What we learned at the Women’s Summit


Twenty speakers graced the stage at this year’s Forbes Australia Women’s Summit, sharing stories of failure, success, innovation, and adversity. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite quotes from our panellists, as well as the books we think are worth adding to your to-read list.
Audience members at the 2024 Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

The 15 best quotes from the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Sam Mostyn, Chair of Aware Super and newly appointed governor-general

“In every fight we’re having, we’re not leaving space for respectful engagement. Am I actually listening to the people in this room or am I waiting to talk?”

Sam Mostyn at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy, CEO of Xero

“What you want to do is stay close to where the action is. Sometimes people say, “I don’t know how to be an entrepreneur.” You learn how to do it just by being close to them.”

Sukhinder Singh Cassidy at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Sally Auld, Chief Investment Officer at JBWere

“If the door is open, just walk through it. Don’t worry about why the door is open or who opened it for you.”

Kelly Ryan, ex-CEO of Netball Australia

“The number one thing you should aim for when you’re in a leadership position is being respected. Sometimes you have to make really tough decisions, but you do them in a way that you believe is for the betterment of the sport, which is how I guided every decision I ever made.”

Kelly Ryan speaking at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit on Tuesday. Image: Forbes Australia

Chanel Contos, consent activist and founder of Teach Us Consent

“He has lots of money and gives them instructions on how to be like him. Young men being so attracted to Andrew Tate is actually a warning sign that as a society we have failed to provide positive role models to young men.”

Megan Dalla-Camina, founder and CEO of Women Rising

“We do a lot of research around leadership… Most of the people in leadership roles are men, and we’re seeing this massive empathy gap and vulnerability gap in leadership.

Left to right: Angela Priestley, Megan Dalla-Camina, Megan Davis, and Chanel Contos on the Power of Responsibility panel at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Professor Megan Davis, Pro Vice-Chancellor Indigenous UNSW

“I’ve been into many rooms where women have felt hesitant about talking about their own issues, but you have to.”

Prof. Megan Davis at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Yael Stone, actor and climate communicator

“Let’s make a difference here, in the places where we were born and our kids were born. Let’s see what we can do on home soil.”

Sarah Walsh, Women’s Football Australia and former Matilda

“We’ve been told, and I’ve been told that as a former player, women’s sport is not commercialised… but the same men in 2019 telling me they (The Matildas) didn’t deserve equal pay were the same men asking me for tickets last year.”

Sarah Walsh at the summit

Kemi Nekvapil, author, coach, and entrepreneur

“I think for so many women, there’s this idea that if you want to go far, go on your own.


We go together.”

Sally Auld and Kemi Nekvapil on the Power of Leadership panel at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Kristina Karlsson, founder of Kikki.K

“One thing people can never take away from you is the experience. We can all start again.”

Kristy Chong, inventor, philanthropist, and founder of Modibodi

“If you don’t have the personal problem you’re not going to solve it. Modibodi was due to a personal problem.”

Kristy Chong

Nicole Liu, founder of Kin Fertility

“You can’t bend time just because you feel like it. The harsh reality is you are limited by your time, your money, your resources, and your energy. Where you invest that time really matters.”

Left to right: Felicity McVay, Kristy Chong, Anastasia Santoreneos, Nicole Liu, and Kristina Karlsson backstage at the summit

Rebecca Vallance, Creative Director and founder of Rebecca Vallance

“We have this kind of family mentality at Rebecca Vallance. We treat everyone like family, we look after them. That’s why people stay.”

Anjilla Seddeqi, Australian fashion designer and human rights lawyer

“In Afghan culture there’s a proverb, ‘hope keeps the world alive’. And that’s what I live by every day. You see so much death and destruction. It’s the hope that keeps you going.”

Rebecca Vallance and Anjilla Seddeqi

Steph Claire Smith, co-founder of KIC

“When I want something and I want it enough, I’ll work hard and I’ll just go for it. And I’m also not scared of failure.”

Steph Claire Smith

Siobhan Savage, Workforce futurist, AI expert, and CEO + co-founder of Reejig

“When it came to building a tech company I had no idea… What I did was stupidly copy what everyone else was doing rather than follow my own gut instinct.”

Katherine McConnell, founder and CEO of Brighte

“It doesn’t matter how slow you’re going – you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”

Siobhan Savage, Katherine McConnell, and Kris Lovejoy at the Forbes Australia Women’s Summit

Kris Lovejoy, Global Security and Resiliency Leader at Kyndryl

“Successful transformation programs are smaller, they’re more agile, they’re more adaptable.”

Robyn Denholm, Tesla and Blackbird Ventures

“Everything you want to happen is on the other side of fear.”

Want more from our panellists? Some of these trailblazing women have also penned books, brimming with knowledge, business insights and personal stories. Here are a few to get you started:

Simple Soulful Sacred – by Megan Dalla-Camina

Power: A Woman’s Guide to Living and Leading Without Apology – by Kemi Nekvapil

The Gift of Asking – by Kemi Nekvapil

Consent Laid Bare: Sex, Entitlement and the Distortion of Desire – by Chanel Contos

Choose Possibility: Take Risks and Thrive – by Sukhinder Singh Cassidy

Your Dream Life Starts Here – Kristina Karlsson

You Take Care: Lessons in Looking After Yourself – Steph Claire Smith and Laura Henshaw

Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls: A Memoir – Wendy McCarthy

Look back on the week that was with hand-picked articles from Australia and around the world. Sign up to the Forbes Australia newsletter here

More from Forbes Australia