Our Leadership Team
Chief Executive Officer
Licia Heath is the inaugural CEO of Women for Election and she’s dedicated to inspiring and equipping more women across the country to run for public office at the local, state or federal level. In addition to training women to run for office, Licia is also focussed on engaging more women in Australia’s political process and educating them on the various roles they might like to take to help another woman get elected. She sets the tone that gender-balanced governments improve quality of life not just for women and girls, but for all of society.
Licia ran in the high-profile Wentworth by-election in October 2018 and helped shape the political debate on a national platform.
She spent over 19 years in the finance and asset management sector and worked at Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse in London and Australia. She helped establish Ironbark Asset Management, an Australian-based asset management business.
Phillipa Dobbin GAICD
Phillipa is a Board Director, Advisor and Founder, specialising in helping businesses deliver sustainable results through change and growth.
She has worked with fortune global 500 companies such as Telstra and Westpac, in Australia and Asia, with responsibilities ranging from 400 – 10,000+ employees. In addition to her role with WFE, she now advises and helps businesses who are on the verge of expansion – this could be through acquisition, transformation, or explosive growth.
Phillipa is passionate about enabling women from any background and circumstance to be successful and has a life-long interest in politics.
She is currently on the Board of Dress for Success, Sydney.
Kali is an international human rights lawyer with extensive experience in lobbying, advocacy and writing policy on behalf of minority and vulnerable groups, with a focus on women and refugees, for nearly 20 years across Australia, the USA, Denmark, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kenya.
She has consulted to governments, legal professionals, NGO’s, advocates and non-for-profit and private enterprise. She gave high level advice on policy, legislation and parliamentary process acting as the Senior Policy Adviser to Dr Kerryn Phelps. Kali drafted and negotiated the Medevac Legislation on behalf of Independent MPs and Senators, working closely with the refugee sector to deliver a rare win in Australia’s national Parliament for asylum seekers and refugees.
Kali has worked at Women for Election Australia for the last 2 years, working on matters relating to gender parity in political representation across all three tiers of Australia’s parliamentary chambers.
Katrina Van De Ven GAICD
Communications & Relationships Manager
Katrina brings over a decade’s experience as a public and foreign policy professional, having led the development and execution of policy solutions across four continents. She has also applied her deep knowledge of stakeholder engagement to develop the inaugural philanthropic strategy for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, one of the nation’s largest publicly-funded research agencies.
An experienced company director, Katrina served for five years as COO of Young Australians in International Affairs. She has also sat on several non-profit boards, including for the United Nations Association of Australia, Water Aid, Women in Nuclear, and the University of Sydney Business School.
Katrina holds a MBA from the University of Sydney Business School, and a Bachelor of Psychology (Hons) and Master of International Relations from Griffith University. She is also a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and holds professional accreditations in communications, and media relations.
Shirley was appointed as Chair of the WFE Board, effective 1 June 2023. She brings a diverse set of expertise across law, financial services, the NFP sector and journalism. She is admitted to practice law in Australia and New York and has worked across Asia and Australia in the corporate and for-purpose sectors.
In addition to her role with WFE, Shirley is currently Chair of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and a non-executive director on the boards of the Australian Associated Press and Northrop Consulting Engineers. She is also on the Advisory Boards of Mentor Walks, an organisation making mentoring accessible for women, and Propel, empowering companies and individuals to manage digital reputation.
Lisa Annese has been the Chief Executive Officer of Diversity Council Australia since 2 June 2014. In this role she leads debate on diversity and inclusion in the public arena.
Under her leadership, DCA delivers innovative diversity practice resources for Australian businesses and supports in them improving their inclusion capability. She has led a broad array of ground-breaking, evidence-based research, including Australia’s first national index on workplace diversity and inclusion, seminal research on the economics of the gender pay-gap and original work on Counting Culture and building Asian Leadership Capability, as well as research supporting individuals being “Out at Work” and main-streaming flexible work.
In 2018, Lisa was named one of the AFR’s 100 Women of Influence. In 2019 she was elected to the Board of Amnesty International Australia and she is also Executive Producer of DCA’s podcast, The Art of Inclusion. Lisa has had a long career in the diversity and inclusion space across the corporate, government and not-for-profit sector.
Amanda is the CEO at ‘Xplore for Success’, an Australian consultancy that specialises in ‘Driving Gender Equality’ and Career development and advancement for women – and men.
Amanda Webb is an experienced and highly respected Human Resources practitioner with over 25 years business expertise in banking, finance, professional services, FMCG and management consulting, having worked for a number of Australian, global and private companies including Deloitte, Westpac, AMP, and the Sydney Olympic Games.
Amanda is an advocate for women and human rights and is committed to driving gender equality. She is a Board Member of Dress for Success Sydney, and an Ambassador for Human and Hope Association, Cambodia.
Philip Busfield M.A. (Hons) Cambridge University (Mathematics) is a risk and finance consultant to the Private Equity and banking industry. He has three decades of experience in various senior executive roles in merchant banking and investment.
Philip has founded and chaired a charity for Parkinson’s sufferers, been actively involved in local community regeneration projects, and is the Treasurer of Dying with Dignity NSW and Your Last Rights Australia, as well as various roles including Co-Chair, Treasurer & Board member of Twenty10 Incorporating GLCS, NSW largest LGBTIQA+ youth charity.
Born and raised in the UK, he now calls Australia home, and in March 2018 became an Australian citizen! He is driven by his passion for Human Rights and particularly the rights of individuals to freedom of expression, speech, and life choices.
Gulandam (Gul) is a Principal Advisor in the Victorian Government, currently working on policy relating to jobs, employment, regional Victoria and economic reform. Prior to this, she spent 9 years in management consulting at PwC and IBM, specialising in citizen-centric transformations to improve the way Government services its most vulnerable citizens.
Whether it is improving mental health outcomes for veterans, health system reforms to be more patient centric, or improving access to justice – Gul believes that equity and access are critical to improving outcomes for all Australians. Gul is a first generation migrant from Peshawar, now living in Melbourne, and is fluent in Pashto, Urdu, Hindi and English.
She is particularly passionate about ensuring our parliament represents the diversity of the people it serves.
Tessa Irwin is a passionate fundraiser and expert in major gift and campaign fundraising. As Senior Manager of the Powerhouse Parramatta Campaign (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) she catalyses philanthropic support for Western Sydney’s first state cultural infrastructure.
Tessa is co-founder and co-Chair of the Australian Philanthropy Network of major gift fundraising professionals. She has been a member of the Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA) NSW Committee since 2017, serving as NSW Chair 2019-2020, and of the FIA Awards for Excellence in Fundraising Advisory Committee in 2021.
In 2020 Tessa completed her Certified Fund Raising Executive internationally recognised accreditation and was named FIA’s NSW Young Fundraiser of the Year. Tessa is proud to work and volunteer for social good and contribute to creating a fairer, better represented Australian community.
Founder and Emeritus Chair
“I have signed on as a WFE ambassador to help make sure the face of Australia is fairly reflected in our political system. To achieve this we need to increase the number of women in all our elected forums across all political parties.
We currently have too few women in parliaments and governments across Australia and we have even poorer representation of women in key portfolio positions in state and federal politics in particular. The outcome is lack of voice, lack of role modelling for young women and mono cultural debates and discussions leading to poor outcomes.
I believe we need interventions to change this as incremental change is too slow. It requires cultural change in political parties, it requires the setting of hard targets to be achieved in pre-selections (quotas) and it requires a regular refresh of sitting member’s so they do not get an entitlement mentality to their positions when refresh is needed.”
“I am honoured to be a WFE ambassador to be part of the change needed to see more women elected across all levels of our political system.
I know first-hand the challenges women face in public life, particularly in the first few steps of seeking and achieving election.
The 50/50 target is ambitious however I believe not only is it achievable, it is necessary to ensure a strong voice on the key issues confronting our country.”
“I am honoured to be an Ambassador for WFE.
I consider gender inequality to be one of the most important economic, social, and ethical issues of significance in Australian society today.
Women urgently need to have an equal and effective voice in Parliament and in government and I can hopefully contribute, through WFEA, to help make this happen.”
“I am angry, sad and frustrated that the issue then is still the issue now: women are still underrepresented in every level of government and in senior levels of business. We cannot afford to bypass half our talent; too much is at stake. Enough. We need an intervention.
When the people in power reflect the makeup of our community and respond to the deep long term challenges and opportunities we face, we will be a fairer, more sustainable nation with a vibrant future.”
“As a proud woman of colour I am grateful for the opportunity to represent ‘Women for Election as a symbol of equal opportunity and access to the pathways and learnings to encourage women to engage across all areas of government and importantly decision making especially for marginalised communities.”
“I am very pleased to become a WFE Ambassador. It was a privilege and an honour to serve for twenty years as a Federal Parliamentarian, winning my seat in seven elections, but I also experienced the challenges and consequences of a less than inclusive parliament. Women are not only underrepresented numerically, we fail to be found in equal numbers in the most powerful positions, shaping policy and allocating resources. For the good of our country, this must change, with great women candidates contesting winnable seats.
Achieving parity will require temporary special measures to be adopted by all parties and by parliaments. The standing orders and structures of parliament must also be put under a gender lens to ensure they are not creating a work environment that puts barriers before parents with caring responsibilities.”
Nick Greiner was Premier and Treasurer of New South Wales from 1988-1992. Since his retirement from politics, he has been heavily involved in the corporate world and signed on as a WFE Ambassador in 2019 as an ardent supporter of the mission of the organisation.
Nick was the Federal President of the Liberal Party, Chairman of the European Australian Business Council (EABC) and a Member of the Board of Governors, Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA). Nick is now living in New York and is Australia’s Consulate-General to the US but stays informed on WFE and its objectives.
“I am honoured to join WFE as an ambassador because not only have they recognised that we need greater civility in our political discourse – they are doing something meaningful about it.
Research has again and again shown that many women stay out of politics and broader public debates because of the nature of the engagement. It’s well overdue that we had those best placed to make a meaningful contribution leading our nation, not just those up for a fight.”
“I’m a founding member of Women’s Electoral Lobby, Chief Executive Women and The Sydney Community Foundation Women’s Fund and continue to advocate for women in public life.
I have a long track record of campaigning and fundraising for women’s issues and was heavily involved with the successful NSW Pro Choice Alliance campaign to remove abortion from the criminal code in 2019.
I have seen the policy differences that come from having more women in leadership positions which is why I joined as an Ambassador for WFE.”
Kat is a descendant of the Meriam and Mua people of the Torres Strait Islands who has gained significant experience working in multinational organisations in Sydney, London & Edinburgh over the past 20 years. Kat was on the WFE Board for two years before stepping off and forming Politics in Colour. WFE is proud to partner with
Politics in Colour and support their programs which are specifically designed to address the challenges and barriers facing people from under-served communities and assist diverse Australians considering a career in politics.
In the women’s development space, Kat worked with UN Women Sydney Chapter and her latest venture is Women’s Business, an enterprise that connects women of colour to leadership opportunities. Kat is passionate about empowering marginalised women and believes that “Investing in women and girls is the most powerful way to change the world!”
Lesley is an experienced politician and parliamentarian from Cairns in Far North Queensland with extensive experience in Australia and the Asia Pacific Region. She served for 5 years in local government before completing five terms in the Queensland Parliament as a member of the Australian Labor Party.
After retiring from Parliament in 2006 she has undertaken a range of consultancy projects to increase the political participation of women designing and delivering campaign workshops and advising international organisations and political parties. She has mentored women candidates in Australia, and women MPs in Myanmar through the International Women’s Development Agency. She also has extensive experience with elections, both as a candidate and observer for international organisations in the Asia Pacific region and Africa.
Lesley is currently a member of the DFAT Pacific Women Gender Advisory Panel and the Champion for the Alumni Initiative, a project of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Network (CWP). The CWP Alumni Initiative aims to harness the skills, experience and knowledge of former women parliamentarians to the benefit of newly-elected or sitting women parliamentarians.
Sonia is an expert in gender and political participation, with an emphasis on parliaments. She has 15 years’ combined experience supporting parliaments as well as women’s access to, and participation in, political institutions. She is the author of seminal reports on women in parliament, including the IPU’s (2012) Gender-Sensitive Parliaments: A Global Review of Good Practice, and the OSCE ODIHR’s (2013) A Comparative Study of Structures for Women MPs in the OSCE Region. Having developed effective tools to promote gender equality in the work of parliaments, Sonia has facilitated parliamentary self-assessments in Uganda and Rwanda. She has strong UN experience, having worked with both the UNDP in Viet Nam and UN Women in New York.
Susan’s background is diverse and ranges from her creative origins in PR, marketing, design, arts and media to a focus now on creating great places that are inclusive, vibrant and sustainable. She has worked in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors specialising in infrastructure and place development and is a specialist in community engagement.
Susan is passionate about helping women achieve their goals and equipping them with the skills and know-how to become leaders in their fields. Her vision is to see more women in decision-making roles to ensure our society reflects and celebrates all of its people.
Kriti’s professional career started in marketing, moving rapidly into strategy, planning and digital transformation across IT&T, Management Consulting, Financial Services, Education, Government, Not-for-Profit and Professional Services. Kriti has a strong commercial background having worked across the globe with organisations like McKinsey & Co, Accenture, Telstra, Westpac and British Telecom. In addition to previously serving on the board of WFE, Kriti is also part of the Central Coast Sustainability Association and the millennial think tank, What About Tomorrow.