Positivity and Inspiration in Women’s Leadership

I am still floating on a wave of positivity and inspiration from the truly amazing group of women I had the pleasure of meeting and working with recently while facilitating Leadership Victoria’s Women’s Leadership Program.

There is no question that to achieve gender equality we need strong, positive and inspiring women in senior leadership roles, who support and promote other women into senior leadership. And this group of 23 women who met in the Yarra Valley and quickly bonded over shared challenges and hopes for the future, are certainly well placed to make a real difference.

An activity on the Big Issues in Women’s Leadership (and what you can do about them) revealed that we all want a better world for both women and men. Gender equality is not a women’s issue. We need to see men also having equal opportunity to choose to be primary or equal carers of their children with equal benefits in parental leave, flexible work, and support in the social culture, all of which are as important as opportunities for women to lead at senior levels. Our collective experiences, backed by extensive research, show that we are still far from achieving gender equality.

We know that organisations with a higher proportion of women in their top management and on their Boards have better results. Yet, in ASX 200 companies the number of female Chairs on ASX 200 boards remains woefully low, with even fewer female CEOs and many of the top 200 still have no women on their boards.

Australian women are paid on average 17.6% less than men according to data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the remuneration gap is higher at senior levels. Many think we are making progress and believe this gap is reducing, however the fact is that in the past 20 years the pay gap between men and women’s salaries has actually increased.

The Australian Chief Executive Women Gender Equality survey highlighted the fact that organisations that attract and develop women leaders can draw on a deeper and more diverse pool of executive talent. So it is more important than ever to develop women leaders who are empowered to make a difference.

As a Leadership Development professional I needed to do my bit to empower women, so designing and delivering the Women’s Leadership Program has been incredibly rewarding. Program participants are deliberately pushed out of their comfort zone (into the productive zone of disequilibrium) and into a journey of self-discovery and development as a leader, exploring the three key areas of self-awareness, empowerment and activation. Learning is immediately applicable in the workplace and empowers participants to achieve the future of their design.

The program creates an immediate supportive environment for women, enabling them to take a risk, challenge their own and other’s thinking (and unconscious biases), and make lasting connections. The closing session of the program last week saw participants sharing their reflections on the program along with their leadership aspirations.

Participants felt enlightened understanding their psychometric profiles; empowered through practice of improvising challenging situations with Professional Actors (which for some was initially daunting); plenty of shared wisdom and food for thought from the workshops; insightful peer-group consultations on real workplace challenges and a 1-1 coaching session with an Executive Coach.

Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission is the program’s keynote speaker and heads a diverse range of fantastic guest speakers all reinforcing the message that women are most successful when they believe in themselves and have the confidence to take action being true to themselves. This program provides the catalyst and tools for participants to recognise their strengths and attributes and how to develop them further, equipping them to lead with confidence in a future environment that is challenging.

I look forward to keeping in touch with all of the participants from the Women’s Leadership Program and hearing about the realisation of their leadership aspirations.

 

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