Last week I had the privilege of attending the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. I wasn’t sure what to expect, a friend who had been to others told me that they were really quite inspiring and I should come along, and I thought “oh yeah, that sounds nice” in a kind of non-committal way. So it surprised me when Mia Freedman got up to speak and had me hooked immediately.

The Telstra Business Women’s Awards has been running for 19 years and it celebrates the amazing achievements of business women around Australia. As well as recognition and prize money the process gives applicants a chance to analyse their careers, gain new business and expand their business network. I have heard it refered to as a ‘business health check’. They cover the following categories; Business Owner, Business Innovation, Community and Government, Private and Corporate Sector, and Young Women in Business awarding women in each state before the national event to be held next month. But this night had very little to do with what these successful women are awarded and although it is celebrating their achievements, to me it was more about what they were giving to us as an audience. There was an amazing list of finalists and speakers all with such outstanding stories, it was inspiring and overwhelming all at the same time.

Telstra Business Women's Awards

Mia Freedman, the founder, publisher and editorial director of Australia’s leading women’s website, spoke about her journey through business which was impressive, but what made her speech connect with me was its honesty. Sharing the wonderful ‘Highlights reel’ of her career but also the ‘not so glamorous’ side that is the reality of starting your own business. Listening intently, I did my best to store her words of wisdom in my memory bank, despite the fact that the champagne had already gone to my head (I am a total lightweight these days). To be honest about her story was very deliberate, not just my interpretation, she didn’t want to add to the intimidation that comes with those ‘reach for the stars’ ‘be the best that you can be’ speeches. The honesty in Mia’s speech and the reminder that we are all human, made everyone elses speeches that evening mean so much more. We can all benefit from role models that share their truths.

There are so many stories I could share from the evenings speeches, it sounds cliché but each women spoke about their work with such passion. From tampons to dairy farmers the motivation which drives these women is so varied and something the winner of the 2013 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year, Sadhana Smile said which made me happy, was that sometimes the thing you are passionate about is just putting a roof over your child’s head. I loved that our driving force to succeed in business doesn’t have to be a global cause, it can be practical.

There is so much to be gained by listening to the stories of others and I suggest you go to the Telstra Business Women’s Awards website and watch some of the speeches. It does not include the wonderful talks from Carolyn Creswell or Mia Freedman but a plethora of outstanding business women from around Australia. Natalie Collard winner of the Community and Government Award, is one that I recommend, her dedication to dairy farmers struck a chord with me, as did her friendly and genuine manner.