Let’s start viewing women as leaders

KATHY Bensted wears many hats.

She is a board member, business owner, fashion designer, former local councillor and single mother of two.

Ms Bensted has also spent much of her life drawing attention to the lack of female representation in leadership positions.

The former Australian Local Government Women's Association president and current chair of Regional Development Australia Ipswich and West Moreton is one of the many prominent women in Ipswich that The Queensland Times is profiling as part of Queensland Women's Week.

Ms Bensted said women were still held back in the business world, representing just 14.2% of board chair positions.

"I'm the only female chair in Queensland in my organisation and those statistics reflect all the way through a lot of commercial boards as well," she said.

LEADING THE WAY: Chair of Regional Development Australia Ipswich and West Moreton, Kathy Bensted, is encouraging women to apply for board positions.
LEADING THE WAY: Chair of Regional Development Australia Ipswich and West Moreton, Kathy Bensted, is encouraging women to apply for board positions. Inga Williams

"It's terrible to say but a lot of men ask why we need (Queensland Women's Week). It's another way to say we need to acknowledge women. When you're looking at appointing anyone, whether that's on a board or as an employee, you have a pool of people that you have to choose from.

"Women make up 51% of the population so if you exclude women from being in a particular position, you're actually cutting your ability to get good people by half."

Gender equality in local government has also been a long-term passion for Ms Bensted, who worked as a local councillor in Boonah for eight years.

"A lot of roles that women are trying to break into are traditional male roles. When I first got onto council they thought I was voted in to be the mouth piece for my then husband," she said.

"It took me two years to get the respect of my fellow male councillors and by doing that I had to go off and do study and work really hard."

Ms Bensted said it was beneficial for councils and businesses to have both men and women leading the way in order to bring different perspectives to the table.

"It's human nature. Women have different ways of thinking (and) I would like to think that we are seen as having different abilities (to men)," she said.

"When I was in local government when we had a group of men and women together we came to a better conclusion.

"Men and women have to stand up and encourage others to rise to the occasion."

The former councillor also offered her advice to young women looking to take up leadership positions in the future.

"If you have a goal, work towards it," she said.

"Don't let anything stop you."



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