How did you find your start in the industry and how did you arrive at your current position?
The first beer I ever poured was at Eastlake Kaleen in 1990. It was an exciting experience accompanied by lively banter, new friendships and a position that was all care and no responsibility. This was my “second job” – something to increase my spending money and help me pay off a car loan. It certainly wasn’t a career choice.
Fast forward a decade, three licensed clubs and add in some international hospitality experience and I secured a role with the industry peak body in Canberra, ClubsACT. I spent 14 years with this organisation including my last position as Policy Manager.
This position included lobbying for legislative change, developing gambling harm initiatives and working with industry stakeholders to ensure we had a thriving club industry. A key aspect of my role was to bring industry along with any regulatory changes – as Canberra is one of the strictest gaming jurisdictions in Australia, this was sometimes a challenge.
During my tenure at ClubsACT I was heavily involved in a wide variety of government committees including the gambling harm advisory committee, gambling industry consultative committee and the problem gambling assistance fund advisory committee. Since 2016 I have been the member representing the Club industry on the ACT Government’s Liquor Advisory Board, a position I still hold today.
In 2018 I decided to work within the industry rather than for it and accepted the position of Corporate Affairs Manager for the Eastlake Group. We operate four clubs, a pub and two football franchises – across our venues we host a total of 298 electronic gaming machines cross four venues.
Being given the chance to tell the important stories of how our Club is working in and with the Community is exciting. Corporate Affairs Manager is an ambiguous title and I think that works well for Eastlake and the experience I bring to the position.
For someone who wasn’t interested in the Club/Gaming industry as a career – I’ve certainly made one out of it.
Who or what inspire you and why?
The sporting and community groups that we work with at the Eastlake Group are the reason that I am married to the ACT Club Industry. The stories of success within these organisations that are run solely by volunteers is inspiring. Their dedication and passion to either their team, their charity or their cause is a great thing to see. The Clubs in Canberra are such a strong part of the social fabric of this city and their reach is far and deep. There is hardly a sporting team that isn’t sponsored by your local club.
I am so grateful to be in a position to not only support and create these partnerships but to also ensure the community hears the story about what our members and patrons can do to better this City.
Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Why and how did this person impact your life?
I was in a fortunate position at ClubsACT where I got to know almost everyone in the industry. We have some colourful characters and nearly all of them, particularly across Board positions and as CEOs are male.
One of these men was a true icon of the ACT Club Industry and was the former CEO of the Vikings Group, Peter Webb. Peter passed late last year, and his presence is missed by so many including myself. He was a source of very sound advice and guidance for me. He was someone I could call for any reason and he would always answer. I may not have liked what Peter had to say, however his honesty, integrity and very frank responses were of such value to me. One conversation I won’t forget – “Back yourself! The women around me don’t do it enough, don’t know why, you’re all bloody smart, stop second guessing yourself, you’re wasting everyone’s time, just back yourself”. I wish I had heard it years before, it is advice I have passed on and will continue to pass on.
My current CEO, Anthony Ratcliffe is a great leader, teacher and mentor. When I was at ClubsACT he was a great sounding board for me as one of our Directors. He ensured I never went into a room without the right information behind me. As my CEO, his inclusive and down to earth style of management brings the team along. He reminds me often how important every cog is in the wheel and sees the value in all our staff and invests in their stories. He is very personable which is something I respect and something our staff respond well too.
Lastly, I recently heard some words that have rung true for me from Yvonne Gillet, a Board member with the Canberra Raiders Rugby League Club. We were speaking of the importance of having a woman on the Board and Yvonne told me “it’s all well and good to be a woman on a board, but it’s more important to be a woman of influence on a Board”.
What are your observations about the barriers or challenges women face that are specific to the gaming and/or hospitality industry? How do you think these can be overcome?
The challenge for women in the gaming industry in Canberra is to resist the temptation to join the public service.
The ACT gaming and hospitality industry has some serious competition when it comes to offering a career for women in Canberra. We compete with the public service and the benefits government positions can offer employees. We lose a lot of female staff at Duty Manager level or staff who are around 25 years of age to the public service – this has been the case for industry a long time.
Permanent rosters start to slide into your career when you are appointed to Duty Manager roles and that comes with long night shifts, late finishes and early morning starts. Women are losing the flexibility of choosing their availability and this can have an impact on family life.
The Duty Manager role is an essential role for the organisation and is a component of creating a solid pathway to management, however it is where we lose a lot of great staff. It is also the base of the funnel for employment. From Duty Manager to the next level, the competition increases, and the opportunities decrease. Unfortunately for some organisations, if you can’t commit to the roster you can’t commit to the role.
Industry has a choice to either look at the individual and customise a role to suit the person or continue to ask their staff to conform. I believe that moving forward, when you have earmarked staff for a management position, the former option is the one to pursue. Then, when we can become more adaptable and recognise the needs young women have to support their career, we will see more women advancing through to senior management.
Many Clubs, including Eastlake Group, are able to allow our employees to put family first – embracing the cultural change that we are seeing across Australia can be harder for the service industry, however it is the future – so probably should be the present.
What advice would you give your younger self, starting out in the gaming and/or hospitality Industry?
If I was able to give myself advice about starting work in the gaming industry, it would be:
- Networking is not a waste of time. It is awkward, it is intimidating, but it is something women in the industry need to do more of. It is important for women to get out there and meet people across the industry. To engage with stakeholders and management within similar organisations and to appreciate the value of having other people to discuss issues with and bounce ideas off is valuable and this can’t be done from the safety of your desk. Take the opportunity to be seen and see others.
- Back yourself. I owe this one to Peter Webb, former CEO of the Vikings Group. Often found myself in meetings or committee rooms as one of two or three women if not the only woman and too often I let myself be intimidated by this. I was a part of these meetings for a reason and my opinion not only mattered but was sought. Finding my voice took a while and I probably put in more time researching the topics of the meeting than necessary, however I found my confidence and backed myself.
- See the community value the industry creates. The Club industry in the ACT is unique, we are a Club town. It is important to be able to see the benefits and how the industry has really made itself such an important part of the social fabric of Canberra is rewarding. Seeing the big picture and celebrating the social inclusion and community partnerships we have created is important.