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Business Woman of the Year 2018 Finalist

Published November 7, 2018 (last updated on February 28, 2024) | Adam Wyatt - Content Writer


Anna is at the forefront of PR and recruitment, founder of Agency Iceberg and Leading Ladies.

Business Woman of the Year 2018 finalist – Anna O’Dea

She built up her own portfolio of clients early in her PR career, before moving to recruitment agencies and then deciding to build her own business and work for herself.

She’s passionate about people and genuinely invested in the people she places, and the workplaces they go to.

Not one to stand still, Anna also founded the #LeadingLadies series – a network that promotes visibility of senior women in leadership positions and their career journeys, aiming to inspire men and women to achieve their full potential.

Rightfully so, Anna is a finalist in this year’s My Business Awards for Business Woman of the Year.

What issues do women face in business?

Being a recruiter and a woman, I know firsthand that the pay gap is real. I personally know the difference between what men and women are paid for the same job. The issue is real, and it needs to be addressed. I think it very much comes down to females not having the confidence to speak up and ask for what they want. Generally, women wait to be asked or wait for the annual review.

In comparison, men in my experience have greater confidence to put their hand up and voice it straightaway to say, ‘I’ve done this, and I want a pay rise in return’ or ‘I have added this much value to the business which is what I want in return.’ They have greater confidence to ask and are quicker to ask than women.

I’ve run workshops with women on this very issue, and fundamentally, women really need to get more confident negotiating what we get paid and understanding what we are worth. Women, we need to speak up and not wait to be asked.

Unfortunately, many organisations view hiring females as a risk, particularly for senior roles. They don’t want to invest in a female with training and development with the risk they might take maternity leave at some point during their employment.

If any woman is looking for a role and the organisation or employer sees you as a risk, they are not the right company for you. A forward-thinking organisation will value what the right person can bring to the role culturally and professionally.

Who inspired you?

 I was really lucky to have a couple of great mentors early in my career that gave me good advice. I got sound advice from people across all industries to give me a different perspective. Get a good mentor that will encourage you to speak up, educate you on how much to ask for, what to say, and how to job hunt.

So, what’s been the hardest thing about starting a business or running a business?

Hiring the right people. That was a real challenge. I had the issue of hiring people that were very similar to myself – that’s something I really learned not to repeat, you have to hire diverse people in your business for diversity of talent and thought.

Another thing I found difficult in my first year, was that I went from being a recruiter to basically a finance manager, an employer, a web designer, and having to pay all my bills, grow my business, and learn all these new skills at the same time. I went from being a recruiter to being responsible for payroll and paying taxes. I became five people in one.

Proudest achievement?

Launching #LeadingLadies, because I’ve always been passionate about empowering women to succeed in the workplace. I wanted to share the stories I had heard from women about their experience of women in the workplace that are just not right, as well as outstanding achievements that needed to be celebrated.

Early in my career I was shut down a lot about my vision. I was told it’s not my job to advocate for women, that: ‘I’m just a recruiter.’ But I couldn’t do that.  My job isn’t just about placing people into jobs or about making money, it’s about being invested in the people and where they go, to companies that treat them well.

Through #LeadingLadies, I have the opportunity to shine a light on real work life issues that are faced by Australian women every day in the workplace.

They’re not all bad stories, we also share success stories of women overcoming the gender divide. We’re building a community for women, to reinforce the value of women in workplaces everywhere.

Advice to women who start up their business.

Just go for it. There is no right time to launch. Don’t be afraid of potential failure. Failure isn’t as much of a risk as not taking a leap of faith.

When you start a business, it’s important to take time for yourself and invest in you. Don’t overwork or you’ll risk burning out and be mindful of your wellness.

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