This International Women's Day we thought we'd take the chance to introduce you to our new CEO, Susanne Legena. A fierce advocate for girls and children Susanne is currently trekking in Sri Lanka with a passionate team of fundraisers to help raise funds for our girls projects. In spite of full days and temperamental wifi we managed to ask Susanne a few questions about what it is that drives her and her vision for a better world for all children.
Tell us a bit about yourself (work, home life, hobbies, passions)
I am the very new CEO of Plan International Australia. I am only a week in so I still have my L plates on. I have a 20 year old step son and a 4 year old daughter who has just commenced big school. I am married to Raoul who is a zoologist and chief cook and bottle washer in our household. I love reading and learning, travel, dancing, gardening and mid century design and architecture. We keep bees and have our own honey.
What issues do you see in the world that you want to see fixed in your lifetime?
Zero poverty, climate and gender justice. All of these are do-able in my lifetime – what we have to do is garner the political will to make it happen.
What is it that drives you?
Love and fury. I love our planet, I believe in the dignity and value of every person. I am in awe at the beauty, creativity, resilience and good in humanity. I get furious at injustice, corruption, greed, disrespect and waste. Fury fires my engine but it is love that moves my heart to want to work for positive change.
What would you say to a girl (and her parents) who wanted to pursue a career like yours?
I would say go for it. I hope I can make the pathway a little easier for you. I would also say choose your partner wisely. If you want a big job you are going to need a partner who supports and believes in what you are working toward.
What challenges have you faced in pursuing your passion? How do you deal with failure or setback?
I have faced the usual challenges – I have lacked confidence to put myself forward and suffered the imposter syndrome and felt unworthy of some of my successes. But I have had great people around me to challenge and support me.
When I experience failure or a setback I focus on the work and the why. I go back to what impact I am working to have and focus on what needs to be done next. There is always something to be done.
What do you think makes someone a good citizen of the world?
Kindness, respect, openness, curiosity, compassion and humour. I am a big believer that there is more that unites us than divides us- the human experience is wondrous and difficult. There is no us and them. Only us and us and us.
When you were 12, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I think I wanted to grow up to be Olivia Newton John.
What would you say to your 12 year old self now?
You're great as you are. Grow up to be your own unique, crazy and loveable self. Keep learning and saying yes to opportunities. Have fun along the way, saving the world is a long game.
Who is your role model?
I don’t have a role model as such. I am trying to create my own way to be a feminist leader, mother, friend and citizen. But I admire Michelle Obama – I love her intelligence, grace and humour. And I envy her biceps.
Who has helped you to get to where you are today?
So many people.
My family, friends and co-workers, my former bosses and foes.
I have been given encouragement and chances and work experiences and responsibility that have all shaped me in deep and profound ways. And all the women trail blazers before me who helped me to imagine that I could be anything and anyone I wanted to be.