You are here
Taking your talent to the top: Career advice for executive women
Every year on 8 March, International Women’s Day is acknowledged and celebrated. It is a day to draw attention to women’s achievements and equally, empower women in the workplace on a global scale. This year’s theme, #EachForEqual, focuses on the power of each individual to collectively create a gender-equal world.
While there’s still plenty that needs to be done in order to achieve true gender equality in the workplace, women’s voices are getting louder and more powerful. The new generation of female executives, entrepreneurs and leaders show that women can’t – and won’t – wait.
This year for International Women’s Day, we take a look at the strides women have taken over the past year, and keep the momentum going with career advice from leading women on how they got to the top.
Looking back, looking forward
Since 1911, International Women’s Day (IWD) has been encouraging collective action and shared accountability for gender equality. IWD aims to raise awareness for gender bias in the workplace, celebrate women’s achievements and increase visibility for women — all while calling out inequality.
Over the years, IWD has helped raise awareness and spearhead milestones when it comes to gender diversity culture in the workplace. And these messages aren’t being lost: in the past year alone, massive achievements have been made for women in the fields of leadership, pay equality, workplace diversity definition and women’s rights.
Last year, two NASA astronauts completed the world’s first all-women spacewalk, the Finnish government formed five parties all led by women, and 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg was named TIME’s Woman of the Year.
The movement for equal pay is also picking up pace — and results. Iceland passed a law prohibiting organisations from paying women less than men, and the US Women’s Soccer team used their fourth FIFA World Cup win to demand equal pay.
Yet despite all the actions and benefits to diversity in the workplace, it’s still challenging for women to be recognized and make it to the top at work.
According to research from the University of Exeter Business School, women working in male-stereotyped industries were twice as likely to shy away from leadership roles, when compared to male counterparts. And the latest Australian government statistics show that although women account for 47.4% of our national workforce, only 17.1% of all CEO positions are filled by females. What’s more, women only account for 31.5% of key management positions, and less than a third of directors in the ASX 200 are women.
Diversity and championing women in leadership has been a key focus for PageGroup.
“We launched our [email protected] program in 2012 and have come a long way as a business to adapt and evolve to ensure that we are not only meeting expectations of the current workforce, but are leading the way with regards to diversity and new ways of working,” Michael Page Marketing Director Leela Lewis shares.
“We continue to work towards our commitment to reach our goal of 40% female representation on our Australian board by 2025.
“We also have partnerships including STEM sidebyside, where we have co-hosted a workshop providing a framework for having difficult conversations and dealing with conflict. It’s another way PageGroup is helping support women in business.”
PageGroup has also hosted its Women in Leadership series, business transformation advice from an all-women panel and a gender pay gap event.
So how can women be heard, be visible and make it to the top of their career?
We explore career advice from trailblazing female executives and share their stories on how they got to where they are today.
International Women’s Day advice: Making it to the top of your career
Oprah Winfrey on facing career challenges head-on
“Your job is not always going to fulfil you. There will be some days that you just might be bored. Other days, you may not feel like going to work at all—go anyway… The number one lesson I can offer you is… to become so skilled, so vigilant, so flat-out fantastic at what you do that your talent cannot be dismissed.”
Angela Duckworth on changing mindsets
“Women are much more conditioned to think: ‘I didn’t do well’. Anger comes from the response that ‘my rights have been violated… Guilt comes from the feeling that you did something wrong. In my experience, women are much more conditioned to think: ‘I didn’t do well on the article’ versus ‘they didn’t do their job when reviewing it.’ I love that women can be empathetic and feel an obligation to take feedback but I also think it's important to be able to take feedback less personally than we sometimes do.”
Ita Buttrose on proving people wrong
“When I sought advancement I was often told I was too young, I was a woman, I was married, I was a mother…. I have never thought that gender should be a reason for any woman not striving for the top and making the most of her ability and talents... When I was making my way up the ladder I didn’t spend much time thinking that I was working in a male-dominated industry. I was too busy doing my job. I never thought I wasn’t entitled to aim as high as I could in journalism. When I’d meet the occasional obstacle I’d tell myself there had to be away around it and I would ultimately find it and continue on my way. I’ve always been prepared to put my hand up for a new job or for advancement. You have to let people know you have ambition. They can’t tell that by looking at you. I want to encourage women to push themselves forward more than they do. Believe in yourself and have a go.”
And finally, Arianna Huffington on workplace mental health
No matter how much great advice we share and how much action we take, we know the road to the top isn’t easy. Studies show that women still carry a disproportionate load of dealing with caring and housework, on top of managing their career. And according to Arianna Huffington, one of the biggest challenges facing women in the workplace is the pressure many feel to be “always on” in order to succeed.
“The way we’re working isn’t working. Too much of the world still believes that burnout is just the price we have to pay for success. But all the recent science shows that when we prioritize our well-being, our productivity actually goes up. [If I could make one change to help women, it would be] to end the macho culture of burnout and “being always on,” in which long hours and overwork are taken as proxies for commitment and dedication. Despite all the stay-athome dads and the advances in shared parenting, working women are still doing the lion’s share of the work of keeping up the household. This becomes a backdoor way of excluding women — or at least making it harder for them to advance, especially because women internalise stress more.”