Retreat 2019

The Women in Economics Network, part of the Economic Society of Australia, hosted the 2019 Women in Economics Retreat at Cleveland Winery, Victoria on 17-18 October.

The Retreat provided an opportunity for around 20 junior and mid career women economists to develop their networks, receive mentoring and strengthen their leadership skills. Participants in the retreat were drawn from academia, government and the private sector, providing great opportunities for networking and broader economic discussions.

Sessions focused on leadership and career progression, career hacks and work/life balance. Participants also received communications training from Catherine McGrath Media. The Retreat provided an opportunity for attendees to discuss issues as a group as well as participate in small group mentoring sessions with senior women from the same sector. Participants were asked to come to the Retreat with a career objective or challenge that they can work through with their mentor.

The senior mentors that participated are listed below. The Retreat was facilitated by Danielle Wood, Chair of the Women in Economics Network(to end 2019) and Program Director at the Grattan Institute.

The Economic Society of Australia and Retreat Sponsors paid for accommodation, meals and training at the Retreat. Participants were required to make their own travel arrangements to and from Cleveland Winery. A bus was available from Melbourne Airport to the venue and returned at the conclusion of the Retreat. The Economic Society assisted in arranging carpooling for Melbourne-based participants.

How to Apply (2019)

Applicants will be junior and mid career women (2-15 years' experience) looking to advance their career in the economics profession. Applicants should be members of the Women in Economics Network. Please see the membership section of the WEN site for information on how to join.  Application process is now CLOSED.

Thank you to our Sponsors


Mentors 2019


Sarah Close, PwC

Sarah is a Partner in PwC's Economics and Policy team and leads PwC's national Infrastructure Economics offering. She is passionate about maximising the benefits to communities and businesses from investment in public infrastructure including transport, health, education, social housing and precinct infrastructure. She brings a diversity of perspectives having lived overseas in Europe and Asia for 3 years, in both Denmark and China. She is also PwC's Partner Sponsor for their Symmetry network, PwC's employee-led network for gender diversity and inclusion, leading a range of initiatives to connect, inspire, empower and lead progress. As a Committee Member of the NSW Branch Women in Economics Network (WEN), Sarah also seeks to encourage young people, particularly females, to consider economics as a rewarding and impactful career.


Michelle Dowdell

Michelle Dowdell is Treasury’s Head of Melbourne Office and a Principal Adviser in Retirement Income Policy Division. A key role of the Division is providing advice on all aspects of retirement income policy, including age pension policy and the tax and regulatory aspects of superannuation policy. As Head of Melbourne office, Michelle leads Treasury’s engagement with a wide range of stakeholders.  Since starting in Treasury as a Graduate, Michelle has worked in a number of policy areas within Commonwealth Treasury and Department of Finance. Michelle has also been an adviser to three Treasury Ministers and was seconded to NZ Treasury advising on regulatory reform.


Professor Lisa Farrell, RMIT

Lisa’s research interests lie in the area of Health Economics and Economic Psychology: specifically in relation to risky health behaviours (gambling, smoking and drinking) and behavioural economics (understanding and modelling addiction and the effects of psychology/ personality on economic decisions). Lisa has published extensively in International A* and A ranked journals which include the American Economic Review. Her external engagement includes: being an Editorial Board Member for the Economic Record and the Journal of Gambling Business, Chief Examiner Economics and Markets, Foundation Studies for Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) Australian, 2011 -2016 (and continuing support for this program) and Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) Social and Economic Behaviour (SBE) panel member August –Dec 2010. In her current role as Professor of Economics within the School of Economics, Finance and Marketing at RMIT University Lisa acts as the Deputy Head of School (Research and Innovation) and also is Director of Markets, Culture and Behaviour Priority Research Area of the College of Business.


Catherine McGrath (Communication Skills Training)

Catherine McGrath is a giant of the Australian media, keynote speaker, MC, writer, trainer and businesswoman. Catherine spent 30 years reporting for the ABC and SBS in both Australia and overseas and was political editor for both public broadcasters. From 1997-2016 she was a member of the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery and covered her last election in 2016 as SBS Bureau Chief. These days Catherine speaks and hosts business events around the country and trains business and professional speakers. She is the founder of #WomenSpeaking a program training woman to speak in the media and at conferences, events. Catherine is the recipient of the Centenary of Federation Media for Services to Society through Journalism. She lives in Canberra.


Helen Silver AO, Allianz

Helen is Allianz Australia’s Chief General Manager, Corporate Governance and Conduct. Prior to joining Allianz Australia, Helen spent more than 25 years in executive roles in the Victoria and Commonwealth public sectors, culminating as head of the Victorian Public Service in the position of Secretary to the Department of Premier and Cabinet. Helen takes a lead role in promoting and advocating for gender equality and diversity both within Allianz and in the community; she has a deep interest in corporate governance and conduct public policy and the arts; and enjoys an active life. In 2015 Helen was awarded an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to public administration, business and commerce and the Victorian community. Helen has a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) and a Master of Economics both from Monash University and Helen is also a National Fellow of the Institute of Public Administration Australia. Helen also serves on a number of boards including Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Victorian Arts Centre Trust and the Judicial Commission of Victoria.


Penny Smith, RBA

Penny Smith is the Deputy Head of Financial Stability Department at the Reserve Bank of Australia. Since joining the Bank in 2009, Penny has held various management positions in Financial System Group, Economic Group and Financial Markets Group. Prior to joining the Bank, Penny worked in Strategy and Research at Westpac and as a Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has a PhD from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Economics from the University of Western Australia. Penny is also President of the NSW Branch of the Economic Society of Australia.


Linda Ward, Parliamentary Budget Office

Linda Ward is the First Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer responsible for leading the Fiscal Policy Analysis Division of the Parliamentary Budget Office. A key role of her division is conducting and publishing analysis that enhances public understanding of the budget and fiscal policy settings. Prior to this, she was a senior executive at the Commonwealth Treasury, working in the Individuals and Indirect Tax Division of Revenue Group and International Policy and Engagement Division of Macroeconomic Group. Her responsibilities included overseeing Treasury’s engagement with the IMF and multilateral development banks, and representing Australia at the G20 Working Group on International Financial Architecture. Linda began her public service career at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where she worked for several years in a range of economic policy roles. She worked as an economist at Treasury for 12 years across three Groups – Revenue Group, Fiscal Group and Macroeconomic Group. She has also worked as an economic adviser to a senior Cabinet minister and as a senior macroeconomist at BHP Billiton’s Singapore Office.Linda holds a Graduate Certificate in Public Policy and Finance from the University of Canberra, Master of Public Policy degree from Japan’s National Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS), and a Bachelor of Economics (Honours) from the University of Sydney/University of Western Australia. Linda is Deputy Chair of the Women in Economics Network committee (Canberra).


Danielle Wood, Grattan Institute (Facilitator)

Danielle is the Budget Policy and Institutional Reform Program Director at the Grattan Institute. Danielle’s main research interests are tax and budget policy, intergenerational inequality and economic and political institutions.  Danielle previously worked as Principal Economist and Mergers Director at the ACCC, Senior Consultant at NERA Economic Consulting, and as a Senior Research Economist at the Productivity Commission.  Danielle has a Masters of Economics and a Masters in Competition Law from the University of Melbourne and a Bachelor of Economics (Hons) from the University of Adelaide.  Danielle is the National Chair of the Women in Economics Network and she sits on the Central Council for the Economic Society of Australia.