Women in conversation: Michelle Winzer and Liz Rodriguez

Photo: Michelle Winzer and Liz Rodriguez at Merchant Rialto

To mark International Women’s Day, Bank of Melbourne Chief Executive Michelle Winzer sat down with Grossi Group’s Liz Rodriguez to chat about women, hospitality, her favourite meal and how the right mentor can make all the difference.

MW: Grossi Group has made its mark as one of the icons of Melbourne’s dining scene over three generations. What’s the secret to staying fresh?

LR: Always striving to be better, personally and professionally. You have to understand how your environment and community are changing. It’s important to be well-considered in your approach and remember what you stand for – that way, you can use your strengths as a platform for innovation.

One of the things we’ve worked hard to achieve at Bank of Melbourne is true diversity: not only of gender, but of age, culture and thought too. Our Multicultural Business Advisory Council is just one way we make sure our business reflects the community we serve. How do you and Guy make sure that your team reflects Victoria’s multicultural melting pot?

Our desire for diversity is insatiable! We have a wonderful mix of people in our business – the more diverse our team, the happier we are. Sure, what we do is all about Italian-ness, it’s our brand – but the richness of ideas, cultures, experience and psychology that comes from a diverse group of people adds so much depth, creativity, awareness and knowledge to the way we do business.

It also creates a sense of belonging. We’re fortunate to naturally attract a diverse group of people who want to be part of our business. We just have to give them the opportunity, which is one of my favourite parts of my job.

A common story for women in business is having the right mentor who backs them to achieve their potential. What was your defining career moment?

I’ve had some very supportive influences in my life that encouraged me to achieve my goals and aspirations. A defining moment for me was graduating from the Australian Institute of Company Directors and going to uni as a mature-age student to study a Master of Enterprise. I didn’t believe I could do it, even though I had almost 30 years’ experience in business. Through special friends that believed in me and role models in business that encouraged me, I built the courage to ‘step into the arena’. It’s been incredibly valuable to my professional development, but most importantly to my own self-belief and the example it sets to the next generation of our family and the younger people in our business.

I often wonder if people who work in hospitality have simple tastes when it comes to their own entertaining. Are you a baked beans on toast kind of girl, or do you take every opportunity to have a degustation dinner?

Not quite baked beans, but I definitely prefer things to be simple! I love tasty food that’s not too complicated, and Italian cooking does this very well. It could be simple roast vegetables, lightly dressed pasta or tomato and cheese on crusty bread.

Don’t get me wrong, there are many occasions in life for a special celebratory dinner, but day to day, most people in hospitality like to keep it simple.

The 2019 Melbourne Food & Wine Festival kicks off with the flagship Bank of Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch on 8 March. To celebrate International Women’s Day, the menu will be created by Karen Martini, Nicky Riemer and Lauren Eldridge. Guests at the sold-out lunch will receive the purple ribbon of UN Women, as a symbol of support for gender equality and women’s empowerment