Among the newly-named AM recipients in this year’s Queens Birthday Honours List was La Trobe’s Professor Amalia Di Iorio, who has been recognised for empowering regional women to pursue tertiary studies and leadership roles.
Since 2015 Amalia has facilitated 16 regional Women in Leadership events, in Bendigo, Shepparton, Albury-Wodonga and Mildura. The events bring instrumental local and nationally-significant women together to speak to leadership and topical issues, and in turn raise funds for female La Trobe students.
About $65,000 has been raised so far, benefiting over 60 regional La Trobe students, most of who are the first in family to attend university, and many from migrant or refugee backgrounds.
“For many of the women who receive these bursaries, they are the difference between starting their studies and not, between completing their studies and not,” Amalia says.
The influential, inspirational female leaders to speak on a Women in Leadership panel include Kate Jenkins, Robyn Archer, Emma Germano, Conny Lenneberg and Sandie de Wolf AM. One forum centred on female Indigenous leaders and included Professor Marcia Langton AM, Dr Lois Peeler AM, Auntie Kella Robinson, Natarsha Bamblett.
Local participants have been CEOs in healthcare, social services and wineries, principals and educators, mayors, successful business executives, accounting and marketing, alumni and even bursary recipients. Audience members of all backgrounds and at different career stages have been able to meet them, ask questions and develop new contacts.
Creating opportunities for regional women
Amalia is a Professor of Finance and La Trobe’s Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (China Strategy). Her own career trajectory has motivated her to go the extra mile to help other women strive for the same.
“I came to know women in regional Victoria when I was the MBA Director at La Trobe,” she says. “These women not only had less opportunities to study at the postgraduate level, they also had far less access to networks and professional development activities that are often just as important in building skills and competencies – as well as confidence and resilience.”
Amalia says these qualities are essential if we want to empower women to take on more senior roles in organisations.
“Traditionally women have been hesitant to put themselves forward for leadership roles,” she says. “In fact, it is well documented that women rarely see themselves as leaders so we need more women in senior roles to mentor other women, and provide strong role-models, as one way of progressing gender equality. With less opportunities and support in regional areas that enable women to achieve their leadership and career aspirations, this progress is slow.”
Amalia says she is “deeply honoured and humbled” by receiving her award.
“It is recognition of the outcomes I have been able to achieve but these achievements have not been mine alone,” she says. “I have been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented people, including campus heads and colleagues at our regional campuses, who have worked with me to realise a vision and deliver successful outcomes to benefit others.”
Amalia hopes the award will help raise the profile of the regional Women in Leadership forums, “enabling us to continue engaging with the communities, continue La Trobe’s commitment to promoting gender equality in regional Victoria, and continue to raise funds to provide female students on our regional campuses much-needed financial assistance.”
She also looks forward to a time in the future when large-scale events can resume and audiences can continue taking part in a Women in Leadership forum.