What is one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Listen to your instincts and follow your heart. That’s where the key to your happiness lies. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, simply to conform and to please everyone around you. There is a reason you are who you are – tune into the what makes you different and use it to make an impact around you.
What are some of the obstacles you have encountered as a woman in a leadership position compared to your male peers?
I was an operations manager at 22-years of age – the youngest manager in the room, and I found myself being ‘talked down’ to all the time, particularly by men. Regardless of whether they were my manager or not, they stopped to tell me how to do my job, even though I was there because of my abilities and performance. It’s tricky, because the person doing may have good intentions – but you need to remember it is still inappropriate if it makes you feel uncomfortable, regardless of whether others think it should. Comments like, “you remind me of my daughter” or “you won’t understand this now – this understanding comes with age” can be deeply offensive, and no one has the right to belittle you. You are there because you are capable – and you’re an equal, and you can demand that. It was difficult finding my voice and feeling empowered to use it because often as women, we get labelled as emotional, moody and crazy, instead of being applauded for being confident and assertive.
What do you think needs to change in business / workplace culture in the next few years in order for women to feel that they are truly being treated equally?
Representation matters. It creates a huge impact in the way we all see the world. I want to see more women in leadership positions because ultimately that ignites a chain of change, whether that is: inspiring young women, giving half the population a voice, initiating cultural change in organisations, or understanding the female experience. As part of this systematic change, there needs to be a commitment to challenging our own unconscious biases. We all have them, men and women – because we have all grown up in a man’s world. More and more, we are seeing organisations encourage this in order to raise awareness, change processes and adapt systems, not to be ‘gender-specific’, but be more flexible and customised to each individual’s own identity and experience. This needs to expand and amplify. Companies need to be looking to implement training and learning that will help us identify and reduce our biases, and look beyond ‘recruitment’ – into their retention strategies, career development programmes and enabling employee voice – because I suspect they will find biases everywhere.