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Committee for Geelong's Weekly Addy Opinion Piece - British High Commissioner

During the Committee for Geelong's visit to Canberra last year, we had the pleasure of meeting Menna Rawlings, the British High Commissioner to Australia. Menna took up her appointment in April 2015 and is the first female career diplomat to be appointed to the post.  The Committee is delighted that Menna will be the key note speaker at our annual Leadership Breakfast at The Pier on Thursday 18 February 2016.

As reported in the Canberra Times, when Menna joined the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 1989, there were two female heads of foreign missions and few senior female leaders with husbands and children. Menna confirmed that "[In 1989], there was a leadership gap of women who looked like us [now], who had successful careers and who had families."  Currently, women make up about a quarter of Britain's top envoys.

Breaking the elite school foreign office culture, Menna attended a west London state school and has since served in a wide range of Diplomatic Service roles.  Prior to her arrival in Australia, Menna was based in London as the Human Resources Director for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office.  It is therefore not surprising that Menna is a strong advocate of women in leadership, and of the benefits of a diverse workforce in achieving organisational excellence.

Married with three children aged eight, 15 and 17, Menna's down to earth approach to her role is refreshing.  During her career, Menna and her family have been based in Israel, Ghana and the United States.  Menna's position in Australia requires extensive travel and she has spoken of the struggle to balance the home with the away, to enable her to do her job well, without missing too much time with her family. 

"Thank goodness for my supportive husband, our teams in the Australia Network who do a great job of making the most of my time, and an excellent domestic flight network. This all makes it just about do-able, if I can manage to avoid flight delays through fog or icy weather!" Menna says on her blog. 

Menna also told the Canberra Times, "I am fortunate to have a husband who's had a lot of time off.  He's been the primary carer over the last 17 years. The world of work is adapting to be able to lean into women like me, it's not just us that have to do the leaning in."

Menna believes in inclusive diplomacy - connecting and engaging with as many people as possible face-to-face, but also through digital means.  She is active on social media and tweets (see @MennaRawlings) and blogs regularly on her experiences as a diplomat (see 

As Geelong transforms, it is vital that our city cultivates its global relationships, and Menna Rawlings is definitely an international female leader that we can learn from.  The Committee's Annual Leadership Breakfast is open to the public, and we look forward to welcoming the Geelong-region community to hear insights from Menna.  After all, it's not every day that Geelong hosts a female High Commissioner. To book your place visit:

Rebecca Casson is the Committee for Geelong Chief Executive Officer. Follow the Committee for Geelong on Twitter @Comm4Geelong.



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