Lord Mayor Sally Capp heads up conference to empower female students

Sally Capp will present the keynote address at the inaugural Future Female conference on Friday 13 September, focusing on international women studying in Victoria.  

In 2018, Victoria attracted 227,000 students from 170 countries; 46 per cent of whom are female. Inspired by a version staged in Helsinki, the Future Female event is about celebrating these students who have travelled to Victoria from all corners of the world.

The conference is designed by international women for international women, and is sponsored by Study Melbourne. It is being held to showcase the achievements of women from diverse backgrounds and equip females to work towards a fairer future.

Given the theme, it’s apt that the conference will feature an outstanding panel of speakers, with the keynote address by the first woman to be directly elected as the City of Melbourne Lord Mayor, Sally Capp. Broadcaster Jamila Rizvi, cross cultural consultant Tasneem Chopra, author and historian Dr Clare Wright, and lawyer and social entrepreneur Zione Walker-Nthenda – who spent many years working at the Victorian Aboriginal Legal Service – will also take to the stage.

The Future Female conference is being held on Friday 13 September.The conference is about empowering women and advancing gender equality locally and internationally. Students are invited to meet courageous women who haven’t always followed the rules, as well as current and former international students who defined success in their own terms.

One of whom is Sally Capp. The 52-year-old is the ideal headliner for this conference, having broken plenty of new ground for women in her own career. A diehard Collingwood fan, in 2004 Sally made history when she was elected as the club’s first female board member. Then, from 2009 to 2012, she became the first woman to hold the London-based role of Agent-General for Victoria in the UK, Europe and Israel: a posting established in the 1860s.

The law/commerce graduate from the University of Melbourne has also worked in executive roles at both KPMG and ANZ, taken the small business she co-founded to the Australian stock exchange, and held executive roles with the Committee for Melbourne, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Property Council.

"People and purpose, not politics" is Sally’s mantra. As is "making things happen". And she has nailed both those ideas in her own career in no uncertain terms.

"I stand for people: that’s the reason I put my hand up to become Lord Mayor of Melbourne," she says. "I’ve felt a calling to give back to the city that has given me so much, and I’m now relishing the opportunity of being able to do just that. My only obligation is to create good outcomes for Melbourne and Melburnians. It’s a serious job which requires passion and commitment. I intend to use all my skill and experience to deliver for the city."

As if that’s not enough of a hefty role, Sally’s also involved in several charities, sitting on the board of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, the Mary Jane Lewis Scholarship Foundation and the Melbourne University Faculty of Business and Economics.

Among various other benefits, the Future Female conference will help students understand different pathways to success, build connections with peers who can provide support and encouragement, gain confidence from hearing the stories of others, and provide inspiration, explains Sally.

And they’ll hear about the experience of others. "I’m a serial 'have-a-goer' and have learned the hard way not to fear failure but, in a way, respect it," she says. "This has led to many extraordinary experiences and opportunities. I’ve had many humiliating and 'a-ha' moments along the way: these have helped me to build resilience, exposed me to new situations, helped me have more self-awareness and I’ve learned a lot about other people. All these experiences have been worthwhile even if the ultimate goal was not reached. It’s important to always look to learn from every experience.

"An example of an 'a-ha' moment is when I was a lawyer and expecting people to automatically back me in a new venture – and they didn’t. Don’t make assumptions, prepare and mitigate against risks. Also, tell people what you want and take responsibility for driving your own outcomes: determine your own picture of success and stick to it. Be proud of it."Headshots of the speakers for Future Female.

The thorny question is, why do we need this type of conference to help women believe in themselves and aim high?

"We haven’t seen enough change yet and while we continue to address structural and institutional barriers, we need to also build up the capability, capacity and encourage more women to step up," responds Sally. "It’s also important to be able to have the confidence to call out behaviours and have techniques to encourage change. If we aim high, we can achieve great heights."

Of course, all students, regardless of gender identity, can also benefit from these sorts of conferences, too. "Discrimination exists in lots of forms for different people, particularly in workplaces: skills to cope with, confidence to tackle and leadership to create change are relevant to us all," says Sally. "There’s much that needs to be done to overcome blatant and casual discrimination. We’re a city that cares for people and that means valuing and respecting everyone as individuals. Respect for all people from all backgrounds is fundamental to our city and our culture."

International Education in Victoria

New figures show international students from 170 countries accounted for 281,000 enrolments last year, up 11.4 per cent, supporting almost 79,000 Victorian jobs and generating $11.8 billion in export revenue.

Revenue for Victoria has increased by 89 per cent, making international education the state’s largest export category, ahead of tourism ($5.4 billion) and wool ($2.1 billion).

The total number of international students was 227,000, with some enrolled in multiple courses.

The top five countries for onshore students were China (88,401), India (50,463), Malaysia (16,643), Vietnam (12,763) and Sri Lanka (9,541). The most popular fields of study were management and commerce (32 per cent), arts and humanities (21 per cent), IT (10 per cent) and foundation studies (10 per cent).

Victoria is a premium higher education and research destination, with higher education responsible for half of all international student enrolments. Melbourne is Australia’s top student city as ranked by the QS Best Student Cities 2019 report, where it was also ranked third best student city in the world. Find out more about international education in Victoria on the department website.