10 Inspiring Women On The Lessons They Learned In 2021
As a year of profound changes and challenges comes to an end, we ask some of the most inspiring women we know to share what 2021 has taught them, both personally and professionally.
10 inspiring women on lessons learned in 2021
What lessons can be learned from a year like the one we’ve just experienced? It has been another 12 months of twists and turns, pain and hardship. One marked by protest and activism, as well as countless acts of kindness and compassion. It has been a time when we have, yet again, been forced apart and instructed to act against our instincts as social animals, and yet, somehow, we’ve never felt closer to, or more grateful for, the people around us.

So, as we reach the year’s end, we asked 10 of the most inspiring women we know about the lessons they learned in 2021. Here are their answers and here’s to a better, a much better, 2022.


Rosi Fernandez, MD of La Prairie Group, Australia and New Zealand

“In 2021, the rollercoaster continued and we had no choice but to start enjoying the ride. In 2020, we were living in hope that the vaccine would help get life back to some normality. But the most profound learning was that COVID-19 and its effects are not going away, so managing people remained top of the priority list for leaders.

In business, I have spent time helping the team understand that this is our new normal and, as strange as it sounds, to enjoy the moments. The opportunities it has given us are extensive: getting to know the local clients better as tourism halted; refining and elevating our financial acumen to ensure long-term security; and a clear understanding of the importance of staff engagement. La Prairie has thrived as a brand by staying true to its luxury identity and ensuring that we gained market share through offering memorable experiences and creating a deeper authentic bond with our clients. We will definitely use these learnings to augment our next chapter of growth.

Personally, there was so much to appreciate, with health becoming a top priority, as well as time spent with family. For so many of us who travelled extensively for work, we found the opportunity to stay home was to be treasured. Finally, I feel that we have all become more grateful for the things we may have, up until recently, taken for granted – hugs, dancing, unplanned get-togethers, the list goes on. My hope is that this newly ignited gratitude remains because we truly are very lucky.”

“We have all become more GRATEFUL for the things we may have, up until recently, taken for GRANTED – hugs, dancing, unplanned get-togethers, the LIST goes on…”


Tory Archbold, Founder of Powerful Steps

“In 2021, I learned that I am capable of anything because a happy heart is a magnet for miracles. When you work on yourself as a priority, and create boundaries around what is not in alignment with your values, intent and purpose, you create space for what you cherish most. For me, that is family, as well as empowering others in my community. Throughout lockdown, and another round of home-schooling, there was a realisation that we don’t need much to survive and thrive. We just need the basics – unconditional love, a roof over our head, food on the table and the ability to communicate with others.

The past 12 months have taught me about compassion and patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day and my goal for 2021 was to build a strong foundation for my business so that we could take the platform global. This involved a grass-roots, people-first strategy and as the year unfolded, almost everyone I met faced some form of challenge. My role was to be their wing woman and guide them through a mindset switch so that they viewed these challenges as professional and personal possibilities.

One of the most powerful business and life tools is to hold space for another person by listening – you can then shine a light so that they can understand their own superpower to propel forward. We now have a powerful community of like-minded women, ready to deliver global impact in leadership roles and I am very proud of what they have achieved. The lesson learned is this – when you lean into others who are in alignment with your values, intent and purpose, anything is possible.”

“The LESSON learned is this – when you LEAN into others who are in ALIGNMENT with your values, intent and purpose, ANYTHING is possible.”


Aneka Manners, Senior Finance Executive, Designer, Film Director & Producer & Creative Director Projects

“I think this past 12 is just a precursor to a time when more will be required of us and we will need to step up to our best selves. We’ve needed to survive in more grey and more ambiguity than ever before and it’s been uncomfortable. It’s flushed out the toxic behaviours and habits of ourselves and others. It’s reminded us what matters and, in some cases, how what matters is impossible to accommodate in the current construction of our lives. It has literally locked us in a room and asked ‘what matters to you?’ and demanded the answer that, before now, we wouldn’t have had enough time to even contemplate.

I’ve realised that being our best requires constant, deliberate intervention on our learned patterns. Surrounding ourselves with challengers, supporters, inspirers and nurturers in equal measure has never been more important. The exchange has to be equal though – this is not a strategic act – it must be one of love and respect. Knowing which of those roles you play for members of your tribe and, if those roles are functional (ie they serve you both and don’t exacerbate dilutive personal patterns), you take them up with gusto and proliferate amazingness regardless of where it resides. In other words, if good things happen, forget who is credited and forget you.

As a sidebar, I think this pandemic has cracked open a few very old paradigms. If you haven’t got your crowbar out yet, go get it. Now is the time for the impossible to change.”

“Surrounding OURSELVES with challengers, supporters, INSPIRERS and nurturers in equal measure has never been more IMPORTANT.”


Corina Gaffey, Fashion Stylist

“For most people, 2021 was a year of challenges, professionally and personally. It also happened to be one of the busiest and most rewarding years in my career to date, mainly because I opened up my business to new challenges and developed a strong styling team around me. I was willing to learn, upgrade my skills and become adaptable.

When you’re self-employed, you have no one but yourself to show you the way. I realised I was responsible for my success; for pushing myself forward and taking on opportunities to develop and grow my business. And the only way to do that was to accept jobs I’d never done before, and get out of my comfort zone. It opens up your business to new perspectives, ideas and people, all while helping you make new connections.

I’ve also learned that you can never underestimate the power of connections, good staff, and building a network to take your business to the next level. It’s impossible to consider my job a solo effort, especially if I want to scale, develop and push it further. Hiring people, outsourcing and relinquishing control was integral for me and my business this year. Having a solid styling team meant I could take on bigger and better jobs, knowing I had the support network to fulfil the jobs to my best ability.”

“You can never underestimate the POWER of connections, good staff, and building a NETWORK to take your business to the NEXT level.”


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Colleen Callander, Founder of Mentor Me Women

“What a year it has been! One we never would have imagined, but one, in time, we will be grateful for lessons learned. So much has changed – the way we work, communicate, do business and educate, just to mention a few. During the past year, our world was turned inside out and upside down and leaders have needed to step up and act quickly to find new ways of working and doing business.

Although the future can be uncertain and unpredictable, there is one thing I know for sure: the leaders who navigate purpose, passion, integrity, courage and humility, who have a clear vision, and who focus on their people’s health and wellbeing, will be the ones that will not only survive but thrive during these challenging times.

There are still too many leaders stuck in what I call the ‘old style’ of leadership – one driven by authority not influence, by dictatorship not democracy; and one where profit comes at the cost of people. This kind of behaviour during a pandemic will not only stifle creativity, innovation and growth, but will also shine the spotlight on this outdated leadership style. While some leaders may see this global pandemic as a major roadblock, I see it as an opportunity for organisations and leaders to rise up, embrace new thinking and progressive ideas, empower their people and encourage innovation. The leaders that have instilled strong values in their organisations, created environments of collaboration and trust, and put people at the heart of it all, will be the ones that not just survive in these challenging times but thrive.

On a personal note, 2021 has taught me that kindness is more important now than it has ever been. And not only being kind to others, but also being kind to ourselves. It has taught me not to take anything for granted, to appreciate the small things, and how truly important human connection is.”

“While some leaders may see this global pandemic as a MAJOR roadblock, I see it as an opportunity for organisations and leaders to RISE up, embrace new thinking and progressive ideas, EMPOWER their people and encourage INNOVATION.”


Fiona Macintyre, Founder of Forming Impact

“2021 has taught me quite a few lessons. It has reminded me that we all have the opportunity to create the world we wish to live in, we must always be adaptable to change, and that when we show up, great things happen. Hosting two in-person flagship events during the pandemic was tough, but the outcomes were worth it. When we unlock human potential we can create impactful change.

I also really focused on looking after my health, both mentally and physically this year, taking time out, being outdoors and making sure I wasn’t pushing myself to burn out. Finding time to pause allowed me to be clearer, more creative and get into a better flow when I was working.”

“2021 … has reminded me that we all have the opportunity to create the world we wish to live in, we must always be adaptable to change, and that when we show up, great things happen.”


Sarah Plunkett, Co-Founder of Queens of Archive

“Beginning our journey as a brand in 2020 was challenging enough, but we thought we had jumped that hurdle, and not only cleared, but bypassed it. Then 2021 happened, with its continued supplier closures, slow production and limited work forces. Luckily for us, it steadily started to pick up speed again, and slowly gained momentum to finish on a record-breaking Christmas, exceeding all our expectations.

This year, I found strength through self-belief and I surprised myself through the execution of my work. I felt held back creatively for most of my career but the freedom of having your own business is unparalleled. Surprising yourself in a positive way is a gift in itself. Being a strong woman comes in many shapes and forms but it’s how you channel it. And I feel this year I’ve worked hard to channel it in a good way.

I’ve also learned a lot about perseverance; keeping those positive blinkers on at all times and maintaining belief in our brand were the lifelines that kept us going. For me, it was about brand belief – I always knew we had something special to offer. Our merging of vintage inspiration, creative storytelling, music and beautiful design made us feel different in a fashion landscape that was becoming rather ‘samey’.

The joy of witnessing women in our pieces, while gaining such amazing positive feedback from respected sources keeps us going. Releasing your private creativity to the world and it being well-received is the most rewarding wake-up call you could ever wish or hope for. It lights a fire in your belly which you can never ignore, nor should you ever want to. Your dream is becoming a reality so you have no choice but to run with it, pandemic or not.

I’ve learned, if we don’t tap into positivity and optimism during these crazy times, we’ll be lost. So, keep those blinkers on, capture the essence of what you want to do, ignore the competition and keep going.”

“I’ve also learned a lot about PERSEVERANCE; keeping those positive blinkers on at all times and maintaining BELIEF in our brand were the LIFELINES that kept us going.”


Lorraine Murphy, Author of Step Into You

“In a year when we welcomed our second baby, navigated an extended lockdown, and I published my fourth book, I learned a LOT! But if I had to condense them, I’d say my three top learnings were these…

First, controlling my controllables went a long way towards helping me steady my ship in stormy, uncertain seas. So exercising, weekly family rituals and weekly walking dates with friends gave me some much-needed predictability.

Second, pre-booking time for creativity made the process infinitely more enjoyable and productive! A highlight being a little writing retreat for one in Byron Bay, when I wrote a third of my book.

And last but not least, I learned that looking after my future self always pays off. For example, we bought a second-hand freezer and I stocked it with meals late in my pregnancy. Future Lorraine was a big fan of Past Lorraine when we didn’t need to cook for weeks post-birth!”

“I learned that LOOKING after my FUTURE self ALWAYS pays off.”


Alice Kerrison, Interior Designer

“2021 has not been an easy year for any of us, but the challenges I faced this year have brought great shifts in my business and acceptance in my personal life. Lockdown was a time of reflection and it made me realise I need to make some changes. With an itchy-scratchy feeling of needing to do something different, I decided to take on a course to elevate myself within the interior design industry. In tandem, I also went on an eight-week journey learning about higher levels of consciousness and raising one’s vibrations.

On my journey I discovered that I need to acknowledge and be proud of the fact that I’m a very private person, and it’s okay to not always be visible. After all, I am designing private homes for people who don’t necessarily want their home seen by world – I offer a very private, exclusive and bespoke service. Going forward in 2022, I’m going to keep aligning with who I am in every part of my business and be okay with the fact that I don’t need to follow what everyone else does.

What I have also learned is that I need to set strong boundaries to look after myself in order to hold up my family. I need to simplify my life and live in a less-complicated, less-cluttered, less-rushed world. And to trust that everything is happening as it should be. Most importantly, to keep opening my heart. To feel grateful every day for what I am doing for others and keep lifting up the life of those around me.”

“Going FORWARD in 2022, I’m going to keep aligning with who I am in EVERY part of my business and be okay with the fact that I don’t NEED to follow what everyone else does.”


Kelly Lewis, Founder of Flying Ruby Events

“Although 2021 has not been an ideal year to be in the events industry, there have been some amazing lessons learned, both personally and professionally.

Personally, lockdown organically created a lifestyle reset. We were forced into a very simplified version of our life. We had time to create home-cooked meals from start to finish, time to play board games and read books and time for long morning beach walks with the dog. Yes, we argued sometimes, as we spent so much more time together than usual, but we were in it together. That was the perfect reminder that my family really is the driving force behind everything I do… oh, and that I wouldn’t be a good school teacher!

Professionally, I had to make a few challenging decisions early, which were monumental to making it through COVID-19. I scaled down, downsized our studio and turned my focus on the mental health of my staff/colleagues around me. This approach kept me motivated as it not only gave me a sense of purpose, but I had surrounded myself with a support network. This encouraged me to stay optimistic and not to focus on things I could not control.

Above all, COVID-19’s biggest lesson was this: with a support team around you, you really can get through anything!”

“With a support TEAM around you, you really can get through ANYTHING!”


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