Jennifer Westacott has overcome many challenges throughout a career that took her to the top of the public service before similar success in the world of business.
But the head of the Business Council of Australia (BCA) says it is her relationship with her partner, Tess Shannon, that has been the key to her path to success.
"I can never underestimate what it means to have a stable relationship because you can go through ups and downs but when you walk in that door at night, and your home is a safe and loving place, that allows you to deal with a lot," Ms Westacott, who has been appointed to the Order of Australia (AO) in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours, told AAP.
For over 20 years, Ms Westacott held leadership positions in the NSW and Victorian public services before making the leap to business in 2005, starting as a senior partner at consulting firm KPMG.
Throughout her career she has been a strong advocate for marriage equality.
Business has evolved as technology and corporate culture have changed and Australia joined the globalised marketplace, Ms Westacott said, but it remains a force for good.
"In this current environment - an anti-business environment - we forget all the good things businesses have done," she said.
Women in business have also progressed, though not fast enough, and Ms Westacott says work must continue on bringing women into executive positions in government, politics and business.
Ms Westacott, who has previously publicly described being bullied in school and having a violent father, said her AO for service to the private and public sector shows Australia is a country of opportunity.
"I came from a disadvantaged background and now I lead the Business Council of Australia," she said.
"Being recognised in honours tells me that we are a wonderful society to create opportunities for people."