Skip to content

The RCSA International Conference 2014 was a resounding success. The conference was sold out, the speakers were varied and educational, the social events were a lot of fun and the host city, Queenstown, New Zealand was simply spectacular.

The only dampener on the whole event can be seen from the following summary that I presented to the conference audience before my keynote presentation on the Friday morning:

  • RCSA Conference 2014 stage speakers: 19 men, 1 woman
  • Aus & NZ recruitment industry speakers: 6 men, 0 women

This seems especially lopsided from an industry that has women as the dominant gender (53%) within its workforce.

These recent conference gender balance statistics are not the fault of the RCSA board or the RCSA staff or the conference organisers. In my experience, men are more likely to put their hand up as speakers and women, if asked to speak, are more likely to say ‘no’. I am a classic example of this; I am always putting myself forward to speak at the RCSA Conference. Nobody has to come knocking on my door.

There is just as much of a drought in the ranks of international recruitment industry speakers (who speak in Australia). I am struggling to think of even one woman from this category whom I have seen speak at an RCSA event, although there have been a number of international female recruitment speakers at the various ATC events in Australia (although all are/were corporate recruiters,
not agency recruiters).

One thing I know for sure is that we have plenty of very accomplished and capable women in our industry that I know, or I suspect, have something that an RCSA International Conference audience would love to hear.

I thought I would offer a few suggestions of those women I would love to listen to:

Marisa Fong and Wynnis Armour

In late 1998, Wynnis and Marisa left senior leadership roles at Adecco and started their own recruitment agency, Madison Recruitment. Fifteen years later that single Madison office in Auckland had become five offices and four brands and sales of NZ$56 million.

Late last year AWF Group (a large provider of blue collar recruitment services), purchased Madison Group (which was at that stage New Zealand’s largest independent white-collar recruitment business) for an initial payment of NZD$30 million with a further NZD$6 million available should Madison meet agreed targets by November 2014.

Madison has achieved NZ SARA Legend status and has also been consistently recognised within the broader New Zealand business community.

Given these amazing accomplishments, Marisa and Wynnis stand tall in the Aus/NZ recruitment community and must have a fascinating story to tell and I want to hear it!

Sarina Russo

Sarina is (according to BRW) Australia’s second most successful self-made female recruitment entrepreneur, if you (arguably) count Therese Rein’s welfare-to-work training and job placement business, Ingeus, as part of the recruitment industry.

BRW assesses Sarina Russo’s personal wealth at $100 million due to the value of her Sarina Russo Group and her private portfolio of properties. The BRW interview with Sarina Russo is a fascinating insight into one of the core things that has driven Russo to the top; her passion to continually educate herself, as BRW notes:

‘Russo credits a lifelong love of learning for much of her success. In the past 20 years, she has been to the US 15 times to attend the Harvard Business School.’ Not bad for the daughter of a handyman and factory worker, who arrived in this country from Sicily at the age of five, unable to speak English.

I would love to hear from Sarina as to exactly how she has applied her Harvard education, and other education, to her businesses and what she has learned in the process.

Kym Quick

Kym started her working life as an accountant then turned her hand to recruitment twenty years ago. In 1996 she joined Alliance Recruitment and from there she was promoted into leadership roles. Alliance was purchased by Candle (now Clarius) in 2001.

Kym continued to progress her career, moving into the Clarius COO role in early 2010, culminating in her appointment as Clarius CEO in late 2011. Kym resigned as CEO in May this year.

Kym’s experience working from the consulting desk of a small private company to the CEO of a publicly listed company is an amazing journey and one I would love to hear about.

Anita Ziemer

Anita is a highly accomplished businesswoman having run her own marketing consultancy before she took on the CEO role at The Slade Group. For eight years Anita led the Slade group, including through the GFC period.

Although Anita was originally known to the recruitment agency world as ‘Geoff Slade’s better half’, she has proven to be an outstanding leader in her own right and is currently Chair of Melbourne Girl’s Grammar as well as a Non-Executive Director of the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas.

Anita’s views from both sides of the recruitment fence, in both her executive and non-executive capacities, would make for a presentation I would certainly be lining up to hear.

Erin Devlin

Erin was a professional dancer for seven years, six of those years were with the Australian Ballet. After retiring from dancing, Erin worked as a flight attendant with Emirates Airlines before joining Drake as a recruitment consultant in 2007.

In 2010 Erin left Drake and formed two companies: Devlin Alliance, a recruitment agency, and Infront Sports Consulting, which provides career transition services to professional athletes and coaches across Australia.

Erin’s experience as an elite dancer, entrepreneur, and consultant to elite athletes, would provide an insight into entrepreneurship and a high-performance mindset that very few recruitment agency owners in Australia or New Zealand could match (Sam Hazeldine excepted).

Claire Ponsford

Claire co-founded Wavelength International in 1999, after an initial (nearly) two-year grounding as a recruitment consultant at Morgan & Banks. Since 1999, Wavelength has grown to be one of the highest profile recruitment agencies for the health sector, in the country with over 60 employees and a string of awards including a consistent listing in the annual BRW Great Places to Work list.

Wavelength has led the way for the recruitment industry in promoting recruitment as a career and for using a creative and innovative careers site to engage potential employees. The Wavelength office is an example of a modern workplace that engages and inspires.

I am sure Claire would have an enormous amount to share about Wavelength’s fifteen-year journey to becoming an employer of choice.

I don’t have enough space in this article to provide similar profiles on the following recruitment industry women, each of whom I would be interested in listening to (in no particular order):

Tracy Thomson, Julia Ross, Dita Georgiadis, Nicole Underwood, Sharon Vandermeer, Anne Hatton, Leigh Johnson, Winsome Bernard, Jacqui Barratt, Rosemary Scott, Pam Dew, Angela Giacoumis, Sophie Robertson, Claire Turner, Amanda Hector, Angela Anasis, Karen Colfer, Phoebe Lane, Manda Milling, Corrine Taylor, Deb Loveridge, Mary Dowrick, Courtney Rowe, Linda Simonsen, Kay Sinclair Lesley Horsburg, Jane Beaumont, Jo Knox, Dalia Klein, Deborah Wilson, Jan Kavanagh, Alison Watts, Helen Olivier, Gaynor Lowndes, Jacky Carter, Sue Healy, Sue Turk, Gaby Riddington, Alison Hucks, Nikki Beaumont, Kate Coath, Tracy Morgan …

The list is endless and I am sure I have forgotten some very prominent women in our industry.

Please comment and add your own recommendations to this blog. Let’s have the RCSA International Conference 2015 be one that not only acknowledges and celebrates the contribution of women in our industry but has them front and centre stage to share what they have to contribute.

This will enable the whole industry to  benefit from their collective experience and wisdom.




0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Ross, what were the attendance figures for women v. men?

Judith Eller

A great point to make Ross and from your article there is a wealth of talent to draw from. I wonder if there is another way to get more female speakers to the forum. Could there be some smaller forums like the master classes where they can begin to develop the presentation skills that lead into talking to a larger group. As I see it, it is a learned skill that generally comes from progressive experience. Just a thought, as like you, I would love to hear stories from other females in business. Maybe that could be the/or a theme for the next conference.

Dan Nuroo

Hey Ross, the first person who comes to my mind is Katrina Park, she's the MD, founder (etc) of Resources Solutions Group. This business turned 10 this year, so she must be doing something right!

Vibeke Thomsen

Interesting article Ross. Lets hope the trend can be broken – I think you have identified some great female potential new speakers. Made me think of Therese rein Rudd as another successful recruitment leader I personally would love to listen to – maybe add her to the list.
Thanks for your many insightful comments and articles – I always enjoy reading them

Cindy Gallop

Thanks Ross for calling this out. Here's how the RCSA can solve its pipeline problem:

and here's how you organize an event that makes everyone feel welcome:

because the future of business is gender-equal, for reasons that benefit men just as much as women:

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
Scroll To Top