Resilience and Women of Achievement

Posted on: Tuesday, 22 March 2016 at 10:02:35 PM

Resilience and its importance as a woman of achievement

Article from the AICC(WA) Annual Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE Women of Achievement Lunch, 16 March 2016.


It was a special gathering that participated in the 2016 AICC(WA) Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE Women of Achievement Lunch at EY, during what is undoubtedly a watershed year for women in business.

Guest speaker Dr Linda Friedland shared an account of her discussion with Dr Patricia Kailis AM OBE, learning of her experience and setback in 1957 when, despite being the best candidate, was unable to proceed with study in obstetrics & gynaecology due to her gender.  So too, Dr Friedland recalled how her status as a young mother was the cause for career advancement being thwarted.  Whilst much progress has been made, there is still a gender imbalance within many industry sectors.  Dr Friedland focussed her topic of resilience on the capacity to use adversity as a catalyst for growth and success.  She defined resilience as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever.  Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise.”  It is this hardiness, toughness and resourcefulness that was very much the tone of the business networking lunch and presentation.

From L to R: Ms Robin McClellan, Board Member AICC(WA) & Chief Executive Officer, Leadership WA, Adjunct Professor Liz Harris, Consultant & Executive Coach, Ms Nicola Forrest, Founder, Minderoo Foundation, Dr Linda Friedland and Mr John Cluer, Chief Executive, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA)

From L to R: Ms Robin McClellan, Board Member, Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (WA) and Chief Executive Officer, LeadershipWA, Ms Amanda Kailis, MG Kailis Group, Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group, Dr Maria Kailis, Director, MG Kailis Group, Adjunct Professor Liz Harris, Consultant & Executive Coach, Dr Linda Friedland, Mr Mark Majzner, General Manager, Kailis Australian Pearls and Mr Michael Anghie, Asia Pacific Strategic Growth Leader, Managing Partner, EY


Dr Linda Friedland is a medical doctor with twenty years clinical experience, Dr Friedland’s career is now solely focused on corporate health consulting, keynote speaking, media and freelance writing and director duties.  Her clinical experience includes renal medicine, aged care, family medicine & women’s health.  Based in Perth, Dr Friedland is a world renowned speaker and author, reaching global audiences in 30 countries.  By driving workplace performance through corporate wellbeing Dr Friedland is an international advisor to many of Fortune 500 and Forbes top global companies in the advocacy and business of health issues.

Through much of her recent activity, Dr Friedland noted that “Resilience” as a theme and topic is suddenly in demand.  She challenged her audience to consider whether resilience was just another trend and buzzword, or rather a key element in business and personal success.  Citing an Accenture Study of over 500 senior executives in 20 countries, she noted it was found that more than two-thirds of corporate leaders around the world rate resilience as a key factor.  This is a trend carried into executive recruitment and moreover, the research showed that these leaders view women as slightly more resilient than men.

Dr Friedland further noted that resilience is a topic of focus in the context of an organisational and even a national conversation of culture.  She noted that Israel is a national case study in resilience, and that this in itself was a catalyst for the driving of productivity and profound innovation.  Locally, an economic downturn in Australia has led to organisational and political resilience.  It was however the sphere of personal resilience and its links to health and scientific research that she wanted to bring forward.

Dr Friedland suggested that although there is a genetic predisposition towards resilience (several genes have been implicated in the way that individuals respond to stress and whether they are more or less likely to experience debilitating depression or collapse; when these genes malfunction, enzymes critical for an adaptive stress response may be shut down.)  However she also noted that through neuroscience and neurobiology our resilience is developed on the basis of experience.  She discussed complex cognitive, neurochemical and neuroscience based on brain imaging to show the development of emotional resilience. 

“Up until recently the scientific view was that brain could not regenerate or change at all after early childhood. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s natural ability to reorganise itself by forming new neural pathways , a process of neural reorganisation.  Brain imaging studies have shown something fascinating - that the functioning of the extended limbic system may be key to determining resilience.“

Using a well crafted set of metaphors, Dr Friedland then posed a metaphor of the pearl, the very essence of the Kailis business. 

“It’s no coincidence that it a piece of grit which is the agonist that sets the process in motion.  When an intruder …a grain of sand lodges itself into the soft flesh of the oyster…the creature….protects itself by enveloping the irritant in layers of nacre - mother of pearl.  The oyster transforms pain into beauty.  The irritant becomes a pearl!  In a similar way it is through facing hardships and that which has wounded us that we find the strength within that transcends the pain and creates growth and wisdom!!” 


 Ms Karen Dill-Macky, Partner, EY (left) and Ms Tara Dilena, Senior Associate, Ashurst (right)


 Ms Taria Dilena, Senior Associate, Ashurst

Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group

Posing the question of whether resilience can be measured or taught, Dr Friedland suggested that failure can be a powerful catalyst in moving forward.  Discussing the concept of a resilience quotient, the paradox was that we want to develop resilience in order to withstand hardship, yet it is only through challenging experiences that a person becomes more resilient.   The determination is however through being tested and developing the techniques as follows;

Rewire – Emotional intelligence and emotional insight may be labelled a soft skill in the Business management literature, but in the field of Neuroscience it is a hard skill.   A persons emotional skills are not generally genetically hardwired but they are embedded in our neurology to some extent.  The more we act in a certain way the more it becomes hardwired and ingrained in our brain circuitry. 

Recover – We are often exhausted, overloaded and stressed.  However stress is not the enemy, it can motivate and drive us.  The real enemy is lack of recovery.  We need to value recovery and find recovery time. 

Relationships – Although it sounds like another soft skill, all the researched data on resilience cite- mentoring, coaching, and strong relationships as delivering peace of mind.  The hormone of oxytocins is enhanced by social support and leads to increased resilience. 

Cautioning not to mistake resilience for optimism and positive thinking, Dr Friedland noted that resilient people have very rational and down to earth views.  Finding authenticity in a corporate culture is often measured by projecting strength and confidence at all times, something that women in particular strive towards.  Moving beyond this, most successful organisations possess a very strong value system. Strong values infuse an environment with meaning, and it is the use of resilience as a corporate tool that can assist.  Dr Friedland concluded by mentioning that resilient people do not see themselves as victims in times of strife, rather, they devise constructs around their suffering to deliver meaning.  This is the true essence of resilience. 




From top left clockwise: Ms Nicola Forrest, Founder, Minderoo Foundation, Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University and Board Member, AICC(WA), Ms Leeanda  Paino, Chief Executive Officer, Sealanes (1985) Pty Ltd, Ms Cynthia Griffin, US Consul General, U.S. Consulate, Perth, Ms Nicola Forrest, Founder, Minderoo Foundation, Dr Patricia V Kailis AM OBE, Founding Director, MG Kailis Group, The Right Honourable the Lord Mayor Lisa-M Scaffidi, Lord Mayor, City of Perth and Adjunct Professor Liz Harris, Consultant & Executive Coach


Professor Lyn Beazley AO, FTSE CIE, Sir Walter Murdoch Distinguished Professor of Science, Murdoch University and Board Member, AICC(WA) (centre) with distinguished with High Achieving Female Students from Murdoch University and St Catherine’s College, UWA

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