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Great scope for career growth in regional towns



I do feel regional businesses do more to invest in and retain their female leaders, offering second to none workplace flexibility and support.” Sarah Simpson. 

Sarah Simpson, Manager at I & M Simpson and Son P/L. Image supplied.

Under-representation of women in leadership across various industries and in some of Australia’s most thriving and essential businesses continues to be problematic.


While some argue a plethora of factors contribute to women missing in leadership, it does raise a question: in 2021 are these ‘factors’ still relevant or are they now misconceptions?


In this series, we talk to women leading the way in their respective fields, across a range of industries, in businesses we bank. They share helpful advice and lessons learnt and most importantly, help us bust some misconceptions about their working lives.


Business Growth

All of the participants in this series have been involved in ANZ’s Business Growth Program. This year, the program saw a 27 per cent uptake of women in leadership roles participating in Business Growth CEO Clinics across Australia.


The ANZ Business Growth Program is delivered by The Australian Centre for Business Growth, University of SA with global growth expert Dr Jana Matthews, ANZ Chair in Business Growth at UniSA.


The online courses, seminars and webinars are open to all Australian businesses participating in the program. ANZ business banking customers can speak to their relationship manager about taking part in targeted one-day clinics and an intensive nine-month program.


A world of experience


Traditionally, the regional job market has been skewed towards resources (mining) and industries (construction). A change in economic factors over the last decade has seen a shift to a higher demand for professionals.


The Regional Australia Institute (RAI) recently reported regional job opportunities hit an all-time high, with more than 66,200 jobs available in regional towns and cities across Australia. This accounts for nearly one third of all vacancies throughout the country.


Throw in a pandemic, and the result is more and more people enticed to move to the country.


That said, regional areas are often thought to have limited career opportunities, especially for women.

The combination of improved economic conditions, expanding infrastructure, a change in living habits and perceived values have challenged this perception, with regional or remote work now seen to offer a diverse range of career experiences, support networks and perspectives that can really catapult your career.


Here we speak to Sarah Simpson - who holds a management position in regional Victoria - to find out first-hand the opportunities – not limitations- working regional can bring.


Passionate about providing exceptional service and with a keen interest in safety and risk management, it’s no wonder Sarah’s family business has been in operation for 65 years.


Having grown up in the high country of Victoria in the regional town of Alexandra, Sarah went on to spend a lengthy amount of time away, before returning to the town about 15 years ago. With the gorgeous and ever popular Lake Eildon not too far from home, Sarah enjoys kayaking, cooking, and travelling when she can.


Sarah had a Bachelor of Business and a career in hotel management and catering in Australia and Europe under her belt, before joining the family business, I & M Simpson & Son in 2017 to expand her horizons.


What is your job title and can you give a little insight into what a day in the life of Sarah Simpson looks like?


I am a manager in the family business, I & M Simpson & Son (Simpsons Fuel). Each day is different, I’m fortunate that my role gives me lots of variety.

On a typical day, I usually start by checking in with our retail sites and problem solving any issues, ordering stock and ensuring all the books are in order. I then focus on our safety and compliance documentation and also manage our social media, and reporting. I usually have a large project or two underway too. For example, I recently oversaw the major renovation of our Eildon petrol station.  


DEBUNK: People think living in regional areas can limit your career opportunities, especially for women. As a female leader based in Alexandra, Victoria - a small town with 3,000 people – what’s your view on this?


The amount of managerial roles in regional areas can be less, however on the flip side people tend to stay in these types of roles longer.


So while the opportunity to get into a position could be more difficult than in the city where there’s a greater volume of roles and turnover, once a role is secured, I do feel regional businesses do more to invest in and retain their female leaders.


Working in regional areas can mean working in industries and environments you mightn’t have thought you’d end up in; this provides the opportunity to access and experience a greater variety of knowledge and build a broader skill-set. These things can help set you up for deeper management roles and a larger variety of roles – expanding your career choices.


Regional workplaces also offer second to none workplace flexibility and support. Often there are good, solid support networks for working families in our community.


Most people don’t know that I…


Have taken up playing AFL football with the local women’s team. It's great to be involved with a women’s football club and have fun on the field learning new skills, meeting people from all walks of life and getting some exercise along the way. 


The family business has been operating for 65 years (no mean feat), what are the key factors that have contributed to the long-term success of the business? On the flip side, what have been some of the main challenges?


Consistency and hard work are large contributors to our success. We have a wonderful team of people, some of whom have been with us for close to 30 years.


Much has changed in the world since my grandparents started the business in 1953 and we will have future challenges with changes to the fuel industry and the introduction of alternative fuels.


Taking opportunities to grow and diversify has allowed us to weather some of the more challenging periods such as natural disasters, regulation and industry changes and more recently COVID-19 restrictions - and will continue to see us through further challenges.


Over the last few years we've worked to diversify into fuel transport which is significantly growing our truck fleet and hiring new staff.  In our retail stores we've introduced takeaway food and changed our shop offering to cater to the growing needs of our community. 


One piece of advice you would give to other women looking to lead?


Be open minded. Don't be afraid to try non-traditional industries. I hadn’t originally pictured myself managing in the fuel/transport industry, however in my experience I’ve discovered there are great opportunities for women to grow and learn in these areas.


As a business, how important is it to support and be involved in local communities?


I & M Simpson and Son proudly support many local groups such as sporting clubs, schools.  We have a large involvement in the planning and sponsorship of local events such as the Alexandra Truck Show and Rodeo. These groups and events are a vital part of our local economy and bring valued tourism to the area.


Living and working in the area, our family and many of our staff have a strong community presence volunteering. It is so important to support our community as it allows us to give back to those who support us and to improve our communities’ resources.


Simpsons Fuel has been delivering Caltex fuels throughout North East Victoria for 65 years. They have a long history of delivering high quality fuel and oils in the Alexandra, servicing a wide variety of customers including primary producers, transport companies, earthmoving operators, logging and haulage contractors and private customers. Simpsons believes in strong, long standing relationships; this is shown through their customer base, many which have been doing business with company for more than 50 years. 

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