Our childhood experiences - the places we grow up, the people in our lives, the things we do - undoubtedly influence who we become. At Industry Moves, through our series of Q&As, we have loved getting to know the personalities of the high achieving women in finance, and found their reflections on their formative years a particular highlight. In this feature article, we bring together these women and the unique experiences of their childhood.
"Life was simple when you could just ride a bike or play outside before dinner time, do art and craft at the local community centre, enjoy a red skin lolly at the local swimming pool and just be a kid!."
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
Winsome Hall, former union branch secretary and professional non-executive director
I was born in Goulburn as a fourth child, my closest sibling was ten years older. So I grew up in a house of near adults, roamed the countryside by myself and read voraciously. I became very independent, very quickly! All my siblings left by the time I was six and suddenly I was an only child when we moved to Canberra, which felt very lonely. School became my refuge.
Read Winsome's full Q&A here.
Angela Emslie, former long-serving chair of HESTA, professional non-executive director and consultant
It was a pretty unconventional childhood for the time. I was born in Hobart but travels with my independent and adventurous mother led me to attend 9 different schools across 5 cities, 3 states and 2 countries. We lived in Canada for a year when I was 9 where I learnt to sing in French and Inuit and ice-skate home from school. I finished my schooling in Melbourne at MacRobertson Girls High which was very academic - girls were not allowed to learn to type! School holidays were often spent in Hobart with my architect father, step-mother, half-sisters and extended family.
Read Angela's full Q&A here.
Julie Lander, CEO of Care Super and champion fundraiser for the Mother's Day Classic
I was very fortunate to have grown up in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs in a happy and secure environment with my parents and brother. Life was fairly simple then, with the benefit of hindsight – we went to school, played active games during the breaks (no ipads), participated in sport (mine were mainly swimming and tennis), rode our bikes to our friends’ houses, did our homework and spent time with family.
My father had his own business and I was introduced to rudimentary accounting in my teens when I was assigned the job of entering all the expenses in a huge ledger. Having parents who taught us about money has been a great advantage. When I got my first job, I was asked to pay board and did so willingly. I also learned the values of working hard, having integrity and treating others with respect. My father had also migrated from Europe so I also benefited from an appreciation of cultural difference and more interesting food!
Read Julie's full Q&A here.
Sandi Orleow, professional non-executive company director
I was born and grew up in Johannesburg South Africa. I was the eldest of three children and have two sisters that are identical twins. From a young age I was fascinated with business and money. My father bought a share in games arcade and my biggest joy was counting out the money and handing out tokens not actually in playing the games. Since there were no boys in the house, (even the dogs were female) my father taught us to shoot and I garnered a passion for clay pigeon and target shooting in my youth.
I was fortunate to go to good public schools for the majority of my school years and finished my last two years of school at a private Jewish day school. I was a competitive student and sportswoman and even from a young age wasn't happy to be pigeon holed in a gender, "know your place" bucket.
We didn't grow up with money but my folks still tried to take us to the beach in the school holidays 2-3 times a year which was a 5-6 hour drive away. My first overseas experience was to the US on a a trip my father had won through work, I still remember Epcot Centre and Disneyworld and the blustery weather in San Francisco although July and Summer.
Read Sandi's full Q&A here.
Anne Ward, former long-serving chair of QANTAS Super, professional non-executive company director
I grew up on a vineyard in country Victoria where my father grew table grapes. My pocket money was earned crawling around under the vines in the height of summer, filling dip tins for 10c each. It was remote and isolated and I ran fairly free with my brothers. It was a wonderful childhood.
Suzie Ridell, chief executive officer of Social Ventures Australia
I grew up in Sydney with my parents and brother. My parents were South African and both separately left South Africa as young adults because they didn’t agree with Apartheid. They bravely came to Australia to start over with no family here and no connections. They met here and were proud to become Australian citizens and bring up Aussie kids.
I had an amazing childhood with a loving family and lots of opportunity. Mum and Dad ran small businesses and worked hard. Mum was a CEO of a computer business and won one of the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year categories. She has been a huge role model for me. Dad has been an inventor, business owner, factory supervisor, pilot and more.
Read Suzie's full Q&A here.
Bev Durston, alternative investment specialist and principal of Edgehaven
I grew up in Aylesbury, a medium sized town in the home counties surrounding London. My family was always very supportive of whatever I wanted to do and I was very lucky to attend an excellent all girls senior school where both sports and academic accomplishments were highly valued.
Read Bev's full Q&A here.
Kim Heng, chief operating officer, Australian Ethical Investment
I grew up in Redfern where I started in kindergarten and then spent the majority of my primary school years. As a six year old child I was able to walk down to the corner store to buy milk and bread, even firecrackers (when it was still legal) and feel completely safe. It was multicultural even back then and it was a great childhood that I remember fondly. Life was simple when you could just ride a bike or play outside before dinner time, do art and craft at the local community centre, enjoy a red skin lolly at the local swimming pool and just be a kid!
Read Kim's full Q&A here.
Annick Donat, CEO of Madison Financial Group
I grew up in Melbourne and life had quite a few challenges. I’m very thankful that my mother had a profoundly positive influence in my life, by encouraging me to be the best person I could, before collapsing at the age of 44 from a brain aneurism, leaving her incapable of caring for herself. I spent the next 28 years (she passed in 2016) often remembering and reflecting on the lessons she taught me and who she would want me to be. But I often say every family has a story. That said, I was surrounded by lots of cousins, which meant many family events and celebrations. We all grew up together and our bonds remain strong today. When we head to Melbourne at Christmas time, one of my cousins will always make sure there is a feast ready and everyone gathered in one place!.
Read Annick's full Q&A here.
Lata McNulty, chair of Women In Super NSW State Committee, wealth management executive at RBC
I was born in Sydney, however as my parents had very little support in Australia, when my mum returned to work after her maternity leave, I was sent to Tonga and grew up with my Grandmother and Aunties (my dad’s 3 sisters) until I was about six or seven. I returned to Australia with Grandma in tow and started school shortly after. I recall not being able to speak a lick of English at school and being in a constant state of wonder as there were so many new sights, smells and people in this new home. I’m one of six kids, so four of us had a similar experience. My youngest brother and sister, who had the benefit of Grandma living with us in Sydney at the time they were born, were an exception. It’s fair to say that I grew up in a very loud and loving family – family dinners and lunches at my parents are highly entertaining, there’s no shortage of “smack talk” between us siblings.
Read Lata's full Q&A here.