There’s something magical about being in a room full of women that’s buzzing with interesting conversations; everything from digital marketing, finance, latest tech trends, wine and outfit compliments. Every woman’s inhibition seems to disappear as the room is filled with stories of achievements and aspirations. It’s well and truly a woman’s element.
The Women in Leadership event held on the 19th of July at Microsoft Head Office in Brisbane, was exactly that magical moment for the 50 women lucky enough to attend. The panel of speakers, led by Sue Keay, included Monica Bradley from B Corporation, Jane Andrews from Technology One and Sue Coulter from CUA, all of whom are highly accomplished in their respective fields.
The key themes of the evening were very much focused on tangible strategies for effective leadership – resilience, leveraging your network, showcasing your value and advocating for other women.
We established one fact quickly; the world has too many managers and not enough leaders. As the speakers highlighted, women have never been better positioned to use their natural strengths to lead and “be the agents of change.” Gone are the days of rigid corporate hierarchies and traditional management styles; we are very much in the space of flexible work, innovation, creativity, agility, emotional intelligence and dynamic teams.
Now wouldn’t it be great if every woman was naturally recognised for all these strengths? The harsh reality is, she won’t be. No matter how intelligent, how hard-working and how flexible she may be, there is little chance a woman will be promoted, let alone recognised if she doesn’t speak for herself. It’s the ugly truth that can be flipped with the right strategies.
Monica, Jane and Sue are examples of women who understand first-hand that stepping out of your comfort zone is pivotal to leading change. It’s talking to new people at networking events and asking questions in a meeting to consolidate the key themes of the conversations. We discussed how resilience can be built everyday by “working through the trenches”, making small adjustments and being proactive in solving problems. Ultimately, we also need to show that we’re competent professionals– this means, get good at the job, think outside the box and be better than everybody else. Opportunities come like a sliding door moment, you either step in or not – we must be fearless and fight that little voice which talks us out of going in.
A lot of the times, these opportunities won’t materialise out of thin air. Part of having a relentless drive is to be strategic in how you choose your network and mentors. The way I see it is, you need to surround yourself with role models that share similar interests, see your potential and can connect you to their broader network (if you ask!). I think the strategic network even extends to your friends; choosing friendships with men and women that lift you up, instead of those that are competitive, childish and belittling of your ambitions.
As my last point, it’s important to note that women being the “agents of change” in their organisations, means nothing if those women don’t bring other women on the journey. With our almost abundant access to education, financial resources and support networks, we owe it to women all around the world to speak up for each other and pave an easier path for future generations. For now, it’s as simple as inviting your colleagues to the next meet-up, telling executives how “she led the team with flair and consistently delivered results”, or hinting that this woman would love to write a blog about this event. Likewise, more men need to understand their critical role in providing women constructive feedback and advocating their skills and potential in performance reviews and leadership opportunities.
In summary, here are my quick bite-sized action points:
- Leap at opportunities – get rejected, then get back up
- Be resilient – work hard and work smart
- Choose your network strategically and use it
- Be the agent for change – a voice for ALL women
This is an exciting time for women to make incredible contributions to society, government and business through our leadership potential. I look forward to more ‘magical’ evenings sipping wine and celebrating the achievements of women – its moments like these that ignite a fire which the whole world should watch out for.
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