out for themselves in a sector that traditionally was so male dominated and very much 'out of bounds'.
Over the past 5 or so years we've witnessed improvements in pay equality, the development of women's elite-level competitions, and appointments of females in a number of CEO and Chair positions across a variety of sporting codes.
The old boys club that has fiercely been defended for decades, even centuries, is slowly starting to crumble with the advancement of inclusiveness, equality and recognition of the value that women can add to any sector they choose to be part of.
In fact, in 2015 an organisation was formed called, Members of the Male Champions of Change (MCC) Sport whose sole purpose is to prioritise gender equality in key sports in Australia.
MCC Founder Elizabeth Broderick says, "This group recognises the immense economic, cultural, social and health benefits of having more women and girls involved in all aspects of sport in Australia - from the grass roots, to elite athletes, sports administration and governing bodies."
Personally I find this push for change in Australian Sport so exciting. Particularly for young women and girls who in the past could only hope to be participants and support crew for the sports that they were so passionate about.
But make no mistake, it is still a very SLOW process that needs to change deeply ingrained mindsets, attitudes and traditions - but I think it IS changing.
I hope that when today's younger generation reach #northof45 that gender bias, glass ceilings, ageism, sexism and pay ineqaulity are terms of yesteryear and a person is chosen for any role in sport based on merit, experience and abilities and nothing else.
Since this chat Michelle has moved on from her role at the Suns but is still working as a Personal Development and High Performance Coach / Manager for young athletes in their chosen sports.
I hope you enjoy my chat with Michelle, she's an Australian gem. Thanks for your time Michelle. :)
Here's to being irresistible!
You have had an illustrious career as an Australian Hockeyroo.
Tell us a few of your achievements and highlights as a team member.
Played for Australian at 17 years of age
Gold Medal Atlanta Olympics
Gold Medal Commonwealth Games
Gold Medal world cup and highest goal scorer
World 11 Tenri Japan
Part of the greatest and most successful women's team in world sport.
How did your time with the Hockeyroo’s come to a conclusion and how did you transition into your role with the AFL Gold Coast Suns?
I retired injured 3 weeks out from the Olympics in 2000 which set me on a path of coaching on the world stage in Switzerland and London.
I returned to more study in positive psychology coaching and aimed for work in the player development area. I'm involved in teaching athletes to maximise opportunities whilst playing AFL, or their chosen sport, so when they leave their sport they have a smooth transition.
I imagine opportunities for women in such a male dominated sport are few and far between, do you think this is changing? And what challenges do you face as a female in your role?
I think there is a lot of chat of changing and having more women working in sport and business however from my experience in AFL in nearly 3 years, some great talented woman left the AFL due to not being embraced or not respected.
You need to have a sense of purpose and respect within any organisation you work for.
If you could offer any advice to a younger Michelle on where she would be in her 40’s, what she would be doing and how she would view the world, what would it be?
Embrace the glorious mess at times along with being more present and living in the present.
Don’t feel Pressured to be a great mother, worker, partner, just juggle the best you can and laugh at yourself.
Spend more time being rather than doing and be more consistent in everything you do and say.
Be a possibilitarian! (ooh I like that word!)
What do you see as the greatest challenge for women ‘north of 45’ in the world today?
Juggling the pressure of motherhood, work, friendships, finances and being strong enough to say I’m in a partnership here, I’m only going to contribute, not do it all.
As woman we are our harshest critics and aim too high, placing pressure on ourselves to be ACE at everything we do.