Upper Hunter's most successful and inspiring women address Hunter Research Foundation's economic breakfast in Muswellbrook

WOMEN IN POWER: From left: Kirsten Molloy, Joplin Higgins and Claire Quigley.
WOMEN IN POWER: From left: Kirsten Molloy, Joplin Higgins and Claire Quigley.

SPEAKING about issues such as inequality, perseverance and a work-life balance, three of the region's most influential female leaders addressed a conference in Muswellbrook during the week.

During the Hunter Research Foundation's (HRF) Upper Hunter economic breakfast, Launchpad9's Claire Quigley, Hunter Valley Coal Chain coordinator Kirsten Molloy and Joplin Lawyers' Joplin Higgins sat on a panel and took questions from an intrigued crowd.

The former developed her own business, which was designed to help industry professionals further develop their enterprise.

"Claire Quigley has a practical, fun, no-nonsense approach to helping leaders, innovators and educators to stretch thinking, unify communications and push through everyday challenges to fast-track the path to meaningful, sustainable growth," according to their website.

Despite previously enjoying the hustle and bustle of Sydney, she decided to move to Scone, where she has proven it is possible to run a successful business without sacrificing the lifestyle you want.

"I would say go and get some experience, definitely, in the national realm... but I think if you want to make it happen then you can make it happen," she said.

Ms Higgins had a similar sentiment, saying that it's good to gain a different perspective on things elsewhere but to return afterwards if, like her, the Hunter is your preferred destination.

Dr Molloy spoke in detail about her past roles and the struggles she has faced in her career, including getting squeezed out of a job while taking maternity leave.

She focused on a number of concerns regarding industry life, including the fact the number of female CEOs in the ASX top 100 list dropped in 2019, and that men are often offered less flexibility in their hours, which can then lead to their partners to being restricted in how much they can advance their careers.

Ms Higgins is doing her best to give young women in the area a chance to develop their careers, with 18 of her employees being female.

However, she made it clear she does hire men, although ensures they have positive masculinity and are well adept and dealing with the delicate situations her clients are in.

She came to the Hunter in 2012 and identified a hole in the market, quickly developing a strong reputation as an understanding and efficient organisation for women suffering from domestic violence to confide in.

The speakers' success comes as the economic figures revealed that, between December 2018 and June 2019, female business operators were more successful in terms of profitability, trading performance, jobs growth and exporting.

Ms Quigley was asked whether she thought there was a difference between different genders and their ability to manage, but had a rather simple response.

"We're [entrepreneurs] all crazy," she quipped.

She did later go into more detail, revealing that she believed women are often not quite as overconfident, but still encouraged aspiring professionals to be firm when developing their careers.

"Knowing that confidence alone is not enough is actually a really important thing," she said.

"Be articulate, be humble, be strong and be clear in what you want and just as importantly be clear in what you don't want."

All three made strong points throughout the panel discussion and no doubt had an effect on any young women, who also have lofty hopes in life, that were in the audience.

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