Create transformative innovation

How these women are changing the world of business

  • The Telstra Business Women’s Awards recognise women who are ‘undoing business’ and forging their own path.
  • Kester Black’s Anna Ross was able to raise her company’s revenue by 600% by selling ethical nail polish.
  • Dr Catherine Ball is a pioneer in the use of drones to change the way we do business and protect the environment.

We talk to some of the inspirational winners of Telstra Business Women’s Awards, discover how they’re undoing business with their unique approach to success.

Drone. The word still conjures up images of an unmanned vehicle flying through the sky above a dusty warzone, but environmental scientist and winner of the Corporate and Private Award at the 2015 Telstra Business Women’s Awards, Dr Catherine Ball, doesn’t let it stop her. 

TBWA Winner Catherine Bell

Since trialling a drone while working as an environmental consultant in WA, Dr Catherine Ball has been a fierce proponent of the technology’s power to protect our ecosystem and transform the way we gather data.

“We found some Australian-made drones from Victoria,” says Dr Ball “that were being used in Afghanistan to look for insurgents, and we managed to do a trial where we used them to look for turtles. That was my first big project, which was incredibly exciting.”

Dr Ball has since worked on various projects as an independent drone advisor, helping collect data based on the environment, from tracking coastal erosion to tracking the spread of fire ants.

“I’ve worked with the Queensland biosecurity teams, looking at fire ant nests, and how we can use drones to find fire ant nests.  In America they cause hundreds of millions of dollars of agricultural loss. We don't want to have fire ants in Australia, so how we eradicate them is an important question.”

 Among Australian industries, Dr Ball says agriculture is where she sees some of the greatest enthusiasm for drones.

“High staff turnover is one of the biggest costs to your business, so paying a little bit extra parental leave is a really good business decision.” 

Anna Ross, Founder and CEO of Kester Black

“Farmers, in Australia are some of the best innovators I've ever had the pleasure of working with,” she says.

 “I know people that are using drones to muster cattle, farmers that are looking for weeds in their chickpea crops, farmers that are even looking at smart precision spraying of weeds to reduce their herbicide costs and the impact on the environment.”

“There are loads of ways farmers in Australia are using drones and leading the rest of the world. A lot of people are actually looking to Australia for the right way to make this work.”

Flying high

In addition to her work as a drone advisor, Dr Ball has also founded a number of initiatives designed to promote inclusivity in the male-dominated field.

She’s currently in the process of developing her new startup World of Drones Education, which will be available in October. The website will have free resources for teachers, different levels of drone training, access to resources and will allow people to connect.

“World of Drones Education will have gender parity through all of the online resources and all of the online lesson plans.  The idea is to include boys and girls in the conversation about gender diversity because I feel like we need everybody around the table,” Dr Ball says.

She also created the World of Drones Congress, which she says is the most gender diverse tech conference she’s ever seen. She ensured that there was an equal gender split across the speakers, as well as representation from different nationalities and cultures.

“Diversity and inclusion, inclusion being the important part of this, is the pathway to difference. You want difference of opinion. You want different sorts. You want people whose brains are operating and have been trained in different ways,” Dr Ball says.

“That is the only way any large business or any small business, in fact, will actually be able to weather the winds of change that are coming, in terms of the fourth industrial revolution and new technology.”

World of Drones Education will have resources and training opportunities for anyone who is interested in drone technology - again, a gender balance is being taken into consideration.

“It's an economic imperative. This is not just about moral goodness. This is about economic imperative. We know that if a company has women on the board, that they make more money,” Dr Ball says.

“Gender diversity is probably the first step towards a larger diversity inclusion strategy. You need to set quotas. There should be no fear of quotas. It means that we actually allow for diversity to be realised. It's not about lip service. It's not about tokenism. It’s about results.”

TWBA Winner Anna Ross

The business of ethics

Traditional logic holds that you can either do something good, or make money. Not so, for Anna Ross, winner of the 2016 Australian Young Business Woman Award.

Within three years after transforming the company she founded, Kester Black, from selling jewellery to ethical nail polish, Ross was able to achieve 600% revenue growth.

“The company just sky rocketed because we found our niche,” Ross said.

Kester Black prides themselves on being an ethical beauty brand – selling cruelty free, palm oil free, vegan and halal-certificated nail polish to customers around the world. When Ross discovered that there were no ethical options on the market, she knew that this unique twist would help her products stand out.

Muslims are required to wash their hands and hair as part of the Wudu ceremony before they pray, which is done five times a day. Wearing nail polish obstructs the cleansing during this ceremony, requiring practicing women to remove their nail polish beforehand or forgo wearing it at all.

“I just thought that was an incredible problem that nobody had managed to solve yet,” Ross said. “So I looked up to making breathable nail polish, which means that water can permeate the layer, so that a Muslim woman could wear the nail polish whilst they were praying and it wouldn't affect Wudu.”

While Muslim women make up much of the polish’s audience (Malaysia is Kester Black’s second largest market), Ross has made a point of employing abstract imagery in its marketing, to ensure everyone can picture themselves wearing it.

‘’We have embraced marginalised groups including Muslim women and nail polish users of all ages, genders and cultures. Our efforts don’t just produce an immediate benefit in our effect on people and the planet, but our commercial success has driven change in the industry’’

Her commitments to supporting ethical causes and championing diversity aren’t just embodied in her products, they’re also present in Kester Black itself and the support Ross provides to her staff. All Kester Black staff are entitled to a four-day working week and the company provides extended parental leave for all genders at a higher pay.

“High staff turnover is one of the biggest costs to your business, so paying a little bit extra parental leave is a really good business decision,” Ross said.

The Telstra Business Women’s Awards play a vital role in raising the profile of women in business across Australia. So if you, or an outstanding business woman you know, deserve recognition, nominate for the 2019 Awards program today.

Nominate today

Overcoming barriers

As a young woman, Ross says one of the challenges she faced in her career was being taken seriously, but the secret to being heard by others in the industry is practice and persistence.

“It was hard to get people to believe you when you're 18 and trying to start a business, but I just kept persisting,” Ross said. “Every time, they would say no to me, but I just kept asking and eventually they gave me a go.”

Ball says that she has often been the only woman in the room and felt like the “token woman”. But she still believes that the key to achieving diversity is setting quotas that allow doors to open for talented women who deserve a chance to do incredible work.

“There should be no fear of quotas here,” Ball says. “The idea is that diversity in itself should be a KPI, or difference in itself should be a KPI, and diversity and inclusion is the pathway to that difference.”

The Telstra Business Women’s Awards celebrate innovative leaders like Ross and Ball who are doing business differently. The program provides business women with the recognition they deserve, championing inclusion, innovation and inspiring others to do the same.

This year, we’re recognising inspirational women who are redefining the way we do business. These women are undoing traditional business practices by using their own unique approach to rewrite what it means to be successful. They’re championing inclusion, innovation, and inspiring others to do the same.

Women's Awards Winner

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