Women in Print: Sue Threlfo

Brisbane-born Sue Threlfo came to Sydney as an IT worker in the 80s, and came to be part of a revolution in printing.

As an information technology specialist, she was well placed to be at the forefront of digital printing, and able to sell the technology with a real understanding of its capabilities, and how it integrated into workplaces.

In her words, “I started in IT in the 80’s in Brisbane. I moved to Sydney to further my career opportunities, and joined Xerox Corporation as an IT customer support analyst. Various opportunities arose in those early years, but when the copier industry first went digital, I had the skill set required. I was keen to join the sales team, so started selling the first digital printing technology to the commercial printers in Sydney.”

A hard sale it would have been, as comparing the print quality of the first generation of digital technology to the efficiency and reproducibility of offset printing would have been akin to comparing a bicycle to a car, then asking your mechanic to buy a bicycle.

No doubt Threlfo would have been successful, as she is now the general manager, Industrial and Production Print at Konica Minolta, a role officially started just over a year ago, with 27 prior years of experience under her belt.

In that time, she says, “In my role, I create and drive the strategy as to how we take our products to market and engage and support the printing industry. I am fortunate to work with an amazing, dedicated group of people, and also have a supportive senior management team.

“From a technology viewpoint the industry has changed significantly from the days where I was explaining that short run printing would be more efficiently produced on a digital printing device, to many commercial printers mirth. 

“Today, productivity is the aim of the game. Our clients want to know that any investment is going to deliver increased productivity and greater applications to offer to their clients. This is true from the largest printers in the country to the smallest.”

As for the experience of working as a woman in a male-dominated space, she says, “Through my entire career I have not really known anything else, so do not really notice, although have enjoyed any opportunity to work with women. It is unfortunate that there are not more women in print, and of course it is a legacy of the industry growing through the male dominated trades. 

“Even now, when trying to hire people in our industry, it is difficult to find women with the experience and the industry knowledge.”

As for potential hurdles, she instead highlights the positives of competing in a male-heavy field, saying,  “In the early days of selling, there may have been some small advantage as some of older men were less likely to rudely throw me out of their office, as they may have my male colleagues.”

There has been some change in the makeup of the industry, however it is still mostly male tradespeople that have their own businesses. Actively seeking and encouraging diversity in the workplace is a goal of Konica Minolta, as Threfo explains.

“Konica Minolta has a strong diversity and inclusion program for all people. The program is being expanded this year, and employees from all areas of the business are being encouraged to join a committee to further our strategy, engagement and policies in the areas of gender, culture, disability and sexuality,” she says.

There has been some shift, says Threlfo, who notes, “Much has changed in the printing industry over the years, however the vast majority of our clients are still male, many who have come through the trades and are now running their own business. There are some exceptions, and in the franchise community there are more couples, and more women.”

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