IWD 2021

Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world

This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8 March), “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the gaps that remain.

A theme that the women of Inlight are truly passionate about and wanted to share some of our own experiences and insights.

Some advice I wish that I could have told my younger self?

I would tell my younger self that there was a place for her in this world, and to not be disheartened if it wasn’t immediately obvious where and what that place was. We grow up with such a linear representation of what career growth and success looks like, whereas in reality, true growth and development is achieved by having the bravery and tenacity to test out a variety of opportunities and pathways.

What has been the most pivotal "pinch me" moment in your career so far?

Sitting on a verandah on the Tiwi Islands interviewing candidates a couple of days after moving to Darwin. The experience of working for an Aboriginal organisation in the NT gave me such an important insight - outside the Western framing I’d grown up with, studied and worked in - into culture and how it shows up in an employment relationship. There is nothing quite like proximity to really build understanding, empathy and if you’re really paying attention, a shift in your world view.

What do you think is one of the most significant barriers to female leadership?

After 15 years in the digital and advertising landscape, and running a female focussed organisation for 9 of those years, I have seen (and experienced) first hand the impact of the imposter syndrome and confidence gap. We often lack the confidence in ourselves to put ourselves forward, seize opportunities or believe that we're worthy. I've been surprised to see many women through my career who I see as extremely successful, also exhibit these same challenges.

It's an important barrier that we need to keep breaking down. Continuing to empower women to see their value, help connect them with opportunities and push them in the direction of possibility. Ultimately, everyone is their own best advocate, and we need to believe in ourselves and get comfortable being uncomfortable. But everyone in a workplace has an active role to play in helping advocate, sponsor, and help drive equality and diversity.

What is the best career advice you ever received?

The best career advice I have ever received was about 12 years ago when I was offered (let’s be frank here) a really kick-ass job… but instead of expressing my gratitude and accepting the offer, I instead blurted out “You know I don’t have any experience, right?!”

And my future employer’s response? “We can teach you everything you need to know for this job, but what we can’t teach you is how to fit in.”

I have never forgotten that advice. Finding a workplace and a team that speaks your language and walks the same walk is key. Culture is so important for job satisfaction and keeping you motivated. I truly believe that nothing compares to doing good work with great people. If you are passionate, have the right mindset to take on a challenge and be willing to learn and improve - find that business with the right culture fit and they might just recognise your potential and give you a chance.

Worked out pretty good for me so far!

What advice would you give to young women trying to break into tech?

We should first acknowledge it's not a simple feat to feel comfortable as a woman in such a male dominated space. I encourage us to play to our strengths, and to not be discouraged by the imbalance, but instead be an ally to this change. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that our achievements have been given based on gender and not merit; or perhaps this whole tech thing is way over our heads but don’t let that negative mindset get the best of you. Most importantly I encourage everyone to be true to yourself and never feel like you need to change to fit the mould. Diversity brings different ideas and experiences to the table, and we should celebrate that.

What advice do you have for women returning to the workplace after maternity leave?

Returning to work from maternity leave is hard and we should talk about it more honestly, to normalise the rollercoaster of emotions that comes with it.

Brain fog is real. Mum guilt is real. Matrescence is real. Imposter syndrome and low confidence in the workplace is real. Feeling like you should be able to juggle it all (with ease) is definitely real.

First acknowledging that these feelings are legit - and having an understanding home and work environment to support you through this phase - is all you need to start finding your feet again in the workplace. Make sure you’re having these conversations with the right people. And through it all, don't forget to drink more water!

Tell us about any inspiring women leaders and what you have learnt from them?

The women that inspire me the most are the ones who are actively redefining what being ‘woman’ or ‘female’ means. Particularly our trans, non binary and queer communities and also many of the female musicians out there today. Their ‘womanness’ is often questioned or commented on which is something many of us don’t have to deal with. Not only do they build their own confidence and self worth but they’re constantly encouraging others to do the same. ICONIC.

What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?

Be bold, trust your instinct and stay true to yourself. Constantly observe the different behaviours in your team and be proactive in calling out what you don’t believe fits in the culture you would like to contribute to.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently?

Absolutely nothing - every decision and choice I’ve made in my career and personal life has led me to this point and I am really happy with who I am, what I do and how I do it! If there was anything I would do differently it would be to have had even greater intention and confidence; spending 10 years in the very male dominated industry of sports I wish I’d had more belief in myself and not let the perception of inequality and imposter syndrome get the better of me, because there ain’t nothing more powerful than a woman that believes in herself.

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