Lynn Mason’s career has taken her interstate and overseas; from farmer to Mayor and to the boardroom of many organisations.
We asked the AICD’s Tasmanian Gold Medal winner about her journey so far.
How did it all begin?
I grew up in Brisbane and attended school and university there. After graduating, I went travelling and met my husband in Greece who was a Flinders Islander. We came home to marry and began farming – running sheep and harvesting abalone. One day my neighbour approached me to stand for the council by-election. I won that, was elected Mayor in 1996 and became President of the Local Government Association of Tasmania in 2000. In 2003. I undertook the AICD’s Company Directors Course to start the next phase of my career as a non-executive director and I retired from local government in 2006. All the while we were still farming and expanded our operations to the mainland of Tasmania too.
What have been your career highlights?
The main highlight has been the wonderful people I have worked with and learned from in all of my different roles – they are the continuum. My highlights include winning the inaugural National Reconciliation award for communities on Flinders Island; being invited to join the Tasmanian Honour Roll of Women; winning the Tasmanian Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Award and the Australian Business Owner of the Year. In 2004 I was a delegate to the 12th Session of the Commission on Sustainable Development in New York where I addressed a session of the United Nations on the role of local government in environmental management. Winning one of the wether trials on Flinders Island was also great fun.
What setbacks have you overcome?
My father was killed when I was a baby. My brother and I were brought up by my mother as a single parent which was unusual then. I never saw it as a challenge as my mother was an absolute inspiration.
The weather can certainly be a setback for a farmer!
I’ve learned many valuable things about being more inclusive and listening carefully – not only to what people are saying but what they are NOT saying.
Has your gender been an asset or a challenge to your success?
My gender has not been insignificant. Straight after graduation, a female friend and I applied for a loan to start a rental business on Stradbroke Island. We were denied as we were both female and told that a loan would only be approved to a male relative. That certainly fired me up! In my early days as a councillor on Flinders Island, I was asked, very politely, to provide cake for afternoon tea – I didn’t.
Farming can still be very conservative about valuing the equality of women in the agricultural workforce although attitudes have come a long way since we started farming.
How important is professional education and governance training?
It’s extremely important. There are many pitfalls for the unwary that it is madness to embark on any organisational structure without a good understanding of governance requirements and the need for continuing training and review. I was urged to undertake the AICD course by the CEO of Local Government Association of Tasmania and this training was vital.
Where to next?
I want to volunteer in areas of particular interest to me and I remain particularly interested in local government, so maybe there’s something I can assist with there. More farming and gardening. Something will come along – it always does.