Darshana Parekh


MME_Parekh_Darshana1.jpgDarshana is a lawyer who moved from practicing insurance litigation in Brisbane to moving her career into an in-house role in Sydney. Darshana works closely with the board at work, advising on all commercial matters across Australia and New Zealand. The exposure to business decisions led her to enrol in the MBA with the University of Sydney. Darshana recently joined her first board and in between, she keeps fit by doing Pilates.

What boards do you sit on? 

I sit on the boards of SkyBuys and Welcome Dinner Project (formerly Joining the Dots)

When and why did you decide to become a director?

I became a director in June. I decided to apply for the role after being encouraged by a Women on Boards event. Specially, I was delighted to hear that some boards were happy to accept younger women.

What are your short and medium-term board aspirations? 

My short-term aspirations are to learn from other board members.
I have a very gracious board at the moment who are prepared to listen to my ideas. 
My long-term board aspirations are to join a mixture of corporate and not-for-profit organisations and effect change, especially in the diversity field.

Outline your career background. 

My career background is in law. At the moment I am in-house counsel with a travel retail operator. I look after Australia and New Zealand. 

Touch on the challenges and hurdles that have presented themselves, either being on or getting onto a board, and how you overcame them? 

I had difficulties finding avenues to even ask about joining a board. I became quite forthright in my LinkedIn requests, trying to locate specialised recruiters and asking people within and outside my organisation how I could join a board. It was interesting to hear the resistance that came through and the usual reasons were lack of experience. I persisted and now have a mentor (outside of WOB) and a board role in the matter of a few months.

Are there any directors/leaders you look up to? Why? 

I look up to Gillian Triggs, the former president of the Australian Human Rights Commission. I admire her for her tenacity during the Abbott government, when her office was threatened to be removed for criticising the government. She didn’t change her recommendations or observations and stood by what she believed. 

Have you had mentors and sponsors and how have they helped you in your career? 

I recently applied for a mentor with Association of Corporate Counsel Australia and I am meeting my mentor soon. I realised the importance of a mentor after assessing my career goals earlier in the year. I am in the unique position of being a lawyer within a business and feel as though I have to set up the road-map for the next 5 - 10 years. I want to invest not only in the end goal, but the journey to achieve the goal (and new ones).

What’s the diversity (gender & other) like on your boards? 

At my workplace, it’s all male. At Welcome Dinner Project, it’s all female. And yes, I’m seeing a difference in styles and some common themes regardless.

How did WOB help you in your journey to the boardroom? 

Women on Boards was instrumental to me joining a board. Without the portal and its actively updated list of available positions, I would not have applied. Besides, the updated list forces you to apply for the roles.

Any tips for women starting out in their career? 

Throw your hat in the ring and keep persevering. Gender diversity on boards is being spoken about and it’s just as important to have faith in yourself and take the active step in ensuring its achieved.

Interview Published: September 2018