Laura Berry is the CEO of Supply Nation. With over two decades of experience in stakeholder management, risk mitigation and reputation management, Laura’s career has spanned the private and public sectors, including Federal and State Politics, Public Affairs and roles with top ASX Listed companies.
Laura joined Supply Nation following four years at Qantas where as Head of Qantas Group’s Corporate Community Investment Program encompassing the Qantas Reconciliation Program, Qantas Foundation, Indigenous and Community Partnerships, Workplace Giving, National Arts Sponsorships and the Qantas Brand Ambassadors Program.
Laura is the Chair of Career Trackers Indigenous Internship Program, a director of IBA’s Indigenous Tourism Asset Management Board and a former director of Supply Nation and Engineering Aid Australia. She is member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Laura has recently become a mum for the first time.
Where are you from?
I am descendent from Wiradjuri country, my father’s country, but was born and raised on Ngunnawal land in Canberra. I have lived in Sydney for 15 years.
What do you do?
I am the CEO of Supply Nation, an organisation that certifies and registers Indigenous owned businesses and facilitates relationships and commercial opportunities with corporate and government organisations. I am also a new mum to a beautiful little boy, aged 6 months.
What is one of the best decisions you have made?
To return to Canberra only one year after moving to Sydney in my early 20’s to take up a role working for a federal minister. I ended up working in that role for almost five years and I learnt so much in my time there. It opened up a world of possibilities, networks, and I made lifelong friendships with the people I worked with.
What is one of the worst decisions you have made?
I’m sure I’ve made lots of bad decisions, but can’t think of one single worst decision. I do regret not backing myself more and being more confident in my career early on. I have had an unconventional path through my career and in my own head I thought others wouldn’t take me as seriously because of that. I was lucky to have had some great mentors who saw my potential perhaps more than I did and I trusted their judgment. I now know that I should have trusted myself more.
What are some of the barriers to female leadership?
Workplaces have come a long way in supporting mothers returning to work, but many still have a long way to go. Addressing flexibility and unconscious bias, and changing policies are a good first step. Ensuring these policies are actioned and addressed within the organisations culture is critical to effect change.
Anne-Marie Slaughter says that until society values care – in all its forms, whether it’s children, the elderly (by men and women), barriers will still exist. Sociological change takes time, but the thing that encourages me is that this is a topic that is being talked about so much more now.
I am very fortunate to have been supported by a strong female leader in Leah Armstrong and the Supply Nation Board. They hired me as CEO at 20 weeks pregnant and have supported me every step of the way. I am acutely aware though that many women do not have such positive experiences, including some of my closest friends.
What women have inspired you?
I am inspired by women every day. It’s not necessarily the women who have high profiles or those we see in the media. As a new mum, I’m inspired by many of my friends who juggle high powered careers. I’m about to return to work so I’m definitely drawing inspiration from their experiences.
What advice would you give to empower the next generation of women?
I heard a good piece of advice recently that resonated with me so I’ll share it here. ‘Be Brave, not perfect!
Take risks, challenge norms and back yourself. It sounds like a cliché, but you can do anything you want to – but you don’t have to be in a rush – there’s plenty of time!
What would you say to men about equality?
That equality and diversity is everyone’s business. Take the time to become aware of your own biases (we all have them) and the way they impact on perception and decision making. Look for opportunities to advocate for equality where you have the influence to do so.
What exciting project do you have coming up?
I am returning to work in a few weeks and we have our national conference, Connect 2016 on 2/3 May. Connect is a 2-day conference and trade show that will bring together Indigenous business owners, corporate and government reps, academics and procurement professionals to talk about supplier diversity, make new connections and relationships which all leads to more business!
Get in touch with Laura:
International Women’s Month series
To celebrate International Women’s Month this March, we have turned our logo purple to show our support for effective action for advancing and recognising women.
This year’s theme is #PledgeForParity:
We want everyone – men and women – to take a concrete step to help achieve gender parity more quickly – whether to help women and girls achieve their ambitions, call for gender-balanced leadership, respect and value difference, develop more inclusive and flexible cultures or root out workplace bias. Each of us can be a leader within our own spheres of influence and commit to take pragmatic action to accelerate gender parity.
We are also recognising the achievements of some amazing women that have inspired us by sharing some of their valuable advice and how they are doing their part to empower women.