Nine Aussie Female Execs Share The Adversity They’ve Overcome As Women In Leadership Roles

Nine Aussie Female Execs Share The Adversity They’ve Overcome As Women In Leadership Roles
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In need of some hump day inspiration? Well, we’ve got just the thing.

In case you weren’t aware, International Women’s Day is this Friday March 8th. In honour of this auspicious day, B&T wanted to hear from a group of inspiring female executives about the challenges and adversity they’ve had to overcome simply because of their gender. Check it out below.

Oh, and don’t forget. If you’re passionate about changing the ratio across the media, comms and advertising industry, there’s still time to grab tickets to B&T‘s inspiring Changing The Ratio forum. Grab your tix here.

1.     Jo Gaines, area vice president at Salesforce APAC

“With two kids and a full-time career that demands regular travel across the APAC region, I am often met with responses such as, “I couldn’t do that.”, “how do you juggle everything?” and “don’t you feel guilty?”.  I have struggled with the belief that working harder, longer hours and aiming to over-deliver on expectations will make me more valuable. Supporting a woman’s right to choose financial, educational and career autonomy begins from the top. At Salesforce, we are fortunate to have vocal leaders who champion the advancement of women across the business. Flexibility is not just about allowing women, or men, to do less hours, but giving them the freedom to manage how their hours are structured to suit their personal situation. The support needs to go beyond one organisation — it needs to happen within the industry, family and society as a whole”.

2.     Cara Amores, head of human resources at Groupon ANZ & Japan

“I’ve passed up many great career opportunities that haven’t been right for “right now”, both at Groupon and elsewhere. I’ve had the conviction to walk away because they conflicted with other personal priorities I had, like wanting to start a family or wanting to work part-time. Being clear on what is most important to you, what you value, is key to achieving success. And “success” has many variations. The definition of success changes with each phase of your life; your needs, your family’s needs – they are ever-evolving. I believe you can balance a challenging career with family life if you are clear on what your own values and boundaries are. If a company truly values you, they will endeavour to flex with you as your needs change; I’m pleased to say that has been my experience at Groupon”.  

3.     Laura Wilson, marketing director at SodaStream Australia

“Throughout my career as a woman in business, I’ve felt an immense amount of pressure to approach management like my male colleagues. Aggressive, authoritative, demanding. Too often, I’ve been told that this is the only real way to get the most out of people. However, this doesn’t come naturally to me, and nor does it feel right. I’ve always believed that the best way to energise and invigorate my team is through encouragement, setting stretch goals, and challenging them to think outside the box – to bring their A game. I believe that regardless of whether you are a junior member of a team, or the most senior, everyone has something to learn from the other. Despite the pressure over my years in management, I’ve grown confident in my own abilities, learned to trust my inner voice, and realised that there is no one way to do anything in life”. 

4.     Laura Hill, director of commercial business at Gumtree Australia 

“As a woman, I’ve always been incredibly committed to creating change in our industry; to push beyond assumed limits and take others on the journey with me. Ours is a competitive industry and there can be a lot of pressure at times. I’ve had unpleasant experiences in the past and have been put under a lot of pressure to conform, but I encourage all women to stay true to themselves and keep their own interests in mind. It’s important that you seek out opportunities and trust yourself to take on jobs you may not think you are ready for. Remember it’s your life, your career and no one knows what’s better for you than you!”

5.     Vanessa Liell, group CEO at Herd MSL 

“When reflecting upon my experience, I think one of the obstacles faced by women is an unconscious bias on their expected leadership style. For example, when women are commercial and up-front in negotiations, this can be negatively perceived. Whereas it is expected of men and respected in a business environment. I believe that one of the foundations of good leadership is being aware of such biases and, most importantly, having the courage to call them out when they arise in the workplace or elsewhere. I’ve learned over the years that ensuring such accountability occurs is fundamental for all leaders to be able to shape an environment in which is fair, inclusive and accessible to all participants”. 

6.     Jacqui Cole, industry head of eCommerce at Facebook and Instagram ANZ

“One of the greatest challenges can be learning to back your own experience, skills and abilities when transitioning to a leadership role. It’s important to understand that being a good individual with a certain tenure isn’t enough to walk into a management role and that effective people management is a particularly crucial skill to get right in fast moving companies. As time has gone by and my confidence has grown, I’ve learned to back myself and my abilities when it comes to promotion time. Learning to recalibrate your settings from player to coach in the early days of management is one of the most valuable skills emerging female leaders can master. When you’re comfortable and confident in your impact as a coach, your team will be confident also”.

7.     Amy Wagner, senior communications manager for brands at Arnott’s ANZ

“As I’ve progressed into leadership roles within corporate businesses, my greatest obstacle has been a self-generated one of inadequacy. I strongly believe women naturally self-doubt; being able to quickly articulate their areas of incompetence, versus focusing on and backing their natural strengths. With two older brothers, and daily interactions with male senior executives, I’ve witnessed their unwavering confidence in their abilities, realising early on that sometimes the inequalities in leadership roles are not always driven by differing gender skill sets, but the belief and confidence in the individual’s ability to deliver. My greatest piece of advice for men and women? Back yourself”.

8.     Dr. Frauke Neuser, associate director of science & innovation at Procter & Gamble

“I think we all run into some obstacles in our jobs and life no matter what we do. It’s important to have a network of people who you know and trust, so you don’t feel like you have to overcome every challenge on your own. Sharing problems, asking for help, and accepting help are all important steps that don’t come naturally to some people, however, are so critical”.

9.     Jessica Miller, senior counsel of legal and government relations at Procter & Gamble ANZ

“Upon returning to work after the birth of my first child, I was welcomed back by many other working mums with the phrase ‘welcome to the juggle’.  And a juggle it was. My husband and I had both been used to challenging jobs with long hours and travel. I didn’t know how I could balance my parental responsibilities with a full-time job heading up a legal function, sitting on a leadership team with a number of not-for-profit board appointments. The key to overcoming this was open communication at work – which helped me see that some of these were perceived obstacles. I am now taking advantage of the opportunity to work more flexible office hours, so that I can balance my family responsibilities such as childcare collection. I was even supported with an additional team resource. Flexibility at work is the key driver to enable parents – both women and men – to maintain and take on leadership opportunities and bring their best self to their work and their family life”.

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