With International Women’s Day right around the corner (two days’ time, to be exact), we thought we’d pick the brain of one of the most inspirational and driven women around, Dr Kirstin Ferguson!
Dr Ferguson has an extensive resume to say the least, and currently sits on the board of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and Layne Beachley’s Aim for the Stars Foundation, among others. Pretty impressive already, right?
Well in 2017 she also started the #CelebratingWomen hashtag, a movement that went viral. Unsurprisingly, Dr Ferguson (pictured below) has got a whole lot to say about why International Women’s Day is so important, and how we can make equality and inclusion the norm.
Why is International Women’s Day and celebrating women so important?
Any opportunity we have to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of other women is valuable since every woman is a role model to someone else, whether they realise it or not. Making women’s achievements visible to others is also a great way of inspiring the next generation of young women.
What led you to start #CelebratingWomen?
I initially started #CelebratingWomen because I wanted to see less denigration, and more celebration, of women online. I am active on Twitter and social media generally and there was a moment in January 2017 when I saw a number of negative tweets directed to various women in media. And without really knowing what I was getting myself in for or whether it would just fizzle out in a day or two, I decided to try and make some positive noise to celebrate the fact that every woman is a role model.
I committed to celebrate two women, from all walks of life and from anywhere in the world, every single day of 2017. I achieved my goal and by the final day of last year had celebrated 757 women from 37 countries and it was simply the most rewarding experience. It has led to an entire community of women supporting other women which is part of a wave of such change we are seeing around the world right now.
What else do you think can be done to drive equality and inclusion?
Inclusion must be the strategy and from that, diversity and equality will follow. There is no point having diversity targets, for example, but then allowing a culture to continue that does not truly include diverse ways of thinking.
The rates of gender pay equity, the superannuation gap women face when they retire, the number of women in leadership positions and the number of women on boards are just a few examples of where significant work still remains to be done. We can all assist through creating workplaces that respect and embrace women and end cultures where harassment or unconscious bias has been allowed to thrive.
That’s why B&T has created Changing the Ratio – a bold, home-grown initiative designed to drive diversity, inclusion and the promotion of women in Australia’s advertising, marketing and media landscape. We’ve got a killer speaker line-up that will inspire you to start making changes right now.
You were the CEO of a global consulting business – did you find there were many challenges being a female CEO?
I was very fortunate that in the business I ran we had a large number of women and in some cases more women than men. So within the business I did not face any issues due to my gender. However the clients we worked with were in the mining and resources industry which was very male dominated so like many women, I had to find ways to work in that environment and succeed.
Do you have any advice for younger women just starting out in their careers or looking to get ahead as female leaders?
My three key pieces of advice would be:
- Say yes to opportunities that come your way: stop trying to predict what might be around the corner or what could go wrong – you have no reason to think you will fail so seize every experience and go for it 100 per cent. You will become a better leader for being willing to learn. And even if you don’t see your potential, others do. Believe in them.
- Seek feedback whenever you can: as tough as it might be, listen to any feedback you get respectfully, and learn from it. It is the people who you seek advice from, who offer you opportunities and teach you lessons along the way who will most likely also be your valued mentors in your life – listen to them and thank them.
If you’re looking to get mentored up, the B&T Bootcamp is for you! It’s a day filled with masterclasses and mentoring. Attendees will walk away with business-winning skills and a fresh new mindset, and it’s in only a couple weeks time!
- Bring others along with you – if you should be so fortunate as to achieve your own goals – whatever they may be – you have a responsibility to help others get there too. I think it’s time to forget the old saying that a successful woman needs to send a ladder back down to help other women climb up too. Ditch the ladder; it can only ever help one woman at a time. What I have learnt through #CelebratingWomen, which is critical if workplaces and communities are to improve for women, is that we need to throw down a fishing net to bring up many, many women at once. And that is something women and men can all do, together.
What are you most proud of so far?
I am really proud of my two daughters who are young adults themselves. They are confident, intelligent, self-assured young women who I know will make their own mark on the world. I am also incredibly proud of the #CelebratingWomen campaign and all it achieved. It reminded me that one person, with a relatively simple idea, can make an impact as long as they have tenacity and a vision for what they want to achieve.
To buy tickets to Changing the Ratio – and start driving equality and inclusion in your own organisation – click right here. And if you want to learn valuable new skills and propel your career, head here for some last-minute Bootcamp tickets!