Women in Leadership

A key strategic focus for EREA has been the promotion of career pathways for women who aspire to leadership in Catholic education, particularly in Catholic schools in the Edmund Rice tradition. 

A key strategic focus for EREA has been the promotion of career pathways for women who aspire to leadership in Catholic education, particularly in Catholic schools in the Edmund Rice tradition.

Since 2009, various initiatives, including conferences in Melbourne and regional gatherings across Australia, have been developed to affirm and challenge women who aspire to leadership in Catholic Education. The aim has always been to provide opportunities for women to access and engage with presenters who are highly regarded in leadership development. Topics have ranged from succession planning, mentoring and career planning, to the promotion of professional learning opportunities aimed at leadership development, presented by many highly regarded speakers:

  • Dr Leoni Degenhardt (Dean of the NSW AIS Leadership Centre)
  • Dr Barbara Watterston (Director, Centre for Strategic Education) 
  • Keren Caple (General Manager of AITSL)
  • Prof Kathryn Brennan (ACU National Centre for Teacher Quality and Leadership)
  • Christine O’Neill (Principal, St Thomas of Canterbury College, Christchurch NZ)

During this time, the Women in Leadership initiative has partnered successfully with the EREA Emerging Leaders programs, which have had a pleasing representation of male and female participants.

In 2016, the EREA Leadership Team turned its attention to the barriers women identify in their journey towards leadership and how EREA supports women aspiring to school leadership through valuing the full range of leadership capabilities male and female applicants bring to EREA.


While Women in Leadership has long been an area of strategic intent for Edmund Rice Education Australia and resourced as such, in 2017 the work that had gone on before led into a Forum with the intention of broadening the conversation to engage EREA National and Regional Directors, Principals and members of College Leadership Teams in looking at the advantages of having more women in senior positions in the organisation and in schools. Supported particularly by the Executive Director, the aim was to engage the people who have very specific responsibilities for building leadership capacity in EREA and its schools.

The Forum, held in Melbourne at the Catholic Leadership Centre, focused on ‘accelerating and unlocking talent through diversity in leadership’. Notable key speakers from a variety of sectors presented on both the why and the how, including creative responses to achieving this goal.

  • Marianne Roux (Professor of Practice, Leadership and Executive Education Monash University at Monash Business School and founder of the Coalition of Female Social Entrepreneurs in Australia)
  • Audrey Brown (Director of Catholic Education for the Diocese of Ballarat and a Director of the Catholic Education Commission Ltd (CECV)
  • Yolanda Beattie (Principal in the Career Business and Practice Leader - Diversity and Inclusion for the Pacific Market with Mercer)
  • Heather McIlwain (CEO of Chief Executive Women Limited)

The Forum also included workshops for women attending the forum who were looking for practical ways to reach their leadership goals. Workshops were led by:

  • Heather McIlwain and Justine MacRae (Principal Coach and Director, JME Consulting)
  • Kathy Freeman (Member of EREA Council and former Principal of Edmund Rice Special Education Services)
  • Maureen Stella (Principal at St John’s Catholic Parish Primary School, Heidelberg)
  • Marianne Roux
  • Audrey Brown

Establishing contact with those women already setting their sights towards leadership is an important precursor to future networking and mentoring opportunities.

Participants can access these presentations in the Resources below.

What’s next?

Among the outcomes of the Forum will be the establishment of an EREA Working Party that might use the learnings from the various presentations to:

  • examine the issues more strategically,
  • identify goals for future research projects,
  • develop resources for our Regional Directors, Principals and others involved in senior appointments, and
  • define an EREA position on Women in Leadership in line with EREA’s strategic directions.

The Working Party would hope to be making a report to the EREA Leadership Team and the Board by the end of the year.


Further Information

To learn more about the Women in Leadership program speak to your Principal or contact Catherine Greenley at EREA Richmond.
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