Serafina Maiorano is the inaugural ‘Global’ winner of the Australian Financial Review/Westpac 100 Women of Influence Award. She has worked all over the world in the arts, global strategic thinking and creative consultancy.
Maiorano is currently the CEO of Advance, a global innovation network working with people around the world, enabling exceptional individuals in “every field of endeavour”. She has never had a linear career path and is truly a global citizen.
“To build or connect a community, it’s hard!” Maiorano says. “I should call myself chief connecting officer.”
Advance is a non-for-profit connecting platform for Australians around the world
to innovate and influence.
“Advance finds people all over the world who are truly disrupting their industry,” she says. “It’s around thought leadership as well as economic, social and community progress. We engage with our members in different countries and mentor them. All of them are go-getters: people who aspire to be successful. Each year we run an awards program where we honour 10 extraordinary people. The reason we started our awards was to show their endeavour but their process as well. You personally need to be willing to take a risk. All of our award winners failed at some point, but they are passionate and tapped into a network of support.”
Maiorano is proud of all the achievements of her network at Advance, but when it comes to the inclusion of women in every industry, on a global scale she feels there is a long way to go.
“The future for women and girls and their education is important to me,” she says. “When half the world’s population is female you have to educate. That is in every country. Women’s leadership and supporting young women through their careers are important.
I meet extraordinary women in Australia. However, there is more we can do, across industries, corporations and governments. When you look at the statistics of women in leadership and on boards, it’s still very low.
“Last year 60 per cent of our award winners at Advance were women,” she says. “It’s not hard because it’s on merit. When you are employing people, 50 per cent of those selected must be women, so what are you doing to create that pipeline?”
Maiorano lives in New York City but she celebrates her Italian-Australian heritage. As a child of a migrant family, she reflects on what it was like growing up in Adelaide, and the challenges of living in Australia as “the other”.
“I remember what it was like growing up in a country where all the Weet-Bix commercials were blonde hair and blue eyes. I didn’t see people that looked like me,” she says. “Growing up in Adelaide and being from a different cultural background from the mainstream I used to go to school and be embarrassed by my salami sandwiches. I see now that having a different cultural background was positive. You have a different point of view, it’s an advantage. It gives you an insight and makes you more open.
“It’s in Australia’s makeup. Fifty per cent of our population were born overseas or have a parent who was,” she says. “Migrants were brought to this country to build this country. When you come to Australia from very little, those individuals come to make a better life for themselves and they have a lot to contribute economically. When you risk your life to come to a new country, you will do everything in your power to have a good life. Migrants will flourish, and Australia will flourish because of them.”
Photos: Jack Jeffries, jackjeffries.com