Ahead of International Women’s Day 2023, we had the privilege of chatting with Caroline Ralphsmith, the CEO of PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival (PPMFF). We talked about everything from International Women’s Day, her esteemed career, this year’s fashion festival, and the events proudly ticketed by Ticketmaster that she is most looking forward to this year. 

Caroline Ralphsmith is the newest CEO of PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival. She took the top job almost a year ago after previously working as a non-executive director for the festival. With vast experience in incredible Melbourne events, including her time with the Victoria Racing Club, Caroline holds a wealth of knowledge. In addition, she is an excellent role model for women across the Melbourne events space.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you? Why do you think it’s important to celebrate?

To me, International Women’s Day is a wonderful opportunity for us all to focus on women and their achievements every year. It is great to have a day to pause, reflect and celebrate women from across all facets of life and the positive contribution they make. While also discussing how we can work together to remove any barriers to make it easier for all women to make that positive impact.

Have you faced any barriers in your career as a woman? If so, how did you overcome them? 

Throughout my career, I have faced many challenges. Still, the most difficult challenge is being left out of the loop as a woman and unaware of something until it happens. Either because the situation is not visible to you, such as discussions behind closed doors that relate to you, or the gender-biased practices and approaches that are incredibly subtle and are not often noticed because they have become a part of the culture. We need to be diligent in identifying and calling them out to make them more visible and ultimately change them.

What does the International Women’s Day event mean to PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival?

The International Women’s Day breakfast is a core and much-loved event on the annual PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival programme. It is a chance to bring a sharp focus to the challenges women face in our industry and make sure we continue to help make progress. 

Which powerful women do you admire? 

So many incredible women throughout my life have worked hard every day in trying circumstances to make progress. These are the women I admire the most, and they are the women who help other women.

What are you most proud of? 

While I have done a lot in the span of my career, I am very proud of the fact that I have had the privilege to work with and lead the PayPal Melbourne Fashion Festival team to deliver the largest-ever PPMFF with over 109 events across 9 days. I am also very proud to have Ticketmaster as our official ticketing producer for all of our Festival-produced events.

What is your favourite part of working at PPMFF?  

I love working with the incredibly hard-working, creative, and passionate team that we have here at PPMFF. Being alongside them every day to create this incredible event is really the best part of it all.

The International Women’s Day Breakfast was held this morning to a large crowd of over 350 guests. What do you think made this event so appealing?

We had a wonderful panel of speakers, which made for an insightful and valuable discussion about women in the workforce. The panel included Kate Box (Director, Global Business Group​, Retail Anz, Meta​), Samantha Johnson (Managing Director​, Polestar Automotive Australia​), Dr Katherine Jones​ (Science Lead – Fashion Products​, Oritain Global Limited​) And Kirri-Mae Sampson​ (Co-Founder Hatch & Made, former Australian Fashion Council​). To top it all off it was moderated by Glynis Traill-Nash.

What is the most important piece of advice you’ve been given? And what’s a piece of advice you would pass on to other women? 

Trust your gut instinct, but when it’s wrong, learn from your mistakes!