This week, inspirational woman Khadija Gbla is sharing her passion and personal experiences with advocacy, gender and identity, peer education, leadership and female genital mutilation. Despite receiving death threats to her and her son, Khadija stands up and speaks up for what she believes in.

Resettling as a refugee in Australia, Khadija regularly experiences discrimination, ageism, racism, sexism and mountains of stigma. Rather than letting it slide, she became interested in human rights at 13. This led her to her work as a human rights activist, coordinating domestic violence prevention and child protection. Additionally, Khadija is Australia’s lead female genital mutilation campaigner and voice. She provides training, advocacy and support for survivors and girls at risk.

Khadija Gbla shares her views on leadership

When I speak up there’s power in saying this is not ok, I’m going to challenge that and make sure it doesn’t happen. I’m going to be a part of the solution. We wouldn’t have had revolutions, or have the right to vote if women of that time didn’t stand up. Those women had to fight.

The only thing I’m in control of is what I’m doing in my life and what I’m doing is making a change. Leadership comes at a cost, people don’t talk about it but it does.

Being a woman in leadership has challenges. It comes with attacks and judgement. Women go to award shows and people are talking about what they’re wearing. Being a woman of colour, I get it from every angle and it’s exhausting.

Leadership is serving and nurturing others potential. It’s not about the limelight. It’s about asking how am I serving, supporting and nurturing others so they reach their potential? As a leader I treat those I work with as equals, respecting what they bring to the table. The people I lead make my life easy, the ideas they come up with are limitless and it’s a team effort. The girls I work with should be the ones on TV, speaking, while I step aside.

Peer education and mentoring

Peer education is what led me to be the leader I am today. Through volunteering, I found a space to see beyond my experience and past my pain and anger into something positive. I found my voice and realised my story and experiences were not just unique to me, but the stories of others as well. From this, I learnt that the personal is political.

People find benefit and validation in speaking to someone who has a lived experience like them, and it’s important not to minimise their experience and knowledge.

Female genital mutilation

As a survivor of FGM myself, I have had this passion and need to ensure it doesn’t happen to another little girl in the world, especially in Australia, where I live and can have the greatest impact.

FGM is done to little girls because of their gender and is a form of gender-based violence. People assume FGM only happens in Africa and ‘we don’t do that in the west’. This is untrue as FGM is a global issue and it is happening in Australia.

What we need to remember when tackling these issues is that culture is fluid, it constantly changes and evolves.  We must have a human rights focus as there is no space for racism in our fight against FGM. All children, no matter their culture, race, religion etc deserve to be protected.

The power of sharing my truth is that even though everyone may know what is or isn’t between my legs, I have saved girls from FGM and supported survivors. I have led Australia in a conversation about FGM as child abuse, deserving of our attention and efforts. I have influenced the way we tackle FGM in Australia and trained workers to provide an appropriate response. This means that I am saving lives.

Gender and identity

As a woman of colour who has to deal with the challenges of sexism and racism, intersectionality is very important to me. Intersectionality is the recognition that I face numerous forms of oppression and the many ways they impact me.  For example, I have to worry about my accent or whether to change my name on a resume because of racism.

As an intersectional feminist I believe that while another woman’s oppression is different from mine, I can still support their fight for equality and justice. We, as women, must acknowledge that our challenges as women differ from one woman to the next. Whether you’re an Indigenous Australian, Muslim woman, a woman of colour, a woman with a disability, a sexually diverse woman etc.  However, it is important that we show up and fight for each other. Our struggles don’t have to be the same for us to truly come together. It shouldn’t matter that someone else’s oppression doesn’t look like yours for you to care. We must challenge and dismantle our privileges to truly create an equal world.

If we don’t show up for others it will hold us all down. We need to support all women to ensure our feminism is inclusive. Unless we’re all free, none of us is free.

Khadija Gbla’s focuses for 2019

I believe that every year you should be doing better than last year. As such, I have a long list of what I want and each year I have goals and intentions I set for myself. My main one is that I want to write a book about my life as a former refugee, surviour of child abuse, FGM and domestic violence survivor; intersectional advocacy, being a black single mum, my African Australian identity and race politics. I also want to have more overseas speaking engagements.

A myth to debunk…

We understand that we live in a world where there isn’t equality but there’s a view that those who are marginalised are asking for a handout or need saving. That grates on me as what we’re asking for is a level playing field, not a leg up, favour or extra stuff. The fight against inequality is not about wanting a handout, it’s one of equality. We need to stop the stereotype that when a marginalised group speak up, and fights for their rights, that they need to be saved. Nobody is asking to be saved. It’s about equality and human rights.

Khadija GblaAbout Khadija Gbla

Khadija Gbla is a very passionate and inspiring African Australian woman. She is an award-winning human rights activist, inspirational speaker, facilitator and consultant. She has displayed great courage and determination in achieving her aspirations of giving women, youth and minority groups a voice at a local, state and international level. Khadija utilises her powerful and inspired voice to advocate for equality.

Khadija Gbla has featured on ABC news, the Courier Mail, the Herald Sun and her Ted Talk has received over a million views. Find out more about Khadija’s work https://www.khadijagbla.com.au/


Since I entered the tech start-up space, I’ve become increasingly more aware of the impact being a woman has on how business leaders perceive and treat you.

My start-up Vollie has a 50% gender split across its founding members and is run by myself and my business partner Matt, with an even split of work between us both. Whilst Matt is the more outwardly vocal advocate for our online skills-based volunteering platform, I am the one who is head of operations, making sure that every time Matt creates a new opportunity for us it is successfully managed and achieved.

As an agile start-up, we find this approach works for us – Matt is the heart and I am the head. Where he leads with passion, I can balance with logic. It is this approach that has given us the success we have had so far. But for those people who don’t understand the way we work and our equality, they often perceive Matt as the lead and myself as just the support behind the scenes, which frustrates us both.

As the quieter co-founder and the female, it is easy for me to be pushed to the side when my counterpart is already a boisterous, tall and imposing male figure, as people do not always realise the equal roles we play. I was reminded by the age-old proverb, “behind every great man there is a great woman”, which in my perspective couldn’t be further from the truth. The real truth is without me, Vollie wouldn’t be half of what it is and without Matt, Vollie wouldn’t be half of what it is. We stand beside each other as equal co-founders and refuse to let the other be cast in the other’s shadow.

I have discovered this is something that is being experienced by many other women in business. She Will Shine is Melbourne’s first all-female co-working space providing connection and support for female business owners across Australia. I recently spoke to Danielle Price, founder of She Will Shine, to get her opinion on the roadblocks that women in business face in the today’s society.

“Traditionally, women are more comfortable behind the scenes (or in the shadows) and not looking to step into the spotlight. This may be a confidence issue as it’s often a new path with new fears and new experiences that need to be overcome,” she said.

Danielle said that many female founders are now seeking to break away from traditional gender roles and step into the limelight, which takes a level of confidence that many women in business lack.

Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) once said, “I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy, to be told instead she has leadership skills.” Danielle agrees with this sentiment, and warns that degradation and dismissal based on preconceived gender roles can undermine the growth of a business due to a lack of self-confidence from a founder.

Jemma Wong, a strategic marketer and the creator of Girls Who Brand, believes it comes down to visibility. “Visibility and endorsement of senior female leaders is key – it’s not only important for clients and customers to see, but for our younger industry talent.”

“You can’t be what you can’t see, and I know from my own experience that women will be more productive and fast-moving towards opportunities if they can see tangible (not token) career pathways ahead of them,” Jemma added.

It is so important for those of us who are female founders and business leaders to get confident with stepping out of the shadows and into the limelight so that we can encourage the next generation of young women leaders.

Someone once told me, “If you walk into a room and someone is missing, you’re in the wrong room”. When I walk into any one of the countless meetings, presentations, workshops, and start-up meet-ups that fill my calendar each week, I’m miffed that even as a Greek-Australian living in Melbourne, I’m often in the minority when it comes to the representation of leaders! While the majority of my daily communications are with wonderful women from Vollie’s non-profit family, meeting a female founder is still a relatively rare experience.

Jemma knows first-hand the benefits that can happen when organisations proactively pursue diversity, “It’s healthy for outcomes and the bottom line! We need diversity of skill, experience and perspective around the table – varying lenses on a problem – to highlight a golden answer.”

“I created Girls Who Brand because I was tired of smart women marketers being overlooked and because I wanted to find ways to break traditional gendered narratives in campaign work.” Wong continues, “I wanted to show young female talent that there are legends and trailblazers all around them, and to get comfortable with putting their work, name and contribution out there into the world!”

Jemma isn’t the only one who’s noticed an imbalance in the scales; research shows that entrepreneurs are “disproportionately white, male and high educated”. When I look around the start-up environment, I’m still longing to see more female founders, more first-generation immigrants, and a lot more first Australians representing their own interests. 

Ventures such as BlueChilli’s all female accelerator, female-only co-working spaces such as She Will Shine and One Roof, and the success stories of Melanie Perkins, Canva CEO, and Jodie Fox, Co-Founder of Shoes of Prey that the media do a genuinely awesome job of promoting have undoubtedly tipped the scales closer to an equilibrium.

In the bid to create an equal playing field for all, there is an onus on the people who are currently taking up more than their fair share of the space in the room…

Try these heels for size

Ann Nolan is the co-founder of Snobal, a virtual reality start-up based out of Melbourne’s Inner West that has recently been accepted into HTC’s ViveX global accelerator program and the IBM Global Entrepreneur Program.

While Snobal are at the forefront of building VR tools for business, Ann recounts how she can occasionally encounter assumptions around the allocation of roles between her and her business and life partner, Murray.

“I have had Snobal introduced as  ‘Murray’s company’ while I’ve been standing next to him,” Ann explains, “it’s tempting to put your hand up and say “I created this as well!””

And as parents, Ann finds even the most well-meaning of questions about balancing family life and founder life are directed at her, not Murray, illustrating perhaps the implicit bias that parenting responsibility sits with her.

In Ann’s story and the stories of female founders like hers, there is a simple solution at hand. Speaking from personal experience, a male co-founder who is proud to identify himself as a feminist and an advocate for equal rights is an amazing asset to have in your corner.

Every time I am treated less preferentially to Matt by an investor, fellow business owner or employee, I have both the confidence and support of my co-founder to assert my right to be treated as an equal. Hell, more often than not Matty is pushing my opinion over his if we feel that I’m not being seriously taken. It’s an incredibly small thing for him to do, but it’s the helping hands from those above and the leg-ups from those below that make those steep hills that much easier to climb.

Western middle-to-upper-class men have an incredible amount of privilege when it comes to founding a start-up, with the US-based SBA.gov reporting that just 36% of small business owners are women. Also, over 80% of funding for new businesses comes from personal savings and friends and family, which means that if women are being paid an average of 16% less than men, there is simply less money for them to be founding or funding a start-up with!

The power that comes with privilege is used by Vollie to fight for equality both in the work we do and in our interactions within the global business community (including how our founders are treated). As a male founder, simply attempting to walk in the shoes of those in your fellow start-up community who may not enjoy the same privileges as you do is enough to give you an eye-opening perspective (can’t figure out how to do that? Take a leaf out of Martin Schneider and Nicole Hallberg’s gender-swapping experiment at work).

Speak up, man

It takes a village to achieve just about any meaningful change, but if the village can’t see that it needs to change, then we’ve got a problem. It’s basic maths: if 95% of the funded Australian start-up community is male (StartupSmart, 2016), then that same 95% can wield a lot of influence about what changes we need to make.

Danielle from She Will Shine agrees, and says that men have a social responsibility to change their perception and expectations regarding women in the workforce.

“Throughout the She Will Shine community discussions are already being held on these topics, but opening these discussions in male-centric platforms is the only way forward to see change happen across the board. And it’s something that we are currently working towards.”

For those of you out there who don’t speak up for others or promote the representation of people of all types, doing it will make a world of difference to the women you work with, for the women you invest in and for the women who might one day work for you.

Behind every great man there is just a shadow, and beside him is a woman holding the light.

 

Tanya Dontas is Co-Founder and COO of Vollie, a platform that connects skilled Australians with non-profit organisations to unlock a new style of skills-based remote volunteering. With a double (Bachelors) degree of Commerce and Chinese, Tanya has over five years marketing and events experience working within start-ups, event companies and in the corporate space. Tanya has a passion for helping others in need and regularly volunteers for charities during her spare time.


Have you been called feisty, an ice queen or ballbuster just because you’re doing your job?  If so, you’re far from alone.  Research consistently shows that society continues to hold expectations of how women ‘should’ behave which aren’t always aligned with what will allow us to succeed in the workplace.  When we don’t meet these expectations, the judgment can be harsh.

Think back to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who was labeled by the media and public as the ‘Iron Lady’.  While some may argue there is a degree of respect reflected in that label, what it reveals is a belief that women aren’t typically strong to the point of being unmovable.

Women need to be far more than the caring, warm, emotional and sensitive beings we’re generally expected to be.  Bringing assertive, competitive, decisive, and rational approaches to work are essential for anyone to be successful, regardless of their gender.  The problem for women is that behaving in these ways deviate from the social script that dictates how women ‘should’ behave.

Gender labels like ice queen point to the attitudes people often hold toward women in power and those who demonstrate so called masculine traits.  Where their male counterpart may be regarded as assertive, driven, and focused on results, women with the same behaviours are often perceived as pushy and even bitchy.  Men for example are often respected for having a so-called ‘no bullshit’ approach, women often aren’t.

Gender labels provide useful insight to why so many women continue to be overlooked for opportunities they deserve.  The challenges of earning equal pay and accessing equal opportunity to advance their careers are made all that much harder by labels that encourage and reinforce discrimination, unconscious and other wise.

Gender labels can influence the way both a woman’s potential and performance are perceived.  For example, when hiring leaders, it’s common for employers to look for traits typically regarded as masculine.  The challenge for women is demonstrating their ability to bring these qualities to the role.  Consider for example the woman who shows emotion in the workplace and is consequently cast as too fragile or unstable to lead.

While we all need to stand up and challenge discrimination, just as important is investing energy in doing what we can to enable our own success, irrespective of the prejudices people hold.  Among the most important things women can do to succeed despite gender bias include these:

  1. Don’t buy the label. Choose not to believe in biased gender labels.  See yourself as being capable of both empathy and objectivity, of being fair and firm, strong and flexible.  Women are just as capable of holding people accountable and driving results as men are.
  1. Be you. The most likely path to success is one of authenticity. Of course we all have to conform to standards of dress and conduct reasonable people regard as professional.  Within these boundaries however, its essential that you adopt a style and approach that works best with the person you are.
  1. Be balanced. Bring both the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ aspects of your nature to your work and life.  For anyone to be successful, thinking with our heads and our hearts, being empathetic and outcome focused matter.  It doesn’t serve us to be overly emotional or too clinical in our thinking.
  1. Speak up. Women are more likely to allow self-doubt to hold them back from sharing their views. Never apologize for having an opinion; just take responsibility for how you go about sharing it.  Be honest and sensitive, fair and firm, and most people will respect your approach.
  1. Put your hand up. Don’t wait for someone to notice your potential or guess at your career aspirations.  Let the leaders you work with know what you are capable of achieving and what more you can contribute.  Ask for the opportunities you want in your career and the support you need to get there.
  1. Take what you deserve. Women can be inclined to forgo opportunities for the sake of other people. Understand that all healthy relationships are based on give and take.  Make sure you have enough to enable you to thrive in your life.
  1. Be bold. Avoid the mistake so many women make of believing they need to be more highly qualified or experienced than they in fact do to take the next career step. Have confidence in your readiness to take on a challenge and find the courage to ask for the opportunity.

Karen Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately.  Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit www.ryangately.com.au or contact [email protected]


I must tell you – I love being a woman!  And I have long felt blessed to have been born in a time when women have so many opportunities and choices that even my own mother never had.  Yet of all the barriers women still face, one of the biggest is a lack of self-confidence and belief in our own worth.

Yes, we are women. Hear us roar. Some days. But there’s are plenty of others we women spend second guessing our decisions, questioning our value, beating ourselves up, talking ourselves down and apologising for our opinion.

We work hard to do a great job, to keep all the plates spinning and scale the high bars we often set for ourselves. Yet still, we continually feel like we’re falling short on some measure; that we’re just not ‘enough’ in some way. Not…

Accomplished enough.

Organised enough.

Strong enough.

Disciplined enough.

Assertive enough.

Strategic enough.

Smart enough.

That little voice in our heads just doesn’t let up, continually critiquing what we haven’t yet done or didn’t do… not ‘well enough’ anyway. Do your own survey and you’ll find that women tend to doubt themselves too much and back themselves too little.  It’s why courage is so imperative. We simply can’t wait until we feel brave to put our hand up for a bigger role, to ask for a promotion or voice an opinion other may disagree with. We have to take action amid our fears that doing so may result in disapproval, rejection or outright failure.

Of course not only women struggle with doubt but it’s my experience that we tend to doubt ourselves ore and back ourselves less than the men we live and work with.

It’s why we must decide to #BeBoldForChange not just on International Women’s Day, but every day. Why? Because changing the world around us begins with changing the world within us. Daring to do more and be more even though we fear we’ll fall short in the process.

Closing the gender gap will require stepping up, leaning into discomfort and acting with the confidence we women often wish we had (or had more of!)  So if you’re wondering what you can do to make the world a better place for everyone, look first within and then do whatever is the first thing that comes to mind when you ask yourself this question:

What would I do today if I were being really brave?

Below are ten to get you started!

1. Ask for what you want

That’s right, it’s simple enough but let’s face it, too often we dilute what we ask for or don’t ask at all for fear of seeming needy or being rejected. But as I’ve written before, how can you expect to get what you want if you’re not willing to ask for it.

2. Say no

It’s a short little word but it’s one may women struggle to say because we know the person who’s extended the invitation or offer doesn’t want to hear it. But if you’re ever going to do what you really want to do you’ll often have to say no to good things to create space for great ones. Here’s a free video course I made for you to help you along.

3. Push back

Yes, you’re a nice person and you’re loathe to appear difficult but the truth is that if all you ever do is agree and go along to get along’ then sometimes you’re selling yourself short. Way short. Pushing back isn’t about being pushy. It’s just owning your right to see things differently to others. Sure women can get called bossy or bitchy for simply speaking their truth but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t! Being bold for change is all about risking a little push back for a cause that’s bigger than your own comfort.

4. Own your worth

Next time you’re talking about what you do, talk about it in a powerful way that lets people know you see the value in what you do (even if they have yet to realize it). Too often our fear of seeming like we are bragging keeps us from talking about what we’re up to. Time to own it!

5. Risk rejection

It’s not rejection you’re afraid of, it’s how you will feel because of what you make it mean… a personal inadequacy on your part; evidence that you are ‘less than worthy’ in some way. It doesn’t mean that at all. The truth is you need to risk a lot of rejections if you want to get ahead in your business, career and life. If you’re still licking a wound from a previous rejection, watch this.

6. Own your difference

We all like to belong to a group but too often we let our fear of disapproval keep us from expressing who we really are and owning what makes us different. So don’t dial yourself down for fear of standing out. Just be 100% of whoever it is you truly are. As I wrote in this recent Forbes column, “When all you do is try to fit in and conform, all you offer is conformity. It’s what sets you apart from others that makes you interesting.”

7. Take a risk

Women are naturally more cautious than men. It’s why women are far less likely to engage in high risks sports or suffer spinal injuries. We don’t get the same buzz from going fast as men. Yet we can often be more reticent to take the very risks that would enable us to get ahead. As I wrote in Brave, if there’s something you’d really love to do or change, embrace the discomfort of risk taking and just do it.

8. Ditch all guilt

Some guilt is healthy. Like if you haven’t paid your taxes or you’ve done something that’s violated a core value and leaves you out of integrity with yourself. More often though our guilt is driven by social norms and rules that we’ve unwittingly bought into. If you’re a working mother, you’ll know all about that. But here’s the deal, how can you teach your kids to go out and pursue their dreams if you aren’t pursuing yours? You can’t! Or not with any credibility anyway.

So lay all the ‘shoulds’ to the side and ask yourself, what is it that you would love to do so much that you know even if it pulls you away from your kids more often than you’d like, you know that they (as well as you) will ultimately be better off because you’ve done it? If you’re still struggling.

9. Expand your tribe

The more people who know who you are, what you can do and what you’d love to do more of, the more people who can help you get there. So think about who it is that you’d love to build a relationship with and find a way to connect with them.

10. Challenge your story

You live in an intricate web of stories about who you are, about what you can do and, just as importantly, what you can’t. Your stories are the truth but they have the power to shape your life. So if you’ve been telling yourself a story that you’re too old, too young or that you’re not ‘enough of something’ try telling yourself another one and see what possibilities open up for you.

 

MargieWarrell-670HighResolutionMargie Warrell is a bestselling author, women’s leadership coach and international speaker. Watch her videos at www.MargieWarrell.com 


Gemma and Valeria are co-founders of Diverse City Careers, a jobs board that advertises positions from Australia’s top companies which provide ideal workplaces for women. Since my first coffee with Gemma and Valeria last year, I’ve seen these ladies go from strength to strength. We’ve been lucky enough to get some time with them to answer some questions about their startup, diversity, enacting change and community, plus a throwback to the school days.

diverse-city-careers

Do you recall the moment when the lightbulb illuminated with the Diverse City Careers (DCC) idea, and why you became so passionate about starting the business?

Gemma: The idea behind DCC came to me after spending 8 years in IT&T and experienced the challenges faced by many women in male dominated industries. Both Valeria and I were also on the board of Females in Technology and Telecommunications (FITT). FITT is a NFP network with over 4,000 members. Through volunteering with FITT, we realised there were so many other women experiencing the same challenges as us. Through the FITT corporate sponsors, we were exposed to companies doing amazing things to support women- such as internal leadership programs, a focus on equal pay and great parental policies. That’s when I thought- why can’t all companies be like this? Essentially that’s where the concept for DCC was born- to only promote the companies doing the right thing. Initially I reached out to Valeria to see if she’d be interested in helping me with some marketing activities but she fell in love with the idea too and the rest is history!

Valeria: My passion for DCC stems from the desire to see more companies focus on outcomes rather than “time spent in office” to enable more inclusive and happy workplaces. Flexibility is one of several key aspects to drive productivity and while not every role can be flex, there are lots of room for improvement in this area across Australian businesses.

I also found myself and other women frustrated with the lack of options to easily find the most supportive employers. Most job boards were either flooded with anonymous, or even worse, fake recruiters’ jobs and others only catered to working mothers.

DCC’s motto is: “We believe in a better way of working”. With that in mind, can you give examples of ideal environments for businesses to work toward?

An ideal working environment consists of a few different things:

  • A place where everyone believes in the company’s mission and working towards a common goal
  • A place where everyone can be 100% themselves and feel included
  • Where there are opportunities to learn and grow, to reach your full potential
  • Where you feel empowered to make decisions within your area of expertise, an agile environment that can respond to the market quickly without bureaucracy and politics.

Your start-up is still young, but you’re smashing it from all angles! Can you share three things which have been contributing factors to this rapid rise?

  1. We are genuinely passionate about what we’re doing and we’ve struck a chord with many others who believe in what we’re achieving
  2. We’ve developed key industry partnerships to help expand our community through the collective networks of different groups such as Tech Girls Movement and Women in Energy
  3. For the last 12 months we’ve lived and breathed everything DCC, we’ve worked really hard to achieve this growth- we have sacrificed a lot personally as would most startup founders.

Both of you have a background in tech. What advice do you have for women wanting to get into the tech space, and/or manifest change in their chosen STEM career?

Gemma: There are so many awesome career paths you can take in tech and it’s an incredible field to be in! Many great organisations are hiring for potential rather than experience, so don’t be afraid to go for roles you may not have 100% experience in. With less than 30% of the ICT workforce female, forward thinking organisations are providing great training and professional development opportunities to be able to create a more diverse workforce.

Valeria: Tech has the capability to provide the most flexibility- you can literally do you job anywhere and I’m a prime example of this- prior to DCC, I’ve worked with four different tech companies in a marketing capacity, where I managed activities nationally from Melbourne. Over the years I’ve met brilliant people working in IT, many of whom are not strictly ‘technical’- which breaks the common perception of this industry.

Some people may say that your business is not about diversity; rather, it backs the effort to increase women’s rights in the workplace. What is your response to that?

Gemma: The two go hand in hand- we need to increase women’s rights to ensure there are more diverse, inclusive and equal workforces. Within ICT specifically in the top 3 tiers in management, only 1 in 5 leaders are female. We need to support and increase women into those roles, part of that is enforcing women’s rights such as equal pay, better parental leave policies and mentor programs.

Valeria: The policy changes we are influencing are all about inclusivity. Let’s take one aspect for example; parental leave policies. Our vision is to see companies abandon the ‘maternity leave’ policies in favour of parental leave where males and females can have access to the same entitlements. Our clients do not just focus on ‘women’s rights’ but creating an overall inclusive culture. However there is lots of work to be done to change the image of some companies being strictly a ‘boys’ club’ which is where using images of women at work in job ads and sharing their stories comes in.

I would imagine the community aspect plays a big role when engaging with a business. How much of what you do is about advocating change, and does community play a role in that?

It’s a huge part of our business and why we do what we do- with only 10% of computer science graduates in Australia female, we need to make sure we’re building the pipeline of women coming through. A good example of this is our partnership with Tech Girls are Superheroes and our “Superhero Daughter Day”. Held at the Microsoft Innovation Centre in Brisbane during International Women’s Day week, we had 120 girls as young as four years old through to 13 attend with their parents to celebrate technology and even have a go at coding!

We are very focused on sharing the positive changes in the industry as well- whether this be through a digital campaigns such as the IWD Pledge for Parity or events with our corporate clients and partners. These include facilitating panel discussions around how companies are getting creative in solving barriers to gender equality along with donating our time to speak at external events. The media has also been very supportive through sharing the news of our initiatives.

Do you have any tips for community managers to consider when pitching to management about adding or updating policies about balanced diversities?

There are countless studies that demonstrate how more diverse organisations are more profitable, productive and have a lower turnover of staff. I’d definitely be using these! Plus demonstrate industry leading practices at other organisations. On the DCC website, we profile organisations under the Companies we Endorse page to showcase some of the great things companies do to support women.

In 25 words or less, why would you love to check out Silicon Valley?

Because it’s the worlds hub for tech start-ups. It’s filled with highly successful entrepreneurs, investors and home to the most successful companies like Apple and Google- you would meet some truly inspiring people and learn a lot!

Windows or MacOS?

Gemma: Windows desktop, but iOS phone

Valeria: Windows desktop and Android phone

Here’s a throw-back to primary school! What was your best school project and why?

Gemma: I don’t remember much from primary school so had to call my mum for this one! She said my favourite project was when we went to Egypt and Israel on holiday. At school I created a big collage of my trip and the history of those countries, like the pyramids. I was creative during primary school which is why I enjoyed this project.

For high school, in year 12 I was part of “Business Week”. In groups, we had to design, market and simulate the growth of a hotel which then competed against other groups in our year. I’ve always had an urge to run my own business so I loved this project!

Valeria: In primary school, my obsession with the NBA and in particular Michael Jordan meant that each and every project had to be directly related to basketball. This included a maths game which was based around players’ jersey numbers, a felt collage for art consisting of the 1992 Dream Team and when it came to picking a country for a geography project, I had no hesitation in choosing Jordan. All projects drove my teachers mad but I was extremely proud of my commitment to basketball and my ‘unique’ creations.

 

Feel free to connect with Gemma or Valeria via LinkedIn. You can also check out DCC online via webTwitterLinkedIn, or Instagram.


In 2015 we talked about ‘Making it Happen’.  This year we’re being asked to make a pledge for parity.  I’m confused. If we ‘made it happen’ then why do we need to pledge?

Perhaps it’s because we talked about ‘making it happen’ but didn’t find time to actually fulfil the words. Because it stayed on the bottom of the ‘to do’ list of our busy lives. Perhaps we still intend to ‘make it happen’ when we find time. Or maybe we spoke about ‘making it happen’ without the intent to see it through or belief that we could accomplish it. Someone else will run with it, won’t they?  We hurried back to work and went about our daily lives because the doers or dreamers will take the lead, won’t they? Or perhaps we really tried but failed.  You know, like that diet that the Ben and Jerry’s setback spoiled.

This sound familiar?

Not for me.  I talked and wrote about three things I would do to ‘make it happen’.  I shared them widely.  And I crossed all three of them off my list.  It wasn’t hard.  Because I made them a priority. Not a priority in the future when my daughter starts her career.  I made it a priority today.

I said I would:

  1.  Choose my words carefully. Language should be gender neutral so as to be inclusive. It should be motivating and encouraging for all children. Most of all it should be kind to yourself – ban the words common in negative thoughts!
  2. Mentor and seek mentors. Giving and seeking out the same mentoring advice as my male peers. I wouldn’t just tell the women to work on their soft skills and the men to work on their business acumen. I would give them the same message regardless of gender.
  3. Make a stand for flexible working arrangements, regardless of the different meanings it has for different people. For me, it give me the ability to juggle my board roles, make time for my mentoring passion via Steel Heels, and most importantly, be a great Mum to little Chloe.

Over the last year I ‘made it happen’ by:

(1) Asking audiences and colleagues to correct me when my language fails the gender neutral test.  I’ve been conscious of language when conversing with Miss Chloe, putting particular emphasis on how I categorise certain occupations (I used ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’).  I was not perfect, but I got a lot better.

(2) Mentoring many women and men.  Face-to-face – I spent my daily coffee break meeting someone for a quick chat.  I spent my drive down the freeway in the morning mentoring those in remote locations. I also mentored thousands through Steel Heels and I grew my Steel Heels community by offering a half hour mentoring session in exchange for a Steel Heels guest blog.  Worked a treat!  Quid pro quo.  I also shared my own stories, experiences and ideas.

(3) Agreeing on part-time working arrangements with my executive role employer.  I said no to breakfast functions so I could spend that quality time with Miss Chloe.  And I found support via innovative resourcing methods to grow Steel Heels.

Step up and convert your words into actions

I love hearing the community conversation turning towards diversity, parity and equality.  But I love creating and implementing actions that drive change even more.  If you are talking but not doing, then take the next step.  Step up and convert your words into actions.  Make your pledge a measureable action.  Be open about it.  Commit yourself and tell others to hold you to account.  Don’t be shy.

So, to my pledge.

I pledge to maintain focus on my three actions. In doing so, I will continue to focus on implementing initiatives aimed at increasing the self-confidence of women in the workplace.  I pledge to continue talking but to ensure my actions speak louder.  I pledge to continue to grow Steel Heels (the online mentoring platform I founded).  I pledge to broaden the reach of Steel Heels, particularly to younger women who are just embarking on their careers.  I pledge to work with corporates around the globe to introduce Steel Heels as a tool to support their workforce.  And I pledge to be open to new ideas.

What is your #PledgeforParity?

What will you do to make it a priority?

Sharon Warburton has been smashing glass ceilings in the resources and construction industries for more than 20 years.  Today she is a Non Executive Director, a NFP Director, single mum to Miss Chloe and a mentor to many.  Sharon is the 2014 Telstra WA Business Woman of the Year and the NAB Women’s Agenda Mentor of the Year.  She is the founder of www.steelheels.com.au – an online mentoring platform aimed at increasing self-confidence in the workplace.