Q&A: Bernadette Murdoch

Written by Mary Lieu on the 27th of January, 2017

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Bernadette Murdoch is a SheStarts advisor, and also the Head of Corporate Affairs at GSK Australasia. This week, Codie (SheStarts Next Gen Crew) and I sat down with Bernadette to discuss her leadership journey and involvement with SheStarts. We left the interview feeling inspired, and with the reminder to take every opportunity given to us – and run with it.

Bernadette Murdoch, Head of Corporate Affairs GSK Australasia


SHESTARTS – Hi Bernadette! Thanks for taking time out of your day to talk to us. Codie Haycraft, from our Next Gen SheStarts Crew is here with me today, and we’d like to ask you a few questions. Okay, so can you tell us about your leadership journey?

BERNADETTE – Yes, sure. So I’m the Head of Corporate Affairs at GSK Australasia and I’ve been in Australia for the past two years. I’ve worked with GSK for 10 years altogether. Before this role, I led our Corporate Affairs team across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  So I’ve led a range of different teams across a lot of different cultures and had lots of variety. I’ve been very lucky in my career.

SHESTARTS – Bernadette, you’re also a SheStarts advisor. Why do you believe in SheStarts and what we’re doing?

BERNADETTE – I think it’s really important that women have role models in their lives.

As people grow up and read about who they want to be and the careers that they want to have, it’s always much easier to forge a path where you can see people like you who have been able to forge that path beforehand. I don’t think you’ll ever find one role model that you can mirror your life on, but you can take a little bit from everybody.

And actually, if there is nobody doing what you dream of achieving, that makes it really difficult because you’ve then got to forge a new way every step of your career. When I think across my own career where I’ve led people in countries where it’s sometimes uncommon for women to be in very senior roles, you can see the impact that has. And so, SheStarts is very important because if you can see more women in the tech space, leading their business and forging a new path, that opportunity is felt very strongly by all women.

SHESTARTS – Definitely. ‘If I can see it, I can be it’ – right?

BERNADETTE – Yes. And the other reason why I think it’s so important is because in the healthcare space where GSK is a leader, you can really see the benefit of women’s ideas. There’s a lot of disruption happening in the healthcare industry at the moment, and it’s important for both men and women to contribute to disruption equally.

SHESTARTS – So the next question I want to ask is, what is your number one piece of advice to women on breaking through?

BERNADETTE – My advice is to set a goal and really make sure that you don’t let the self-talk that we all tell ourselves stand in the way.

It’s really important that if you think you can’t do something, that you change that mindset to think ‘This might be difficult but how can I get there? What resources do I need and who can I ask for advice to help me achieve my dream?’

SHESTARTS – Thanks Bernadette, that’s great. On another note, what are the greatest leadership qualities you see in women around you?

BERNADETTE – What makes a great leader is someone who’s really passionate about what they’re doing, that they feel really aligned with their personal vision and the dreams that they’re achieving in their career or business. And I think that passion then becomes a drawing card, where you attract certain people who just want to follow you.

SHESTARTS – Why does investing in women matter?

BERNADETTE – I think it goes back to what I was saying before; it’s important to invest in women mainly for two reasons. (1) It’s really important that we all have role models, so that we know that what we’re trying to achieve is possible and can learn a little bit from the people around us. And then (2),

It’s about making sure that we’re getting ideas from everyone in society. That everyone, both men and women, are contributing to the future that we all live in.

SHESTARTS – Yes, diversity of thought is very important, and we need to design products for the entire market and not just part of it.

BERNADETTE – Definitely.

SHESTARTS – Alright, so we’re on to our last question. What is one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?

BERNADETTE – It’s about making sure that you take advantage of all the opportunities that are given to you. I’ve been lucky in my career in that I’ve had people that have sponsored me, and given me opportunities to work.

You learn from all of the opportunities that you’re given. So I think the greatest advice is just to take advantage of them all.