She’s managed high-level corporate responsibilities with millions of dollars at stake in one of the most male dominated industries around.  Oil and gas executive Natalie Wallace says it’s been a ‘big journey’, and she’s got a BCD scholarship to thank for helping to navigate her career.

Natalie’s resume reads like a who’s who of the resources industry: Mobil, Exxon, Energy Australia (formerly TXU), and Santos. After studying chemical engineering, this experienced executive got her first taste of working life in an Adelaide refinery. She then moved up the ladder to bigger responsibilities including strategy development and commercial negotiation.

However it was negotiating her own value as a lone female voice in the boardroom that proved the hardest.

“At the time, I was part of a leadership team, and was the only woman outside of HR. My challenge was being heard in the room. I could say something and eyes would glaze over. My colleague would say the same thing in a slightly different way, and everyone would think it was a good point. I was looking for assistance on how to navigate that.”

In 2012, behind closed doors launched its inaugural scholarship. “A friend told me about the (scholarship) opportunity and suggested I apply.”

Natalie beat out many applications to win, and was inducted in to the BCD Luminaries program, where she flourished.  After a full year in the group, Natalie gained confidence and discovered tools to solve workplace problems and issues, finding the support of the BCD network invaluable.

“Over time, my role increased in complexity and visibility, and you can’t share that in the workspace. Knowing that I could rely on the facilitators and my peers to work through those (workplace) challenges has been really valuable.”

But it’s not just professional development advice Natalie received.

“I formed very strong friendships with my group of peers. They’re based on a foundation of respect.  To get the best out of BCD you do need to show vulnerability, and in order to do that there is a level of trust that isn’t necessarily available through a work relationship. Donny and Annette have fostered that so that it happens quite quickly.”

Natalie has enjoyed a continuous association with BCD since winning the scholarship in 2012, and has this advice for those considering applying.

“You get access to a range of experiences and a knowledge base, and the safe space to know that you’re held in respect, and that’s so important for professional women. The thing you get from a scholarship are tools. Just go for it and apply.”

The scholarship is worth in excess of $5,500 + GST.


By Stacey Lymbery

Harnessing collective power: How helping other women can help your career

Executives Working Together

Some things just work better together. Like champagne and strawberries. They’re delicious on their own, but together they bring so much more to the table than the sum of their individual parts.

It turns out we, as women in business, are much the same.

Whether we’re entrepreneurs running our own business or working in a corporate environment with visions of career advancement – studies continue to show that when we work together, we are far more likely to succeed than if we go it on our own.

In her Forbes article covering this very topic, founder and CEO of The Female Quotient Shelley Zalis notes that for a woman to succeed in the workplace, she first has to overcome the mountain of cultural and systemic hurdles that stand in her way. We are much more likely to overcome these hurdles and go on to win positions with greater authority and higher salaries if we do it together.

Collaboration over competition

As women in business, we thrive when we work together and support one another. 

Empower other women by helping them be the best versions of themselves. Inspire and nurture them and know that in return they will do the same for you and/or pay it forward. When we have a community of cheerleaders and supporters around us, we are far more likely to succeed.

Connections are key

Building and sustaining intentional connections with other people is one of the best things you can do for your business or career. Joining networking programs like Behind Closed Doors, becoming a member of your industry organisation, and attending networking events are ways to build connections and establish relationships. And when I say networking, I’m not talking about the old approach of handing over a business card and being done with someone – that’s not what we’re about. It truly is about building genuine relationships with others and when networking with women, it’s building life-long friendships. Relationships that mutually nurture your careers, that add real value to your life and to the lives of the women you’re connecting with.

Keep learning and inspiring

Life is a continual journey of learning, developing, and stretching. Whether you attend courses, learn and implement new technologies, or engage a mentor, the more you challenge yourself and go outside of your comfort zone, the more you will grow and succeed. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Share your lessons with other women and inspire them to continue their learning journey. Build a collaborative knowledge library together so you can all start to bridge your gaps, strengthen your weaknesses, and develop your skills. By collaborating with other women, you will all achieve more and prosper together.

When we share knowledge, support one another, and have each other’s backs, we build powerful relationships that benefit every woman involved. Harnessing the power of the collective, adds tremendous value to our working lives and, as studies continue to show, is key to our success.

If you’re looking for a peer coaching, mentoring and networking community to help you harness the collective power of women, contact Behind Closed Doors for practical and valuable experiences and professional development, to help build your career success.

Warmly,  Donny

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Other blogs you may be interested in:

Why Your Super Isn’t So Super

Behind Closed Doors managing director and founder Donny Walford

So you’ve shopped around for the best performing superannuation fund, and you’ve consolidated all your accounts – but have you considered the effect of the gender superannuation gap on your retirement?

The current gender pay gap in Australia means that women currently retire with an average of 47% less super than men.  This gap can drastically reduce the quality of your life when you need it most.

Founder and MD at behind closed doors, Donny Walford, is calling for a bipartisan approach to address the issue, and has submitted a white paper to the South Australian government. 

What is the gender superannuation gap?

The current gender pay gap in Australia is 15.3% (as calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency). It is a significant number, and when you drill down to the superannuation gap, it just gets worse.

Women currently retire with an average of 47% less super than men. For the average super fund, that’s $85,000 women are missing out on. This gap can drastically reduce the quality of life for older single women. In 2012, approximately 40% of single women in retirement were living in poverty, as well as having a higher dependency on the age pension than men. Sadly, the fastest growing group of homeless people is older single women.

It will take 40 years before working women build superannuation for retirement, from entering the workforce to retirement.

Why is the super gap so large?

For the last two decades, the gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19%. A lifetime of lower wages for women results in fewer and lower super contributions, plus they miss out on compounding returns.

The money you save by making pre-tax contributions to your super, otherwise known as tax concessions, are structured unfairly. The top 20% of income earners receive the lion’s share of tax concessions. But the bottom 30% of income earners, who are mostly women, get next to nothing. Overall, women receive just a third of all government tax concessions.

There’s a number of other factors that contribute to the gender Superannuation gap:

  • Women are more likely to pause their careers to become the primary carers for their family. By missing just five years of work from age 29 to 34, the average woman is estimated to miss out on almost $100,000 of their potential retirement savings.
  • A majority of part-time and casual workers are women, leaving them with less hours to earn money and build superannuation.
  • Administrative, community services and sales roles are disproportionally filled by women, which tend to pay less than male-dominated occupations.
  • Fewer women occupy senior executive and board level positions, which tend to be better paid.
  • Women typically retire earlier than men, on average, yet live longer than men (for a female born today, that’s up to 4.4 years longer).

So what needs to happen to close the super gap?

The onus shouldn’t be on women to fix the problem, especially when most don’t have the means to do so. Australian women need real change to occur. For that to happen, government intervention is required, and inaction only allows the gender superannuation gap to grow larger every year.

The Government can start closing the gender superannuation gap by:

  1. Increasing the annual concessional contributions cap from $25,000 to $50,000 for women.
  2. Removing the rule that those earning less than $450 a month, who are mostly women, don’t get superannuation.
  3. Start paying superannuation on parental leave, like all other types of leave.
  4. Make sure there are no further delays in increasing employer superannuation contributions to 12%.
  5. Address the gender pay gap by paying women the same salary as men, doing the same work.
  6. Cap men’s salary until women are paid the same salary for same work.

Five years ago, 74% of the SA public service were women but only 28% held senior management roles. In 2019, 49% of Executives are women in 2019.

Pay gap leads to 19.3% annual super shortfall for full-time women.

* The superannuation contribution gap is based on 9.5% mandatory contributions as of July 2014.

Businesses and employers can start closing the gender superannuation gap by:   

  1. Paying women the same salary as men, doing the same work.
  2. Cap men’s salary until women are paid the same salary for same work.
  3. Pay superannuation while women are on Parental leave.

Homeless Women

According to analysis of Census data by the Equality Rights Alliance, between 2011 and 2016 the number of homeless people in Australia rose from more than 102,000 people to more than 116,000. That’s an increase of nearly 14 percent.

However, during this same period the number of homeless women over 55 years old increased by 31 percent. Even more alarmingly, the number of homeless women aged 65 and over saw an increase of 51 percent.

In addition, older women make up more than 56 percent of people receiving homelessness services – a further 61 percent go unassisted.

This red flag doesn’t tell the whole story. Most older women who find themselves homeless don’t sleep rough or access support services – so they aren’t easily counted. A 2014 University of Queensland report commissioned by the Mercy Foundation, indicates homeless older women are therefore “likely to be statistically invisible in data systems.”

The report suggests these women “are more likely to be staying with friends, living in a car, living under the threat of violence in their home or physically ‘hiding’.” Therefore, this alarming data is probably a grave underestimation.

“The largest proportion of older women presenting with housing crisis in Australia have led conventional lives, and rented whilst working and raising a family. Few have had involvement with welfare and support systems,” the Mercy Foundation study states.

Felicity Reynolds, CEO of Mercy Foundation said: “This should be setting off alarm bells for the policy makers because this is only going to get worse as affordability gets worse,” she said.

In addition, lower socio-economic women rely heavily on Centrelink for income, particularly in retirement.

What is behind closed doors doing to address the problem?

behind closed doors aims to help build the financial capability of women to ensure greater economic security for both women and their families, now and into the future. Greater financial capability, including financial literacy, has a direct link with boosting women’s economic participation, including building women’s retirement incomes and savings.

High-quality financial capability education can make a very significant difference to women’s lives. Our financial capability programs assist women achieve financial wellbeing which in turn helps reduce vulnerability to financial stress and other problems, such as family violence.

If you’d like more information on our financial empowerment workshops, email us at