Michelle Farquhar, It's Your Time To Shine!
Michelle Farquhar is a visionary woman! She is experienced, knowledgeable, talented and successful with a ‘little black’ book that most people would die to get their hands on! Yet, despite her professional success as a female leader across many industries, Michelle is also known as a compassionate, kind and vibrant woman in business who loves to connect, share and inspire!
Michele has worked for some of the biggest names in the media sphere including Ogilvy & Mather (London), Hapsburg Auction House (Geneva), Channel 9, and ABC Radio, as well as in her own boutique consultancy. I first met Michelle as State Development Manager for Breast Cancer Network Australia. We instantly connected through our shared values and beliefs, forging a friendship and bond that now transcends into an inspiring personal and professional alliance.
Michelle is this months ‘Inspiring Woman Speaks!’ I asked her a few questions to gain some insights into Michelle’s beliefs around leadership, her goals for 2019 and working in male-dominated industries. Here is what she said!
“The biggest thrill is seeing a great idea spread. I have worked in many different guises but always at the heart of my working life is connecting people and creating understanding.” Michelle Farquhar.
Q1. Suzie: You have had a vast career as a producer, media and communications consultant, educator and a development manager. But what do you really want to be known for?
Michelle: I don’t anticipate changing the world, but I would like to be known as someone who was brave enough to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be grand gestures, although I’m really proud to be involved in some iconic initiatives like the recently launched Brisbane Portrait Prize.
I think there are opportunities every day to make a difference to people’s lives, with a smile and a chat to a homeless person, or a public acknowledgment of a colleague. Small gestures can create a ripple, and I think we can all leave the world a better place by being kind as we move through the day.
Q2.Suzie: How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Michelle: I am really enjoying this phase of my life; I feel a lot more confident and self-assured than ever before. I am also really aware that relationships are at the heart of workplaces that flourish, and it’s not all about knowledge and skills. That can be challenging when you want a diversity of gender, ethnicities and personal styles in your team, but the pay-off can be amazing. On the flip side , teams that are homogeneous and one dimensional lack creative oxygen.
Q3. Suzie: What are three key words you would use to describe yourself?
Michelle: Creative; Ambitious; Happy
Q4. Suzie: What advice can you give other professional women who wish to thrive and not just ‘survive’ in a male dominate workplace or industry?
Michelle: Everyone needs allies. Find the men in your sphere who don’t see gender, but only your expertise and your potential, and ask them the actively support you. Stay connected with other women and thought leaders in this space, and try to avoid being a solo flyer.
If you can normalize being female in a male dominated space you can support each other and get some structural change to enable you to thrive.
Q5. Suzie: Can you name your top 3 inspirational women you look up to and why?
Michelle: Tracey Holmes, as a female sports reporter of long standing at the ABC, has not only pioneered women in sports media, but evolved the role of the media with her insightful analysis of sport and the politics and industries that surround it. Her partnership with Stan Grant and her support of Aboriginals against everyday racism is also inspirational.
The other two are my girlfriends, who do a breath-taking job in their professional lives, are thoughtful mothers and wives, as well as actively supporting those in need in the community.
Whether it’s taking on full-time care of a sibling with chronic and severe mental illness, or taking in a heavily pregnant refugee for an unlimited time period, raising the baby alongside their own family, I am in awe of these and many other women I know in our community.
Q6. Suzie: Why do you think more male dominated industries can benefit by having more female leaders?
Michelle: The evidence is clear and widely reported, that businesses are more productive and profitable with a gender balance on boards, senior leadership and across the workforce.
However, like a lot of issues, data isn’t enough – just look at climate change. The more progressive businesses and leaders are investing in a pipeline of female leaders, but our aspirations are set early, and by the end of primary school decisions are already made about where the gender divides are drawn.
Primary school is where we need to start talking to girls about being an engineer or a plumber. Scarily, boys are earning 27 per cent more pocket money than girls in our current society, for washing the car and mowing the lawn.
Q7. Suzie: If you could perfect one new personal quality, what would that be?
Michelle: Calm. I have to work at keeping anxiety levels in a manageable zone!
Q8. Suzie: Have you ever been ‘professionally stuck’? How did you become ‘unstuck’?
Michelle: I’ve always been lucky. Opportunities have opened up for me. I think it’s really important to develop and maintain a d good network before you need it.
My advice if you’re stuck is to reach out. Talk to lots of people and explore learning opportunities.
Q9. Suzie: What are your 3 favourite podcasts, blogs, books or publications that you follow or read?
Michelle: I struggle to read books, but I’m a big fan of podcasts, poetry and essays, and I really enjoy reading the Quarterly magazine.
Podcasts I’m a fan of include the ABC’s Download this Show on technology, trends, social media with the amazing Mark Fennell. I’ve also enjoyed The Teacher’s Pet, by Hedley Thomas as an exquisite piece of investigative journalism and storytelling. It also proves the power of podcast, as a communicative vehicle.
Jade Collins of Femeconomy writes an interesting blog which is always worth the time to read.
I’m also a fan of poetry, especially old fashion stuff, but I am also mesmerised by contemporary work by Luka Lessons and Maxine Beneba Clarke.
Q10. Suzie: What do you want to accomplish in 2019?
Michelle: I’d like to study. I haven’t zoned in on exactly which topic to pursue, but something involving artificial intelligence in business is itching my imagination.