Dubbo woman Juliet Duffy has been named as one of the Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence.
Ms Duffy, who is the director of Regional Environscience, is joined by people like former Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and journalist Tracey Spicer.
Ten years ago Ms Duffy founded her company, an occupational health and safety consultancy, from the garage of her rental property. She now employs 23 people.
The director is in the running for the Local and Regional category.
This year's list was chosen from a record 850 entries, a large increase on the 370 received in 2016, the last time the awards were held.
The 100 Women of Influence were selected with the help of executive search firm Korn Ferry and a highly respected panel of judges, including two previous overall winners of the award, Ann Sherry, executive chair of cruise company Carnival Australia, and Moya Dodd, lawyer and soccer official.
Jacqueline Gillespie, senior client partner and head of leadership development at Korn Ferry, says hardship can play a significant role in shaping leaders.
"It often helps galvanise their core values and their sense of purpose. The other thing it does is broadens perspectives and creates more meaning about things that happen," she says.
Entrants this year were asked to demonstrate the competency of self-leadership (courage, resilience, self-development) through challenges and hardships.
This doesn't mean women who had not experienced hardship scored less but it does perhaps explain why a large number of women disclosed stories of overcoming adversity on the way to where they are now.
"The stories of these women's journeys were really compelling and quite important to their journey as women of influence," Gillespie says.
"I do think people see themselves more holistically in the workforce, so they kind of bring all their experiences to bear as leaders and that includes what happens to them in their personal journeys as well."
A 2014 Centre for Creative Leadership study of hardship concluded there are many lessons that can be learned from adversity, including self-knowledge, sensitivity and compassion, limits of control and flexibility.
Because hardship experiences are not intentional, they act as a "wake-up call" to look inwards and decide what is important for one's life, the study found.
Standing in front of Parliament House in Canberra in 2015, Australian of the Year Rosie Batty dedicated her award to her son Luke, killed by his father in a violent incident the year before.
"He is the reason I have found my voice and I'm able to be heard," she said.
The tragedy experienced by Batty is horrifying and something most of us are unable to identify with – but her voice has indeed been heard. Batty has become an influential campaigner against family violence, through The Luke Batty Foundation, which she closed earlier this year, and as chair of the Victorian government's Victim Survivor's Advisory Council.
As one of the 2018 The Australian Financial Review 100 Women of Influence, Batty joins a host of women who have overcome periods of hardship to rise to positions of influence.
This year's 100 Women of Influence, presented by Qantas, was unveiled on Tuesday. The list features women working across a spectrum of industries demonstrating a strong sense of commitment to a cause: from Ronni Kahn, whose company OzHarvest has partnered with United Nations Environment to host events across the country to raise awareness about the alarming rates of global food wastage, to White Rabbit Gallery founder Judith Neilson, Emma Johnston, Dean of Science at the University of New South Wales and author, journalist and broadcaster Tracey Spicer, who has dedicated the past decade to amplifying women's voices and broke the first #metoo stories in this country.
The other judges were for the 100 women of influence were Mark Scott, secretary, NSW Department of Education, Barry Irvin, executive chair, Bega Cheese, Paul Zahra, retail adviser and diversity advocate, Sam Mostyn, director of Sydney Swans, Vanessa Hudson, chief customer officer of Qantas, Financial Review Chanticleer columnist Tony Boyd, Financial Review managing editor Joanne Gray and Sally Patten, editor of AFR BOSS magazine.
For Ms Batty, throwing herself headfirst into a cause gave her a reason to get out of bed again.
"I've always wanted to make a difference in my life," she tells The Australian Financial Review. "I didn't know what that looked like or what that would end up being, but I've always had a drive to make a difference and [the belief] that my life should count for something.
"Yes, busyness is a distraction, but it's also giving you purpose and meaning and direction, and when you lose your child, you've lost all of your meaning and all of your purpose in your life and the direction you were on as a mother. I feel very privileged and indeed lucky that as a white, privileged, well-educated woman, I was given the opportunity to be heard."
In a business environment, the ability to overcome adversity, which helps build leadership characteristics such as resilience, self-awareness and a broader perspective on problems, can be useful in times of layoffs, budget cuts, mergers and acquisitions or corporate scandals.
But more generally, it often gives people a sense of what they care about, Gillespie says.
The winners of each of the 10 categories and the overall winner will be announced at a gala dinner in Sydney on October 17.