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Felicity Gooding: Change Maker

Felicity Gooding: Change Maker

Felicity Gooding is inquisitive, loves working with intelligent people and enjoys challenges that frighten her. Those qualities, combined with a brilliant mind for business, have led her to a highly successful career with some of the biggest companies in the world. In turn, her career now allows her to make a difference to others all over the world.

Felicity graduated from Santa Maria College in 1997. Upon finishing her exams, she immediately went travelling around the world, ending the summer staying with a cousin in Venezuela. It was the beginning of a life of exploring and travel. On the day we spoke, Felicity was in quarantine in Sydney after visiting five countries in Africa for work. However, she describes herself as fiercely Western Australian. Felicity has lived in Washington, London, Singapore, Hanoi, and Yorkshire, but she is always drawn home again.

Studying Commerce, Accounting and Finance at the University of Western Australia was Felicity’s parents’ idea. Both were accountants and told her she would make a good accountant too. Her father said she would always be able to travel, and business would always be a good grounding. She attributes her decision to follow her parents’ advice to possibly being the eldest child and wanting to do the right thing. She is now very glad she did. Felicity’s work clearly lights her up.

As the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation, Felicity is steering one of Australasia’s biggest philanthropies, and in the process, making real change in people’s lives globally. Minderoo Foundation currently has more than $2 billion committed to 11 global initiatives, working with more than 200 partners. Those projects include missions to end the disparity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, creating a world without plastic pollution and partnering to accelerate cancer research and improve prevention, detection, and treatment.

Minderoo Foundation is the latest in a line of varied career choices. Felicity has held senior positions at accounting giant PricewaterhouseCoopers, Diageo Plc, which is one of the world’s largest alcohol companies, iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group, and a potash company in North Yorkshire called Sirius Minerals Plc.  

The highlight of Felicity’s career so far has been working on Minderoo Foundation’s Walk Free initiative. Walk Free has a mission to eradicate modern slavery. Felicity says: “One of the barriers to that process was the absence of a slavery index. If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t really exist in the eyes of those who can mobilise change. So, we created an index.” It was such a powerful tool that the United Nations’ International Labour Organisation asked if they could join forces and it was presented to the United Nations Assembly in New York in 2017. It is testament to Minderoo’s belief that you can be a proudly Western Australian organisation and a world leader.

Under the banner of Walk Free, Minderoo leveraged a meeting of global religious leaders to sign the Declaration of Modern Slavery on 2 December 2014. It was a clear statement to the world that every leading religion condemned slavery. The lead up to this event involved Felicity working in The Vatican at The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences. She also met Pope Francis. She laughs, “When you attend Catholic school you learn a lot about ritual and religious processes. You don’t necessarily learn how to behave when you are working with the Pope.” She is now well-versed in religious diplomacy!

Felicity admits she loves a deadline and meeting targets. The day before she turned 40, she married her husband Kevin. She has two children, a three-year-old daughter named Rosalie and a nearly two-year-old son, Hamish. They have changed the trajectory of her life. She says, “Being a mother is really, really busy. I used to think I was busy but being a mum and working full time is a whole new level. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it keeps me on my toes”.

In an interview with The West Australian published in April, Felicity explained that during her career she’s seen many amazing women drop out of the workforce after having children. She believes something as simple as celebrating a mum’s decision to return to the office after maternity leave could shift the dial. Maybe a more equitable approach to women in the workforce will be Felicity’s next great mission.

In looking back over her life since leaving school, Felicity says she could not have anticipated being where she is today. However, she says the need for a challenge and the desire to help was always there. “I’ve always looked after people and made sure they were okay. It’s the big sister thing again. It’s nice that I now get to bring that to my work.”

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