Celebrating International Women's Day - a Q&A with our three women in leadership

Published on Tuesday, 8 March 2022 at 9:21:39 AM

CEO Ingrid Stonhill, Mayor Lis Clark, Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson

CEO Ingrid Stonhill, Mayor Lis Clark, Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson. Photo: Elise K Photography

As Katherine celebrates International Women's Day 2022, three women lead the Katherine Town Council. For the first time in more than 40 years, women hold the roles of Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and Chief Executive Officer. In celebration of this year's International Women's Day theme, Break the Bias, each of Katherine's three civic leaders shared their thoughts on women in leadership.

Q: Why do think it's important to celebrate International Women's Day?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: It is always important to celebrate International Women's Day.  Women need to show what has been achieved, particularly in this day and age.  We are no longer viewed as being "empty-headed" and having to stay at home and have children. We can achieve as many outcomes as our menfolk can.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: International Women's Day is a very special celebration of gender equity, a chance to fight for a world free of bias, of stereotypes and free of discrimination. Around the world there is still a lot of stigma and the more we talk about issues impacting women the better chance we have of breaking the glass ceiling and really beginning the steps towards true equity for everyone.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: In 2022, there is still a lack of women role models, with part of the reason being that only one in 18 ASXs00 CEOs is women. (2021 census Chief Executive Women).  If we can inspire women by celebrating so many past achievements, we may inspire many more glass ceiling breakers.   We can't aim to be what we can't see.


Q: Katherine Town Council has three women in its highest leadership roles. Do you think this is significant and why?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: It is significant that we have three women in the lead roles because it is predominantly still a male domain in many other councils around Australia.  It is perhaps that we are still a small town with very strong women who have put up their hands and had the town's support.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: This is an incredible achievement for the town of Katherine and something that needs to be celebrated. We also have women in high leadership roles such as our Member for Katherine - Jo Hersey, the Member for Arnhem and Attorney-General – The Hon Selena Uibo and many other Directors and CEOs across the region. Having this level of female leadership across our town is exciting because these strong women are fighting for the rights of our community, and the community trusts these women to lead by electing them.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: It took two of the highest-ranking female elected members to select the first female CEO in more than 40 years. Changing perceptions and even attracting quality women CEOs to apply has taken some time.

What qualities and attributes do you think are unique to women in their capacity as leaders in a small-town setting?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: The qualities and attributes unique to women are that most women have an inner sense of awareness of the issues that confront everyday people.  They are more acutely aware of juggling the many facets of the position without getting too stressed.  They also can weigh up the costs and look at the overall picture before committing to something.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: Women are unique in their capacity as leaders through their ability to be connected and build a bond with the community at a deep level. They also can be sympathetic and listen to all sides of a story, and of course, women are highly skilled problem solvers. As a leader, each woman brings their flair, and for the community, this brings a different perspective, a different set of skills, and life experiences. This creates positive relationships that can build so much potential for the town through advocacy for a small town.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: An ability to see things from a women's perspective.  Being a wife and mother, juggling children, households and jobs, allows you to know first hand what it takes to make a small town more ‘liveable’. Women also tend to be more empathetic and compassionate, and they're not afraid to show it.  They are also adept at influencing change and engaging with others effectively.


Q: Why do you aspire to take a lead role in civic life?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: I decided to take a lead role, because, as a very long term resident, I needed the Council to look at the whole town, which included the rural area.  There were no rural people on the council at the time. I had been a part of Katherine for so long, and been involved in many boards and committees, done so much volunteering, I thought that I should put up my hand to improve the town and be a part of the community, not just to complain on the sidelines.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: For me, everything I do is about change and improvement. I decided to run for Council because I could see so much potential in what Council and the community can achieve, and I wanted to be a leader for that change. As a young woman, I also wanted to bring the voice of the youth to the table, and we are seeing this happen now through the new KTC Youth Advisory Committee. I also wanted to raise the profile of Katherine on the larger stage through strong advocacy and relationship building with our state and federal leaders to seize the opportunities around us to see Katherine grow.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: Because I believe I can make a difference. I can see so much opportunity and can value add, turning that opportunity into outcomes with my skill base.


Q: What do you believe are the three key qualities of a female leader, particularly in a small community?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: The main qualities to be a female leader are always listening to the people around you and taking things onboard regardless of whether you agree.  Have patience as not everything happens straight away.  Some things take years to happen.  Make sure that you keep everyone informed about what is happening, whether your colleagues or community.  Work as a team with everyone involved.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: I would say the three key qualities would be: perseverance, tenacity and strength. Women need to have the strength and perseverance never to give up. They need the strength to believe in themselves even when others might not; they need the tenacity to have the confidence to back their decisions and fight for their community's needs and the strength to stand up for equity and fight for what’s right.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: An ability to listen, really listen. To drive and have a passion for leading and the ability to take people with you. And to have the strength to stand up for what’s right.


Q: If you could give your ten-year-old self the benefit of what you have learned sof far, what advice would you give her?

  • Mayor Lis Clark: I would tell my 10-year-old self never to give up and persevere regardless of what people might say to you. You don’t need to be wealthy or above average to reach the top.  You will achieve great things by being fair, kind to people around you, working hard, and helping out wherever possible.  Never be a bully, rude, angry or exclusive as that will never get you anywhere, and people will resent you for it.
  • Deputy Mayor Kym Henderson: I would tell little 10-year-old Kym, don’t let people get you down. You are an incredible young woman with so much potential, don’t dim your light because someone tells you to. Life is never easy, but use your grit and resilience to push through the tough times because the rewards are worth the fight.
  • CEO Ingrid Stonhill: Stop listening to the “imposter syndrome” you are good enough, and you have got this.

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