Closing the Gap for a Fair and Equal Workplace #backyourself

This week I was privileged to be part of a panel discussion in the lead up to International Women’s Day 2023 exploring  ‘Closing the Gap for a Fair and Equal Workplace’.

As part of the preparation for this event I revisited a previous blog I’d written a couple of years ago ‘Women in leadership – a wicked problem and an immeasurable opportunity’ and thought a lot of these reflections are still relevant today.

As our host Cindy Nicholson-Atrash, CEO of Braintree shared in the event build up, Gender Equality is one of 17 sustainable development goals set by United Nations Women’s Organisation and United Nations. Equality isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have. A focus on gender equality needs to be part of every society’s DNA.

Some of the thoughts that seemed to resonate from the panel to help supercharge closing the gap:

  • More support for grassroots initiatives including programs like Girls Who Code
  • Better childcare options and sharing more stories of males taking paternity leave
  • Leaning into imposter syndrome and living outside our comfort zones
  • When given a choice take both – I.e. aim to be a great mum AND advance your career
  • Backing yourself and others and paying it forward through mentoring – check out the great work of Global Sisters here
  • The need for more education and female entrepreneurship courses which UTS are exploring

Sharing some of my personal experiences on this theme which thought may resonate for some:

1.     When given a choice take both! – This is a sentiment shared by SingularityU Co-Founder Peter Diamandis in his book with Steven Kotler – “BOLD” relating to when he was in graduate school and told multiple times to either go to school or start a company. He chose both and started three companies whilst in graduate school! Relating to closing the gap for a fair and equal workplace I reflected back to around 8 years ago when I was pregnant with Ethan. There was a thought at the time that you should either be a great mum or focus on your career, I chose to aim for both. I overcame the challenge of my career stalling by keeping in touch with my network during maternity leave, having a side hustle to keep my mind active and being fortunate that after my nine months of maternity leave my husband could take 6 months paid leave at Macquarie University. I repeated this 21 months later when Huw was born and then fast tracked my career by turning my side hustle into a business. A key moment in this transition was speaking with a female mentor who said, “Back Yourself”. I think this moment was pivotal to starting my entrepreneurial journey.

2.     Imposter syndrome is normal and use it as a strength– Having the privilege to partner with many female senior executives, I have learnt that imposter syndrome is very commonplace where we doubt our skills, talents, or accomplishments and have a fear of being out of our of depth and exposed as a fraud. As much as I practice self-empowerment, these moments hit me too including when recently being honoured as a UTS Adjunct Associate Professor and even being on this panel with such experienced leaders! I think we can flip our imposter syndrome into a strength, embracing the humility and empathy from where it derives. We can also help each other with this by being each other’s cheerleaders. As an example, a previous colleague bought me two bracelets saying ‘Believe’ and ‘You’ve Got This’ to help give me strength when I am facilitating or presenting and she’s not physically there with me.

3.     Create a sisterhood – As part of the Abundium network we have a community of Women CEOs in multinationals who have become known as The Sisterhood. We meet monthly virtually or physically and keep in touch via a WhatsApp group in between. We celebrate each other’s achievements, are there for each other when things get tough and support each other’s businesses when opportunities align. I love the power of women supporting other women and us all rising together. There is enough room for us all to shine. As well as having a sisterhood I believe in building a diverse team around you to help support you and your success, for me this includes an executive coach, bench of mentors, a sports coach and self-care practitioners.

4.     Step up for equal pay – Equal pay for equal work / output is something I feel strongly about, and it has pained me in my career when I’ve heard of females being underpaid compared to their male counterparts in the same role. I think the work of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency on equal pay has been pivotal in addressing this and I’ve admired leaders who have conducted full audits and matched any pay gaps. I also think part of the solution is women believing in their worth and asking for what they deserve. When I worked in executive search, I learnt a good tip for women to say when asked for their current rem by recruiters, to share their salary expectations versus their current salary. It has been promising to see changes in the Fair Work Act to help with more salary package transparency.

5.     Flex for success – As a working mum, workplace flexibility has been a key component of me being able to advance my career. When Abundium was launched our CEO Rich and I made a pledge to ‘keep the main thing the main thing’ and always try to create a working rhythm where we could prioritise family whether that being a school event, wedding, memorial, or other occasion. I think a silver lining of the pandemic has been normalising flexible working which has benefited both men and women. I loved seeing more Dads out playing with their kids whilst saving valuable travel time. It’s great to see more companies focus in on productivity and trying things like Unilever ANZ’s 4 day a week experiment which is now running in Australia after a successful pilot in NZ.

As a final thought I encourage you to create some space for yourself this year and be BOLD which is my NY evolution for 2023. Let’s #bethechange

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