The Women in Super network began at the Conference of Major Superannuation Funds when founder, Mavis Robertson, noted the lack of opportunity for women to network. It was decided that a networking breakfast would be introduced at future CMSF events.
From here, the WIS network was formally established as a member-based organisation in 1994, and the scope of its objectives grew. No longer just an annual networking opportunity for women to meet and share experience, WIS realised it’s potential to offer women the opportunity to grow and develop, and use their voice to advocate for women and women's rights. In the early days, many WIS members found themselves participating in education campaigns and expos to increase awareness around the importance of including women in superannuation benefits.
Nowadays, in addition to holding over 100 professional development events annually, across the country, Women in Super is a highly respected voice and authority, whose opinion is regularly sought on matters relating to women’s superannuation by media, academics, government and other policy-makers.
Women in Super has a secretariat of five, volunteer committees in every state and territory, and a National Committee of 13 members. Membership has grown to over 3,000 members with more than 40 industry partners.
Mavis was the Women in Super Chair and spokesperson for the better part of 20 years, and had an extraordinary impact on the development of superannuation in this country and the promotion of equality for women both in their retirement savings, and in taking their rightful place in decision-making forums.
There was not an organisation in industry super that Mavis was not involved in. She was a foundation trustee of AUST (Allied Unions Superannuation Trust) which went on to become Cbus, of which Mavis was its interim secretary. She was also the secretary of AIST, and a foundation Committee member of ACSI, a foundation Director of Industry Fund Services, and an inaugural Director of Superpartners, just to name a few, however there were many more.
Her passions and work extended beyond superannuation, and she spent many years fighting for causes such as rights of women and indigenous people, peace and disarmament and the elimination of discrimination. She was a prominant activist in the Vietnam War protests, and in the early 80s she was responsible for setting up the Nuclear Disarmament Coordinating Committee which was responsible for rallying the people of Sydney around nuclear disarmament.
In 1994, Mavis was made a Member of the Order of Australia for services to industry superannuation, and for services to peace and disarmament.
In the centenary year of Federation, she became one of the first 250 women entered onto the Victorian Women's Honour Roll. On the 50th Anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights, Mavis was named as one of 100 Australian 'defenders of Human Rights', specifically for her work in support of Chilean refugees and the "disappeared" and in helping to restore deomocracy in Chile.
Mavis Robertson founded the Mother’s Day Classic with her friend Louise Davidson, who had recently lost her mother to breast cancer. The idea came when Mavis saw a breast cancer walk whilst overseas in 1998. She returned to Australia and announced to co-founder Louise that the Women in Super network should consider launching a fun run/walk to raise money for breast cancer.
At the time, industry superannuation funds, especially those with large female memberships, were seeing that breast cancer featured strongly in the highest group of diseases for accessing death and disability benefits. Mavis galvanised the WIS network with the simple logic: there was no point in advocating for women’s retirement outcomes if they were dying prematurely from breast cancer. Women in Super determined that breast cancer research would be of the greatest assistance for their fund members.