26 August 2016

A letter to my daughter, Elsie

I was honoured this year to be asked to contribute to The Dream Collective’s – The World We See launched 25 August 2016. The book contains personal letters from Australia’s leading male and female CEO’s, leaders and advocates of change on their vision and desires for the next generation of female leaders. My letter was also featured on Mamamia – This dad’s promise to his daughter is one we wish all men would make.

Ensuring that both men and women have the same opportunities has always been an important goal for me as Managing Partner of Hall & Wilcox. Talent does not discriminate, so why should we? But the birth of my daughter Elsie this year catapulted equality from a social and business issue to something more emotionally driven. The unconditional love that comes with being a parent makes me want Elsie to as happy and fulfilled a person as she can be, just like her brothers.

Welcome to the world!

At less than a few months old, you are already demonstrating your unique qualities and potential. I am excited about the future that you have ahead of you. I really believe you can be anything you want to be and I will do everything I can to help you.

If you will forgive me, I thought I might offer some fatherly advice. (It definitely won’t be the last time!)

I really encourage you to try things. I think your mum and I have benefited from always being prepared to give things a go, and tackling all aspects of life with enthusiasm and gusto. Be prepared to give things a crack. It doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad – things work out for people who try.

Be yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you there is a mould that you need to fit – whether based on gender, socioeconomic status, profession, whatever. You have unique qualities and talents. If you are authentic and true to yourself, people will admire and warm to you and you will do well.

Look for role models – personally and professionally. Your mum is a great place to start. She is a strong, smart, sensitive, determined woman, who has taken an unconventional path to seek professional fulfilment, as well as being successful in her personal and family life.

Your mum originally trained in law and science, and worked as a lawyer in a leading law firm and then as an in-house counsel at Lonely Planet Publications. Although your mum was great at her job and held high-profile roles, deep down she wasn’t fulfilled.

She decided to pursue her passion for design and sustainability by going back to university (as an undergraduate) and studying architecture. She is an amazing architect and will have a great career. At the same time, your mum is always the most wonderful companion and support to me, and a caring and inspiring mum to you and your brothers.

Another great role model is your grandma – my mother. Your grandma is a brilliant person who, notwithstanding the challenges of her generation, had a great career and brought up a wonderful family.

Look for role models in the organisations you are involved in – schools, workplaces, clubs and community groups.

Surround yourself with people that you can learn from and who inspire you. I was very lucky to have a number of wonderful role models at our law firm, who guided and challenged me to be as good as I could be while always doing the right thing. I hope to provide a similar example to the young professionals coming through our firm and who I deal with.

Be confident in yourself. Lean in. Speak up. People want to hear what you have to say – be confident and have an opinion. Make the right choices by you. Discover your life purpose and be true to it. When making choices, think about what is best for you, not only what suits others.

I have been provided with wonderful opportunities to enjoy a happy, fulfilling life. I am educated and have loving parents and siblings, close and longstanding friends, a beautiful family, a challenging and engaging career, great experiences and financial security. My hope for you is that you have all the same opportunities – and at least the same opportunities that Joe and Henry will have, and all the other males and females of your generation.

Your grandma would say that she could never really fulfill her potential because she was pulled out of school and made to work rather than having the opportunity to go to university and be supported in a professional career. Even now, it has been harder for your mum to fulfill her professional ambitions than it has been for me, because she has had to take time away from work to be a wonderful mother to your brothers and you.

We need to make sure that you don’t face similar obstacles.

I am committed to doing everything possible to help you, and will give you all the love and support that I can. More broadly, as a business leader I want to do what I can to remove the structural and other barriers that limit women being provided with the opportunity to be truly happy and fulfilled.

My love, I wish you well.
Love, Dad.