It was never my intention to disrupt the male dominated ride-sharing industry. Working several part time jobs and struggling with four teenagers still at school, I realised there must be a market for women like me. Women like me who have a car, have the time and desperately need more financial independence and flexible work arrangements. Women like me who are too afraid to drive men around at night, and women like my eighteen-year-old daughter who had had her fair share of bad experiences in taxis and ridesharing services. I thought about the Pink Cabs concept in London and knew nothing like this had been created in Australia. So I decided I would create it.

Be the creator – not the consumer

To grow wealth, you have to think like a creator, not a consumer. We are conditioned from such a young age to think about what we want to buy, instead of what we want to create. I like to pose the question to young women in schools – why not be the creator of Instagram, instead of the subject of Instagram? It’s important to keep asking yourself – what business can I start that solves a need or a problem, or improves a situation?

A good place to start is with what you’re already consuming. For example, are you following any blogs? Would you be interested in starting your own one? Do you love reading books? Perhaps consider starting a book club! Making these small changes will put you into a more creative mindset, allowing you to think critically about what you can create in day-to-day life.

I like to pose the question to young women in schools – why not be the creator of Instagram, instead of the subject of Instagram?

Maximise your financial wealth

Women often feel guilty for thinking about their own financial independence – they exclude themselves from following the money to maximise their wealth and are not taught financial independence. If an opportunity arises or you think of an idea, follow the money and go for it! You can take the driver’s seat for your future. Caring about your financial growth and professional career does not mean you don’t care about people and want to make the world a better place. I know from my time as a comedian, there’s nothing worse than feeling you have not had a crack.

Instead of making drastic changes to your spending, start small to maximise your wealth. Buying a coffee every day? Try every two days instead. Going out to dinner twice a week? Cut down to just one a week. The small things really do add up. On top of this, you should diversify your investments. It’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket in case something unexpected happens, and exposing yourself to different assets will help you make gains for your financial future.

Be unapologetically you

We all know how the saying goes – fake it until you make it, right? Faking it can be a good way to get your foot in the door, but when it comes down to it, being yourself is what will get you where you want to be. I learned during my time on radio that if I was thinking or feeling something, it’s highly likely others share those feelings. So, if you want to be a game changer, there’s no point in pretending to be anyone else but yourself, as you will always find people who share your vision and appreciate you for who you are. It’s you who will win people over, and being uniquely yourself is what will grow your business and set you apart.

‘Courageous conversations’ have gotten me where I am today. This means confronting issues head on and saying what I feel. Whether it be at work or at home, it’s important to feel like you’re being honest. Think about what you want to achieve before having these conversations and go in with a plan. Perhaps write it down or practise what you want to say. This will ultimately lead you to be more open and transparent in your home and work life.

Create what you want to see

I created Shebah because I was sick of hearing my daughter and her friends speaking about their terrible experiences in taxis and ridesharing services. I was tired of working four jobs with no flexible work and I wanted other women to have the financial independence to live their lives. If you have your heart set on creating and making a change, there’s no point in creating something you think others would want but wouldn’t use for yourself. You need to be completely invested in your idea to see it come to life.

Begin by thinking about the bigger picture and the world you would want your children to live in. Do you want less food wastage in the world? Start by thinking of ways to tackle your waste at home. Do you want better education for your children? Think about what you would do to change it. It won’t happen instantly, but thinking like this will lead you on the path to a game-changing idea.

Surround yourself with amazing people

Breaking ground in a new field and starting my own business has been gruelling. What keeps me motivated and keeps me sane is the people I surround myself with. The staff that work with me are so extraordinarily committed – everyone is devoted to keeping both our drivers and passengers happy and care so deeply about the success of the business. Surrounding yourself with extraordinary people is what will help your business and you thrive, particularly when times are tough.

Linkedin is great tool for building strong connections between likeminded individuals, thought-leaders and people in your industry that you share interests with. When using tools like Linkedin ask questions, share knowledge and look for upcoming events and opportunities inside and outside your circles. It’s important to get in touch with people in your industry or the one your aiming for, to build long-lasting connections and work toward your professional goals.


George McEncroe is the founder of the all-female ride sharing service, Shebah, which has now completed over 18,000 trips and accredited over 850 drivers since its launch in 2017. 


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]


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.


A survey of leading Australian businesswomen found 78 per cent believe that active sponsorship as well as mentoring are essential tools to breaking down barriers for women in business.

The survey of 125 state and territory finalists in the 2014 Telstra Business Women’s Awards focused on changes business women have experienced in the 20 years since the Telstra Awards were launched.

When asked what issues need to be addressed for women in business, finalists named the deficit of senior leadership opportunities and gender pay equality, with 39 per cent saying they have encountered a pay gap compared with a male doing the same job.

when women work collectively to help each other, we will see more women thrive in business

Sponsorship Encourages Confidence

There are no quick fixes for increasing the representation of women in senior leadership positions and achieving pay equality; however, the finalists named sponsorship and mentoring as key to tackling gender equality in the workplace.

Sponsorship is believed to encourage confidence, with 83 per cent of respondents saying “confidence to challenge and influence authority” is one of the key personal attributes women need to succeed in business.

Of those surveyed, 84 per cent take on responsibility to mentor the next generation of women, while 73 per cent currently have or have had a mentor or sponsor.

Vanessa Nolan-Woods, the General Manager at Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus, said, “when women work collectively to help each other, we will see more women thrive in business”.

At Women in Focus, they bring together “women from a diverse range of industry and experience to share their experiences and learn from one another, from both their triumphs and challenges. It’s these connections that provide for businesses to grow and women in business to flourish”.

Find a Work-Life Balance

For women, success in business depends not only one performance in the workplace, but also in achieving the elusive work-life balance.

When asked how they balance work and personal commitments many women said they outsourced activities such as cleaning, ironing, childcare and gardening. Family support and technology were listed as the most important factors helping women achieve work-life balance.

In order to prevent burnout, the Award finalists emphasised the importance of exercises, with ninety-six per cent believing their physical fitness influenced their focus and positivity at work. Other tips included diarising personal time, taking regular short breaks and meditation.

Advice from those in the know

In the spirit of women helping women, ten pieces of advice the finalists said they would give other women included:

  • Be honest with yourself and others;
  • Listen to all advice, but stay true to your beliefs and values;
  • Back yourself and draw on your intuition and emotional intelligence to make better choices;
  • Never give up or let your ego get in the way;
  • If you are a leader, scaffold other women to follow your path;
  • Be your authentic self;
  • Lead with confidence, flexibility and compassion;
  • Praise, praise, praise;
  • Learn to say ‘no’ at times and don’t apologise for it; and
  • Be exceptional at what you do and your gender won’t matter.

Thirty-seven women who won the 2014 state and territory awards are national finalists for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. For finalists and winners across Australia, the Awards offer a share in $650,000 in cash and prizes. The National Finals were held in Melbourne on 26 November 2014. More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found at http://www.telstrabusinesswomensawards.com

Featured Photo: Pixabay