Wendy Machin is the President of NRMA Motoring & Services and undertakes private consulting work in issues management. An advocate of women in business, Wendy will speak at a business seminar in Armidale in March, hosted by PLC Armidale and Armidale Chamber of Commerce.
We caught up with Wendy to find out where she sees the future of women in the workforce, and in particular as business leaders and representatives on Australian Boards.
Tell us about your career Wendy …
I was first appointed to the NRMA Board on 30 March 2005 and became President in 2008. I am also a Director on the Board of the Australian Automobile Association.
I have served as a Member of the Migration and Refugee Review Tribunal and regularly undertake private consulting work in issues management. I served as a Member of the NSW Legislative Assembly from 1985-1996 and was the first Nationals woman to sit in the Lower House.
Tell us a little about your early life.
I was born and raised in the little Mid North Coast town of Wingham. My family were saw millers and later beef farmers. I left Wingham after school and went to university in Sydney at the Institute of Technology – which was a very formative time for me, as it was such a foreign environment.
Who do remember as being significant role models in your life?
There are people I have watched and learned from throughout my life. My dad would be one. The current NSW Nationals MLC Jenny Gardiner is another, for her professionalism and self-sufficiency. Nick Greiner, for his logic and debating skills. Helen Lynch, a highly successful banker and then Company Director, for forging a career in business when there were few women at that level.
What do you enjoy most about your current role as President of NRMA Motoring
I really like the mix of business. Because the NRMA is a large business, we focus our efforts on the advocacy and lobbying work we do on behalf of our members. It is a truly iconic brand and organisation, and our frontline people are a privilege to work with.
Tell us about some of the challenges you face?
Getting the whole ‘work-life’ balance right is probably the biggest challenge. I love being a mum and am so proud of our three wonderful children. At the same time, it was important for me to try and fit in the type of work that is compatible with my family life.
Politics was a great beginning, and although at the time it was almost a 24/7 role, it gave me great experience and opportunities post-politics. Being a woman in some very blokey environments also means you have to believe in yourself and occasionally be prepared to dive in the ‘deep end’.
Tell us about the most challenging moments in your political career …
There have been three really challenging times. First, when I was a new MP and still in Opposition, the then Labor government made a very nasty and personal attack on my family in Question Time. It shamed their own, and many Labor MPs later apologised to me.
Secondly, having babies as an MP – especially as a Minister!
Thirdly, trying to build a solution to the HomeFund home loan scheme that went wrong in the recession of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, so that most people could keep their home.
Women are poorly represented on Australian boards. What do you see as the future of gender equity for women in the workforce?
That’s a tough one. There has not been much improvement in recent years. I don’t like quotas personally, as I wouldn’t want to be selected or promoted on the basis of my gender only.
But I think organisations can do more to actively look for good women to promote: they can make the environment more family friendly, so having children is not such a barrier; and above all else, I think women need people to be their advocates.
We hear a lot about mentoring, and that’s important, but women also need someone to go out there and put their name up for these big roles.
What role do you see for professional networks for women in promoting the many board-ready women into these positions?
Professional networks can help women develop their skills and fill any skills gaps where they appear. They can also give women a forum to speak and learn in and help them build networks, which are also so important.
What attracted you to speak here in Armidale at the upcoming business seminar?
I love talking to young women and was initially invited to talk to a local school. The girls all seem so much smarter than my generation! The Business Seminar coincides with that, and I love talking about my work, the NRMA and having another look at a great part of the state.
What knowledge and skills do we need to teach young women in schools to prepare them for senior management roles and roles on Australian Boards?
I think that self sufficiency is really important for everyone, but particularly women. I really advocate learning financial skills and how to speak in public forums, do presentations, etc. So in that respect, communication skills are vital.
I also believe that women need to learn how to build and use networks to their best advantage.
Thank you Wendy.
People wanting to hear Wendy’s address should contact PLC on 6770 1700
or visit www.plcarmidale.nsw.edu.au