Seeking Inspiration: Kate Spargo
This post is part of a series on JustB profiling women who inspire, motivate and challenge us.
These posts are supported by Seek Learning
My favourite inspiring lady: Kate Spargo (my mum!)
Her work: Company Director
Where she lives: Melbourne
The quality I love most about this person: Her evidently limitless ability to support, mentor and nurture those around her.
Notable achievements: First woman to Chair a financial institution in Australia, successful Company Director, top-notch mother.
Something good that she’s said: ”Grow genuine relationships with your peers now, because you’re going to want those people next to you in 20 years.”
My takeaway from Mum: There are no limitations to what can be achieved through hard work.
When I was a kid in the 80s—when we were allowed to say things like “women can achieve anything”—teachers often asked us to write about women who inspired us. Ground-breakers, usually, women who had done things no other woman had done before. The first woman in space (Valentina Tereshkova). The first woman in the Senate (Dorothy Tangney). The first woman to be a Justice of the High Court (Mary Gaudron). All admirable women who had achieved amazing things, and women that I wrote diligently about in my essays. I admire Mary Gaudron because she became a High Court judge, which is pretty amazing.
I wrote about these women because I thought it would be silly to write about the one I really admired. Predictable and twee, and maybe a little childish. Even now I’m waiting for the first comments about why I wasn’t able to come up with something a bit more interesting.
I admire my mum.
Not just in the “she raised me, isn’t she clever” way, but in the really, truly “she is an amazing woman” way. I am grateful every day for what she instilled in me and the strong woman gifts she now gives my daughters.
My mum, Kate Spargo, grew up on a small farm in the Adelaide Hills, where everyone was poor and occasionally on fire. Her parents didn’t believe in higher education for girls, so they sent her to a public school while her brothers went private, then off to university.
Instead of going on Facebook to complain about it, my beautiful, smart 19-year-old mother found a job working in a children’s mortuary, preparing children’s bodies for autopsy. She worked in the morgue, supporting my father while he was at university (because boys were allowed to go), until he had graduated and she was finally afforded the opportunity.
They lived on a pittance while mum blew her classmates out of the water and earned a Bachelor of Laws, with Honours. Because that wasn’t badass enough, she decided to practice law while having three small children, throwing us at the day care centre on her way to lecture in Law in her “spare” time. When she was tired of being a lawyer, she decided she would just run the companies instead.
In the late 90s, she became the first woman (there, a qualification, the first woman to do something!) to be the Chairperson of a financial institution in Australia. She decided then to give up everything she knew in Adelaide and give it a really good crack in Melbourne, so she took indefinite leave from all her jobs and moved interstate with no real plan or any real connections.
12 years later she sits on the Boards of some of the largest companies in Australia and New Zealand. She is the Chair of the Accounting Professional & Ethical Standards Board, as well as sitting on the Boards at UGL, Sonic Healthcare, SMEC and Investec Bank, amongst others, as well as being a Board Adviser to Griffith Hack.
And despite all of this, all the hard work and tough decisions and time away from home (mum works overseas, often in remote parts of South America and South-East Asia, more than 12 times a year) she still called me yesterday, with her mother’s intuition tingling, just when I needed her to, right exactly when the world had become big and scary. She talked to me for an hour about my stresses and my worries and asked me what she could do to help me and whether I needed her to drop everything she was doing and come over. Because that’s the kind of admirable woman she is.
So maybe it’s a bit ridiculous to write these things about your mum, like a four-year-old. But the trouble is, I can’t think of anyone I admire more.