Young female changemakers recognised as ‘Women of Influence’

2 November 2016

Six outstanding UTS alumni were recently among the Australian Financial Review’s list of 100 Women of Influence of 2016. These exceptional women were recognized across categories of Business Enterprise, Innovation, Social Enterprise and Not-for-Profit, and Young Leadership. The AFR 100 Women of Influence awards highlight the important contribution of women’s leadership in Australian business and society, focusing on their influence in contributing to the advancement of women in these spaces.

In the Young Leader category, Marina Brizar, Kate Fitzsimmons and Sylvia Freedman took three spots of the ten.

Marina Brizar was once a refugee who studied UTS law and international studies, and graduated in 2013. Since graduating she has assisted asylum seekers at Manus Island and interned with Anti-Slavery Australia and she is now the Head of Corporate at Playfair Visa and Migration where she guides her clients through the often frightening challenges of the migration process. Marina sees a future in diplomacy dedicated to facilitating economic migration and helping people of the world flee from war and persecution.

Kate Fitzsimmons graduated from UTS with a Bachelor of Business in 2013. She was immersed in a corporate career until the moment her life was forever changed by the sudden, devastating death of her sister Nicole in a motorcycle accident in Thailand. From this terrible tragedy, Kate’s family established a foundation called The Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation. Kate is the Director of the Foundation and she has developed a presentation designed to motivate young Australians to reconsider taking the kinds of risks on holidays they would never take at home. Kate travels around Australia delivering her travel safety presentation as part of the Foundation’s mandate to save other families from suffering from the loss of loved ones in holiday tragedies.

Sylvia Freedman is a UTS Communications and Social Inquiry graduate from 2015, and she has been leading the charge to bring attention to the crippling impact of endometriosis on Australian women. Sylvia’s terrible personal experience with endometriosis, and her struggle to find therapeutic drugs to relieve the pain and fatigue it causes, inspired her to start a Change.org petition demanding that Bayer Pharmaceuticals distribute their drug Visanne to Australia, a market they had dismissed as too small to be profitable.

With over 70,000 signatures and more than 19,000 comments, the petition ignited conversations among endo sufferers and inspired Sylvia to start EndoActive, a not-for-profit advocacy group. She coordinated a conference for endo sufferers, medical specialists and allied health practitioners, where endo sufferers could voice their experiences and learn about new research into treatment options. She is now putting together care information packages for women who are newly diagnosed.

UTS alumni were also Women of Influence in three other categories. Journalism graduate Diane Westaway represented in the Business Enterprise category. Diane is the CEO and Founder of Wild Women on Top, and champions the cause for women to get into nature and have wild walking adventures. With a focus on fitness, health and the joy of nature, Diane provides life changing adventures for women wanting to test their personal limits.

In the Innovation category, Associate Professor Natalka Suchowerska, was recognized for her work leading medical physics research into cancer treatments at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. She graduated from UTS with a Masters in Science in Clinical Measurements, and has now patented several research technologies, some of which are being developed into products for calculating and assessing radiation doses in the human body.

Kelly McJannett was recognized in the Social Enterprise and Not-For-Proft category for her work with Food Ladder, a social enterprise working to address the food security crisis that is creating widespread poverty and malnutrition across the world. Kelly left UTS with a Communications degree, started Food Ladder with a friend, and is now growing Food Ladder’s impact through Australia’s indigenous communities and other communities across developing world. 

Two UTS staff were also recognized as Women of Influence. Professor Jane Hall was in the top ten in the category of Public Policy for her leadership in Health Economics research, mentorship and policy. Professor Patricia Davidson was recognized in the Global category for her work in developing initiatives to improve the cardiovascular health of women and marginalized populations. 

As the AFR awards attest, these are women who are invested in helping other women, and agitate for change in every space that decisions are made. They are tenacious and justice-oriented, driven and hard working. “They use their considerable networking and communications skills to help shift from the status quo to an equal, more diverse and vibrant society.”