SA Woman Summit Speech 2023

Firstly, on behalf of Carly Lukacs and I, thankyou all so much for coming and investing in yourselves today. It is beyond wonderful to see so many of you here. And it has been an absolute honour to create this day for you all!

This may come as a surprise, but when I was told I need to talk today, I was like, whhhyyyy me?!! I have nothing to say! Kate kindly reminded me otherwise!

The thing is, this year has seen so much change for me. More than I ever imagined possible and far different to what I imagined 12 months ago.

This year marks 10 years of doing what I do in this space. The space of connecting and empowering women in SA. A whole decade! It’s been a journey. I went from corporate life, to part time work, to stepping into my husbands business, to building my own brands – more than once! Each one of those milestones had female cheerleaders supporting me through. From an incredible female boss in my financial planning days, to fellow female personal trainers and a whole community of women in business who have backed me every step of the way.

 I also have a very special friendship group from high school. None of them with businesses. I am a bit of an anomaly in our group! All of them with their own successful careers, three in education as incredible teachers and another who was in HR. We catchup and I sit in awe listening to them often.

They are making such a difference and I learn so much from them. But a few years ago I began to see things differently than I had for so long.

A divide. Between women in business and women in careers. So many opportunities for those of us as business owners to network and connect and find that support. But for my friends in their careers, there was less for them. When it came to business we are pummelled with marketing that it is ‘the answer’ to all our problems, that it is the pinnacle and what we should aim for. But rarely do we hear that same push for following a career. Yet I was seeing inspirational women in every corner, doing incredible jobs and making such a difference.

So a couple of years ago, we expanded SA Womans mission to include women in business and careers. We started with our Awards, before further sharing the stories of women and creating opportunities to connect for all our working women.

The opportunities for learning, for collaboration and the creation of opportunities is huge when we bring women from ALL backgrounds and ALL experience into a room together , like we have today.

And I now stand here being a woman in both of those worlds. Because this year I stepped forward into a career. I was so tempted to say ‘back into’ there, but it’s simply not the truth.  So in true Carly fashion, I have fully embodied my business – I am now a woman in business and in career!

There were many reasons in my decision. But the hardest part of it all was taking the step. The fear of judgement. The worry about what others thought and the rumours it would start (and it did). The self-sabotage. The imposter syndrome. The worry of do I even have anything to offer? I’m completely unemployable!  

We hear so often that men will apply for jobs even without meeting the criteria. They simply have a go. Whereas women need to tick almost the whole list, before we give ourselves a chance!

 And then I saw a role. One I thought, maybe I can do this one. It will be great experience to have a go and just redo my resume, I told myself. After all it had been 13 years since I last had a job. So I sent off an application.

 I thought I had no chance, until I got the phone call. I was shortlisted! Can you believe it??

I knew I wouldn’t get the job. It was the first one I applied for. And told my husband it will be great experience for future interviews. I headed along, really relaxed. You know, because there was no way I was getting the job.

I left that interview gutted. Which confused me. I suddenly realised that I really, really wanted the job. But thought my business was holding me back after some questions were asked. I didn’t want to have to make a choice between one or the other.

I wanted the new career path. I wanted to be part of a team again and not be responsible for EVERYTHING. I wanted the new challenge. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone. But if I wanted that, then who was I now? Business had become my identity!

And then the call came. I had been chosen. Of all the applications, the girl who thought she was unemployable got the job!! Can you believe it? But not only that, they encouraged me to keep my business going too and negotiated on days so I could have the best of both worlds – a business and a career. And I can truly say I have loved every minute so far.

So there I was. A new job. A business to run. 3 kids. AND then along comes soccer…

Yep the Womens World Cup. And it was everything I embody and have fought for. It was women on the world stage being recognised. It was conversation being around the growth of our women and all they are capable of. It was communities coming together for the common goal of cheering for the women on the field. Gosh, even AFL matches were delayed and the Matilda’s being shown on big screens at the grounds!  And it was women coming together to support and cheer each other on and young girls seeing a future in sport. It was truly women soaring together.

I had been involved in our local soccer club helping behind the scenes and being part of our womens committee. I was accepted into a leadership program through football SA and we created programs at the club for our girls. I was surrounded by an incredible group of diverse, passionate women.

Next minute, I’m moving from the marketing role to working towards bringing back our first womens team in 10 years (and last weekend was inducted as Treasurer!). We were told by men it couldn’t be done, they had tried before. But never underestimate the power of passionate women – or what happens if you tell Carly something isn’t possible! Our recent training program saw 38 women register. 38!!! Women like me who had never played before, women who had kicked a ball when they were younger, women who have some epic skills and haven’t found their team yet.

So every Wednesday night, we have a training session. We smile so hard our cheeks hurt, our abs get a workout from the laughing, we say sorry to each other far too much, we celebrate the good kicks and encourage even the missed ones. We have an hour to ourselves. And in one move of a few passionate women from different backgrounds, we have come together to now create a future for girls in our club.

I bought my first pair of boots a couple of weeks ago and the pride on my eldest sons face was just the best. And then earlier this week my daughter said to me
‘ Mum, I want to be a soccer player like you one day!’.

I nearly cried. Because what she said was everything.

She didn’t care that I’m no good. That I’m unfit. And still learning how to kick a ball.
She didn’t care that I don’t have the experience, or all the skills.

All she sees is her mum putting on a pair of boots, and that makes her a soccer player!

Sometimes our greatest lessons come from our children. And this was one of those.  It was that moment that I was reminded that it is ok not to have all the answers, or all the skills, or everything in a perfect row. Sometimes just having a go is enough.

It is enough to inspire others and it is enough to inspire ourselves. And it is enough to create change, to bring together communities, to achieve new goals and find your new path. Sometimes just having a go – is ENOUGH.

SA Woman was created not to hit records or turn into a publicly listed company. It was created to leave a legacy and to create change. Change for women and change of our girls – to be seen, be recognised, access opportunities, to know that they can achieve anything they set their mind to and to belong to a community of women who all believe in them too.

I want my daughter to take the chances and change her career paths – and be supported along the way.

I want her to meet and connect with people from all backgrounds – knowing that there is so much to learn from everyone we meet regardless of status, job title or education.

I want her to find her place to belong – whether it’s the workplace, in a community or in a local sporting club.

I want her to know that she has the power inside her to decide how she wants to soar. That with a little bit of compassion for ourselves, the courage to have a go and a commitment to do our part in the world – no matter what that looks like, we have the ability to create more positive change and soar higher than we ever imagined.

So as you sit there today, I want you to be reminded that YOU get to decide your path. That you are enough exactly as you are. And that when you are surrounded by the energy of a room full of women – anything is possible. The opportunities today are endless. The woman beside you may become a lifelong friend. A speaker may spark a new idea. You may uncover a new career path.

But one thing is for sure, you will leave feeling the power of this room and what it means to be an SA Woman.

As we get ready to welcome our first speakers, I want you to take a moment to think about where you want to, soar to today and where you want to soar to in the future.  And know that we have are here to cheer you on every step of the way. Because when women come together, we can truly soar higher.

Thankyou again for spending your day with us and enjoy the summit!


xx Carly Thompson-Barry