The ongoing efforts to include executive women in high-level decision making and positions of influence means more are being offered a seat at the table. However, the work around inclusion does not stop there, as many women struggle with building confidence and finding their voice, in order to contribute and start to create change.

PageGroup recently held a webinar titled, “Choosing to Lead… A Revolution”, the first of its two-part Women in Leadership series aimed at amplifying the impact of female leaders.

In the context of COVID-19 adversely impacting women in the workforce and participation rates, shaking up the status quo and bringing forward new leaders is crucial, according to Sandy Halpin, CEO & Founder of Capital Idea.

During the webinar, she shared practical advice for high performing and high potential women on how to build and use your influence, build your currency, and recognise opportunities.

Sharmini Wainwright and Sandy Halpin discuss finding your voice at the table, as part of PageGroup's Women in Leadership series.

Sharmini Wainwright, Senior Managing Director of NSW and QLD at PageGroup and Sandy Halpin, CEO & Founder of Capital Idea discuss the present experiences of female leaders and how they can amplify their impact.

Halpin explained that when talking to women who have managed to secure a seat at the table, many were experiencing common challenges and running into their own barriers when it came to the next step of finding your voice at the table.

“There are a couple of things that are really important here – it starts with building up competence, and then how you participate and contribute regularly,” Halpin noted.

“I find in my conversations, even with senior executives, that they feel they’re at the table as the token female. I’m a bit cynical about that, because I believe you’ve been invited to take a seat at the table for a reason – someone has recognised the value that you contribute.”

She said a great technique is to find and create allies, which can be highly effective for women leaders who haven’t yet had a chance to use their voice.

“Building confidence to contribute at the table comes from understanding who’s in those other seats. Be it a board meeting or a new project kick off, look to have conversations with your ally before the big event so that you’ve got someone who is aligned with your perspective,” she explained.

“You can say you’re really curious about their opinion, you can share what it is you want to achieve, or you might say you’re nervous about contributing so perhaps they could raise the topic and throw the discussion over to you.

“Doing this will provide a sense of comfort, you don’t feel alone, and from there you start to move forward with confidence. So have those conversations and build your ally relationships before you step into those meetings.”

Halpin underscored that while many women found it daunting to stretch outside of their comfort zones, ultimately “if you have a seat at the table, you have a responsibility to use it” because “when we step into our strengths, our influence and our leadership opportunities, we unlock the potential that is within us all”.

Halpin shared further valuable tips for women leaders to build up confidence, as well as how to break down barriers around the participation challenge.

Steps to build confidence

  • Develop an opinion and back it up
  • Know your stakeholders and audience (around the table and on the sidelines)
  • Define your success metrics
  • Look for, or create, allies
  • When challenged, take a breath before you respond so you reply with strength

Steps to participate and contribute

  • Be curious
  • Start small if you need to
  • Leverage allies outside of structured opportunities
  • Be prepared
  • Challenge assumptions and ask questions
  • Create metrics that work
  • Understand the value of silence or not saying too much

During the webinar, participants also engaged in live polls, revealing sentiment on career progression and top professional priorities.

When female professionals were asked about the career progression opportunity in their workplace, 53% of participants stated it was “equal to all other colleagues”, closely followed by 43% indicating “at a disadvantage to my male colleagues” and 3% choosing “at an advantage to my male colleagues”.

A second poll revealed when it came to women’s number one professional priority, 39% stated it was “satisfaction” derived from what they do, 32% indicated “progressing upwards”, 17% chose “a new challenge” and 12% said “security and stability”.

Sharmini Wainwright, Senior Managing Director of NSW and QLD at PageGroup said the practical steps shared will help high performing and high potential women take control of finding their voice at the table.

“We know that women spend a lot of time reflecting on the career journeys of those in your team and those alongside you, but this webinar is all about pausing so you can reflect and invest on yourself. Because now is absolutely the time for revolution,” Wainwright said.

Part two of our Women in Leadership series will be held in July and feature a panel of women sharing their personal stories on how they chose to lead and how they navigated their career path.

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