Meet the winners of the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Awards

Meet the winners of the 2020 Telstra Business Women’s Awards

Inspiring leaders from a diverse range of industries who are changing the status quo.

BY Business Chicks, 20 min READ

Thanks to our friends at Telstra Business Women’s Awards

For 25 years the Telstra Business Women’s Awards have celebrated the success of Australia’s female leaders and entrepreneurs. We’ve been partnering with the Telstra Business Women’s Awards for many years now because it makes complete sense to us. Celebrating women in business is something we live and breathe, so we’re really excited to help them celebrate and announce the state winners of this year’s awards. And the best bit? They’re all Premium members of Business Chicks which is making us burst with pride.

Every woman on this list has achieved extraordinary results in her field of work, and they are all inspiring examples of leaders challenging the status quo within and beyond their industries.

Dr Sarah Pearce, Deputy Director, Astronomy and Space Science at CSIRO, 2020 Telstra New South Wales Business Woman of the Year. 

Dr Sarah Pearce is a pioneering and internationally recognised physicist. After completing a degree in physics from Oxford University, attending the International Space University in Barcelona and then earning her doctorate designing and calibrating instrumentation for X-ray astronomy, Dr Pearce began her working career in the UK civil service fast stream, before becoming a senior advisor in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. Following this, Dr Pearce moved to the GridPP project, the computing facility giving UK scientists access to data from the world’s largest particle collider at CERN in Switzerland, where she rose to be project manager of a £100m collaboration of 20 universities and CERN. In 2011, Dr Pearce took up her current position as Deputy Director of CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science where she leads a team of more than 250. Projects include running facilities such as the Parkes telescope, leading preparations for Australia’s first ‘megascience’ project, the $1 billion dollar Square Kilometre Array (which will build the world’s next generation of radio telescopes in Australia and South Africa to detect the first stars, test theories of gravity and explore how the universe evolves) and leading the CSIRO’s newly established space program.

Raising a family alongside these achievements has taught Dr Pearce valuable lessons about flexible working arrangements. “I was fortunate when my children were small that I was able to work from home in Australia for my job in the UK. As a leader, this experience has made me much more open to non-traditional working arrangements, including part time and remote working. I’ve applied this to several staff, enabling me to retain excellent employees even when they’ve needed to change working arrangements for family reasons.”

“It’s only been a few of weeks, but I’ve tried to use this opportunity to increase the profile of women in STEM, acting as a role model and encouraging the next generation into STEM careers. The award has also allowed me to promote astronomy, talking to diverse audiences about the SKA, its ground-breaking science and impacts for Australia. My career has been quite non-traditional…I’d advise to take opportunities that you’re interested in when they arise, even if they don’t look like a direct path to grow your career. You never know where it will lead you.”

Julie Hirsch, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of Eloments Natural Vitamin Tea, 2020 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year

Julie Hirsch has spent her career putting energy into things that would create the world she wants to see. After opening and running a voter registration office during the 2012 US Presidential election, she followed her heart to Australia at 22 and became Deputy Director for the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (where she still volunteers as Board Secretary). Five years after meeting Nicole Lamond and bonding over a mutual love of healthy and ethical products, they became business partners on the world’s first 100% natural vitamin tea, Eloments Natural Vitamin Teas. Now backed by Woolworths and sold in almost 4000 stores worldwide, Julie and her company have shown the value of disruption and a strong moral compass.

“I love Vonnegut’s quote: ‘We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.’ Our start up journey has not always been graceful, and many times Nicole and I have learned the detailed meaning of ‘growing our wings on the way down’. The challenges we face in our business journeys – and the many mistakes we make along the way – don’t diminish how far we’ve come. In fact, they make our story so much more interesting.”

Julie’s best investment in business? A tube of Stila Stay All Day lipstick. “Anytime I’m scared or think we’re dreaming too big, I put on my red lipstick and feel like I’ve got a suit of armour on. Woolworths pitch meeting? Asking for a million dollar investment? Red lipstick on!”

Jo Thomas, Chief Executive Officer and Creative Director of Metro Arts, 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Woman of the Year. 

A career in the arts has made for a joyous journey for Jo Thomas. Growing up in Toowoomba, Jo has had stints studying and working in theatre, film and television in Melbourne, Sydney and Massachusetts, USA. Now based in Brisbane, Jo focuses on production for major festivals, venues and small-to-medium arts organisations, and over the years has been acknowledged with international awards and scholarship opportunities. Jo now holds the title of CEO and Creative Director of Metro Arts, a for-purpose, cultural community hub with a 40 year heritage. Life-long learning, including through formal education, has been crucial for me in making the leap to CEO. Both my Churchill Fellowship and my recent MFA in Cultural Leadership have expanded my critical thinking, my research and writing abilities and allowed me time to examine and reflect on international best practice in leadership, producing, communication and governance. I encourage learning in any form, and grasping all opportunities with both hands, including through valuable partnerships and mentorships.

Jo has a strong message for government, “I’m very conscious of the huge challenges faced by the creative sector at this time, both in urban centres and regionally.  Arts organisations are vitally important to the broader ecology, and to the vibrancy of a thriving nation, so I’ll continue to call on all levels of government, but particularly our Federal Government, to recognise the tremendous value of our cultural sector.  So far, the Morrison government has announced only an additional $27 million in funding support to the cultural sector, while zoos and aquariums have received $95 million. I urge the Government to increase its support to the cultural sector at this critical time, so we can reopen with strength, post-lockdown.  The creative sector is going to be crucial to re-establishing community spirit, rebuilding economies and bringing back a sense of hope.”

Kerrie Campbell, Chief Information Officer at Flinders University, 2020 Telstra South Australian Business Woman of the Year

Kerrie Campbell’s work in IT has spanned over 35 years and sectors including Banking, Insurance, Finance, Utilities, Federal Government and the Higher Education Sector. As the CIO at Flinders University, Kerrie is implementing large-scale technology transformations and a new agile culture where IT is a key partner to the university, allowing experimentation and innovation at the pace of change. For Kerrie, people are the best investment a business can make, “organisations always look to cut training budgets as they see them as a luxury when times get tough, but I think that investment pays back ten-fold and people understand the investment you are making in them.”

“I worked in traditionally male-dominated sectors for all of my career and there were times when I had to know ten times more than the guys to get one-third of the recognition. I didn’t let it make me bitter, I used it to make me better. When you do make it and are successful, help those behind you coming through. Mentoring others by telling your stories and helping them see others who have succeeded is a great way to perpetuate the next generation of great leaders. Remember how hard it was for you and pass on your wealth of knowledge to others, only that way we can help to change the way that the world works.”

Kerrie’s advice to other women in business? “Always trust yourself, you have to give things a go –  don’t be scared of failure. Try new things, try different roles, try things that scare the sh*t out of you, because then and only then are you learning. And be yourself! Don’t take on the persona of other leaders, only when you are true to your own style will you really be successful.”

Heidi Prowse, Chief Executive Officer at Mental Illness Education ACT (MIEACT), 2020 Telstra Australian Capital Territory Business Woman of the Year. 

Heidi Prowse was not going to let the cystic fibrosis diagnosis of her now-husband deter their relationship. Instead, she let her passion fuel her purpose – to work for a cause greater than her own. Heidi’s career has been spent volunteering and now leading for-purpose organisations, raising much-needed funds for families like her own.

When her husband received a double lung transplant in 2017, Heidi enrolled in an online technology and analytics course to fill her hours in the hospital waiting room. This led to her current role as CEO of MIEACT, where she leads a small team delivering education programs to schools and workplaces across Canberra. Heidi credits the development of her emotional intelligence for giving her strength as a leader, to guide organisations through change with transparency and accountability, and building trust.

Heidi’s best advice for other women in business?  To ask yourself whether you’re getting caught up in things you have no control over. “Re-align your energy to the things you can control and you can influence. For me this has not only improved my own mental health and wellbeing, but it has helped me to reach things I didn’t realise I had the capacity to reach.”

“It has meant lot to me to receive this award, in particular, validating my qualities and approach. I have not followed a traditional education path. I have very deliberately explored experiential learning which has offered me the opportunity to get a hands on approach in a broad range of operational activities and respond with agility.”

Margaret Williams, CEO of St Helen residential care facility Medea Park, 2020 Telstra Tasmanian Business Woman of the Year

Margaret Williams has dedicated her career to caring for members of the community. She spent years juggling nursing and academic studies, which led to senior management positions in the Cardiology Department at Epworth Hospital and CEO at Malvern Private Hospital. Following these positions, Margaret made the move into the aged care sector as COE at Claremont Home, where she was later appointed as a Life Governor in recognition of her dedication to the senior residents in South Melbourne. After moving to Tasmania, Margaret commenced work with Uniting Age Well (managing nine facilities and over 3000 personnel), before moving to CEO of Medea Park Residential Care in St Helens, Tasmania, which she continues to manage. “I commenced in Aged Care as I felt it was an area where one can really make a difference and contribute to the lives of older Australians in a meaningful and positive way. In Aged Care you can become a part of many residents lives and make the experience a positive one for you and them.

Margaret’s best investment in business is giving staff time, support, acknowledgement, praise and opportunities to grow. “Listen to them and consider their ideas as, in the vast majority of cases, they are the ones at the coal face undertaking the demanding tasks on a day to day basis, and they can tell you the best way achieve desired outcomes. Provide support mechanisms and opportunities for them to develop professionally (to) engender trust and allegiance. If you do this, you will have staff that will remain loyal and supportive when you need them in a crisis.”

“Business reputation in Aged Care is critical to the ongoing viability of the business. I have endeavoured to ensure in all of the businesses I have managed that ‘community outrage’ does not become an impediment to the success of the business. You may not always be able to deliver all requests but if they feel listened to, that is half the battle of winning them over to work with you, not against you. Listening to what they are saying and considering what, in some cases, may appear a different approach, may be an amazing idea and solution to a problem.


Jodi Cant, Director General at the Department of Finance, 2020 Telstra Western Australian Business Woman of the Year. 

Born and raised in rural Western Australia, Jodi Cant has worked across the private, not-for-profit and public sectors, and brings this expertise to her role as Director General at the Department of Finance. Leading more than 1000 staff, she oversees the state’s finances and credits culture, leadership and values as critical to running a successful team.

Jodi believes a progressive workplace is the key to her leadership approach and she has led her department through several innovation initiatives. Being courageous, authentic and following your own path are the key pieces of advice she’d pass on to other women in business. As a self-professed country girl at heart, Jodi likened leadership to horse riding. “You can learn a lot about leadership from horse riding. Ride forwards out of trouble. Fear up learning down. Stay in the moment. You can only look in one direction at a time, I choose to look forwards. You can’t do it alone.”

Bec Hammet, General Manager of SH Build, 2020 Telstra Northern Territory Business Woman of the Year. 

Bec Hammet’s professional journey started with an administration traineeship the day after completing year 12. It was here at Brookes Maintenance Service in Perth that she found her love of working in sales, marketing and administration. For more than a decade Bec has upskilling in these areas with certifications and practical experience working at SH Build, the company she started with her husband. Today she balances her role as General Manager with sitting on the NAWIC NT committee and raising a family. With a commitment to safety and quality at the heart of her business, Bec travels to remote building sites to undertake audits, complete safety meetings and support her supervisors. She oversees all day-to-day operations, managing budgets, developing strategic plans, meeting potential clients, and creating opportunities to improve the business.

“I am a very busy bee and am determined to succeed in everything I do by putting in the hours and working smart. Throughout my career I have learnt strength, compassion and communication are key to success, and to surround myself with strong, hardworking people that share my vision. Invest in yourself through training and development, and if you don’t win – learn”


Thanks to our friends at Telstra Business Women’s Awards


©2020 Business Chicks

Log in

Forgot your password?