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Wrap up: International Women's Day 2024

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To celebrate International Women’s Day, ABL holds an annual event for clients, colleagues and friends of the firm.

A full house of guests gathered to attend an important panel discussion, facilitated by ABL Special Counsel Rachel Soh, between our three special guests:

  • Roo Harris, Chief Investment Officer and General Partner at Scale Investors
  • Elise Gold, Chief Operating Officer and Investment Director at Trawalla Group
  • Irit Harris, Chief Executive Officer and Founder at F-Empowered and Head of Transformation at Bunnings

The panel elicited a valuable conversation on this year’s theme for International Women’s Day – ‘Count Her in: Invest in Women, Accelerate Progress.’ Panellists drew on their personal and professional experience, working in diverse commercial and community enterprises to explore how we might address women’s ongoing financial inequality.

IWD client event

Responding to questions from Rachel, whose own experience as a senior member of ABL’s employment and workplace advisory practice encompasses many of the relevant issues, Irit highlighted the importance of investing in herself, both professionally and across her life in general. Her analogy, which was fitting considering her role at Bunnings, was that she has always endeavoured to identify and develop the right skills and experiences to ensure she had the necessary “tools in her toolbox” to support her success. She spoke passionately about the importance of teaching everyone, especially young people and women, financial literacy, which she strives to facilitate through her work with F-Empowered

Roo offered a unique perspective to the conversation, having worked as a legal advisor across different continents – first in Australia, then the United Arab Emirates and Qatar – for some of the world’s biggest brands and the Qatari Royal Family. She shared her experience of witnessing the extreme wealth in commercial transactions, leading to her realisation of the potential impact of targeting investment in areas that add value to communities more broadly. She highlighted the unequal investment in female entrepreneurs, which the angel investor network she leads - Scale Investors - is focused on addressing.

Elise’s perspective was also insightful, drawing on her diverse experience, starting in investment banking, subsequently launching two businesses, then leading to her work at Trawalla Group, the Family Office of Alan Schwartz AM and Carol Schwartz AO, where she is Chief Operating Officer and Investment Director. She discussed Trawalla Group’s investment in her professionally, as well as the Trawalla Foundation’s investment in targeting community outcomes with a gendered focus, including the Pathways to Politics program.

A record number and range of attendees had the opportunity to put questions to the panel, which covered how early education may contribute to closing the gender pay gap, the importance of female empowerment to negotiate employment terms, childcare-related barriers to women’s involvement in the workforce, having an "investment mindset" when considering career decisions and opportunities, and the importance of access to mentorship for women in the early stages of their career.

Despite the ongoing inequalities faced by women, the panel provided an inspirational example of how success looks different for different women, and how they go about helping and inspiring others to find and follow their own paths. 

This year’s International Women’s Day event at ABL marks the first year the event has been hosted by the ABL Women’s Network (AWN), which officially launched in 2023.

A special thanks to our wonderful panellists for generously taking the time to participate so enthusiastically and to Rachel Soh for her thoughtful interviewing. Thanks also to the Co-Chairs of the ABL Women’s Network, Bridget Pardy and Natalie Ryan, and supporting partners Genevieve Sexton, Christine Fleer, Rebecca Zwier, Gia Cari and Teresa Ward.

More information and resources on this year’s UN Women theme for International Women’s Day can be found here.

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