WLNZ Leadership News

Can the words caregiver and ambitious be in the same sentence?

Professor Jan Thomas takes a look at how society can move away from tacit assumptions about caring and ambition to champion diversity for all.

Laura Maxwell

Laura Maxwell's career journey​

Laura Maxwell is Chief Commercial Officer at NZME. She has over 20 years of experience in media and is also currently serving as a Chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a Director of the Newspapers Publishers Association and a board member of the Radio Bureau. Laura will be speaking at the upcoming NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium so we sat down with her to discuss her career journey.Tell us about your career to date?After completing a BA at Otago University I began a fantastic OE that ended up lasting….much longer than planned! I did get to experience working in a range of industries, improved my skiing and to my father’s relief, started my first ‘real job’ in sales and marketing at the University of Canberra, at 26 years of age. Given the commute was sensational, I also completed a Post-Graduate Diploma in Marketing while I was there.I have worked in small businesses where I have rolled my sleeves up and been involved both along and across the business. This taught me so much and gave me experience in manufacturing, importing, exporting, retailing, packaging, pricing, negotiation, marketing, advertising, sales and finance. Once I joined larger organisations (where your role is more defined), I then had the confidence to challenge and add value to areas ‘outside my remit’. I have been within the media business since 2001 and still love the pace, the brands and how we connect with Kiwis. For me, being in an informal, creative and fast-paced environment suits my ethos of taking the role seriously but having a good time too.What have been some highlights (and low lights!) in your career?Highlights for me have been working with slick, global brands where I got to experience planning, strategy and execution at a level that was simply top notch and at a scale larger than we have in New Zealand. These include working alongside big brands and organisations like Team New Zealand, Louis Vuitton, the America’s Cup, the All Blacks, and the Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games. Working for a business and creating commercial success in a short window, such as for an event, was a steep learning curve for me. For the America’s Cup programme we developed, branded, packaged, retailed, marketed and sold over 90 new products specific to the event with every step of the chain needing approval from the event brand owners. And we hit our targets!  One of the biggest career challenges for me was when I was leading Yahoo!NZ and the Xtra email issue arose. I would not call it a lowlight (although being on conference calls to the States every hour throughout the night seemed like a lowlight at the time!) as it was a great learning experience.  I have used the skills learned during that episode again and again.You are recognised as a leader in your field. What advice would you give other women who aspire to this?Plan where you want to go and create a pathway to get there. Be honest with what your gaps are and improve them. Find businesses where you can make a difference, that excite you and where you ‘fit‘. If you rate a particular leader, then either get a job with them or see if they will mentor you.Choose your battles and understand the impact of your decisions on the business, the brand and other people within the business.Outside your business, give your time to contribute to the betterment of your industry – this will also raise your profile. What groups are there you can join? What initiatives can you develop and lead that will improve the business ecosystem for the industry?What do you think are the most important strengths/skills women need in the workforce now and in the future?The same skills any person needs to be successful. I do not see the key strengths/skills as being different for women. Own your ideas, speak up and add value. However, if you want to position yourself for an executive role, do not volunteer to take notes in meetings or organise the coffee or bring in the baking.When negotiating your remuneration, show how you add value to the business and know what the market rates are for your role. Make sure you have a list of the achievements in the previous year and what your plans are to move the business forward. Take the emotion out of it. The business is not hiring you. They are hiring what you bring to the company.We all know how important networking is. What is your networking strategy?I like talking to interesting people who can see new ways of solving challenges. I seek out people who may have similar challenges to me and share ideas with them. I do not believe it is a numbers game. I would rather have fewer good people that I can call than have the largest list of people.What do you think the biggest challenge facing females in the corporate world, and females in business more generally, at the moment?Confidence. This is the biggest difference I see between men and women in a work environment. I thought it was a Kiwi thing, but I think it is more of women underestimating what they bring to the table. Find the forums to accelerate your worth to the business. If you are delivering value and your employer is not valuing it, then ask for feedback and do not be afraid of what you hear. Then you can decide if there are changes you need to make at work or if the current business is not one that will fulfil your goals and instead find a new one.Would you like to hear Laura Maxwell and other inspirational speakers share their journeys and leadership advice? Join us at the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium from 21-22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. To secure your seat at this phenomenal event, register now.  

An excavator

The unique challenges of women working in the construction industry​

We know that gender diversity (let alone diversity in general) makes good business sense – huge bodies of evidence exist demonstrating that when we have more women in workplaces, organisations have greater economic growth and improved organisational, financial and market performance. Yet we are also told by the World Economic Forum that it will be a very long 117 years before we achieve true gender equality.I was raised around the construction industry. I worked for my Dad’s road construction company during my school and university holidays, and after I graduated I worked on research projects in the logging industry. I then joined a consulting company that delivered large-scale safety cognitive-behavioural culture programs (underpinned with psychology and brain science) to the mining, construction and heavy industries globally.I was often the only female on the entire site, and even more frequently the only female in meetings. Any challenges I had with this were primarily the result of being treated like what I can only call a child. I often found myself being ‘protected’ by clients (with the best of intentions I confess); clients and colleagues alike at times seemingly needing to protect me from ‘aggressive’ and ‘rude’ behaviour, or even pre-framing my work in the room with ‘be nice to this young lady’. Though I felt capable, competent and confident in sharing information and discussions, let alone managing these kinds of behaviours when they were evident, many people who were older, primarily male, were often unconsciously not setting me up for success, certainly not as the specialist in my field.There are many examples of these kinds of unconscious biases and hindering behaviours (and I know of many more covert and overt examples of undermining females, including blatant harassment and discrimination), many of which can be directed towards women in male dominated workforces.While unconscious thinking, stereotypes and biases are our everyday life as humans, there are a number of unconscious biases specifically related to gender in organisations that have systematically negative effects on women. We are more likely to use unconscious thinking processes at certain times, and workplaces often provide many of these conditions for unconscious thinking to occur: having to divide our attention across multiple tasks at once, having to make rapid judgements and decisions, and carrying out routine tasks.There are a number of reasons why unconscious bias and stereotyping present issues for business, and there are three key phenomena that primarily present challenges to gender equality in organisations.Firstly, ‘think manager, think male’ gender stereotyping has negative consequences for women in organisations generally, and particularly in terms of the number of women in senior or leadership roles. Masculine leadership behaviours are heavily weighted towards our view of what a leader should be like. Because our biases are frequently unconscious, processes like candidate search, selection, advancement and remuneration can be skewed against women despite equal opportunity policies and practices.‘Backlash’ talks to how people are more likely to react negatively when they encounter others who do not fit their stereotypical expectations. In the case of gender, people prefer women to behave like stereotypical women, and men to behave like stereotypical men. When women display traits or behaviours that are more stereotypically masculine, they are likely to be penalised and evaluated more negatively – that is, experience backlash from others. Likewise for men who display stereotypically feminine traits. However, backlash affects women in organisations far more than it does men, because women more closely associate leadership with masculine traits. Male-dominated cultures can experience an ‘impossible dilemma’, that is if they do not behave assertively they cannot demonstrate leadership competence, but if they do behave assertively, they are considered less promotable.Finally, ‘stereotype threat’ is a phenomenon where we become aware of others’ stereotypes about us and as a result we are more likely to conform to them and behave in accordance with others’ expectations. Research shows, for instance, that women perform worse on mathematical tasks when gender stereotypes about maths competence are mentioned prior. So being made aware that, by virtue of her gender, a woman should perform worse at some tasks than her male counterparts can contribute to poorer performance. It is simply an awareness of the stereotype that influences the outcome, not actual inferior competence in a task.A woman’s fit, functioning and growth within the workplace comes down to some quite specific protective and risk factors. Two of the protective factors in particular include job network and support, and other women working in the area, among others.This is the main reason why Women & Leadership New Zealand (WLNZ) has ‘female only’ leadership development programs and ‘female focused’ events. If women work in predominantly male workforces, they are not likely to consistently interact with other women working in their area, and very often do not have a female network or support within the workplace. This is also the case the higher up a hierarchy we go, where there can be even fewer females in leadership and executive level roles.WLNZ has set up a networking group on LinkedIn called Professional Women’s Network Australia/NZ, where women have the opportunity to support each other, collaborate on ideas and share strategies for career advancement. We encourage readers to join this group.Gender equality is not just a ‘women’s problem’ for us to deal with alone. Yet the reality is we have some way to go and there are some things we can do as individuals, for our own fit, function and growth within our workplaces.One statement that often comes to mind is something a previous colleague once said to me: “you educate people in how to treat you through setting your expectations and boundaries.” Be clear on what you accept and do not accept, particularly when it comes to your own goals and ideals.Do you want to join WLNZ’s next event and hear from inspirational leaders like Barbara Kendall MBE, Makaia Carr, Mai Chen and Rachel Smalley? The inaugural NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium will be taking place on 21 and 22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. You can book your tickets now. Author: Kelly Rothwell, Head of School at WLNZ 

Three women networking

3 ways to progress your career this year that are not simply ‘getting a promotion’​

Often, when people talk about ‘career progression’ they really just mean getting promoted, which is a shame – because there are so many other ways to progress your career! As women, ‘progression’ can mean any number of things and it is time we embraced that. Whether you want to start exploring different career paths, take a break from the workforce, start your own business, or simply garner a deeper understanding of your current profession, ‘progression’ really means anytime you learn more about yourself and your goals, and start moving towards them.So, for those of us out there that want to progress our careers this year in ways that are not simply getting a promotion, here are 3 key strategies:Grow your (female) network Everyone knows that networking is important, right? You get to meet people, which in turn leads to more opportunities. You also get to hear more people’s stories, which can help you clarify your overall direction. However, research shows that it is not only important to grow your network. More specifically, you need to grow your female network. Why, you ask? Because when women are surrounded by like-minded women, they are more likely to succeed. So, whatever form of progression you are after this year, having a group of like-minded females to support you will no doubt help. Learn more about the complexities of women in leadership Even though we would all love for it to not be the case, unfortunately women in any kind of leadership position, whether it be an executive role or as a small business owner, still face challenges that our male counterparts, on the most part, do not face or understand. If you are an aspiring or current female leader of any type, it is always useful to understand these challenges, and, more specifically, how other women overcome them. Doing so can help you get clarity on what your next move should look like. For example, if your organisation is not supportive enough of your requirement for flexibility, should I move to an organisation that is?Be inspired by someone that has been there and done that Leadership of any kind can be a lonely journey. Sometimes it is easy to feel as though no one understands you and it is all too hard. A great way to overcome this is to be inspired by others who have been there and done that. Speaking directly to other women who have been in your situation can inspire you to better understand your challenges and how to overcome them to move your career in the direction you want.  If you want to progress your career this year by growing your female network, learning more about women in leadership, and being inspired by those that have succeeded, then look no further! The NZME Women in Leadership Symposium, due to be held from 21-22 June in Auckland, offers all of these benefits plus many more. For a limited time only (up until 28 April – so hurry!) you can grab an early bird ticket, which entitles you to up to $500 off the standard price. Grab yours ASAP.Author: Natasha Gallardo, CEO, Working Mothers Connect and Strategic Partner, WLNZ

Mai Chen

Mai Chen, Inaugural Chair, NZ Global Women, shares invaluable advice for women​

As far as career achievements go, you do not get much more impressive than that of the incredible Mai Chen. A lawyer by trade, Mai is currently Managing Partner of Chen Palmer Public and Employment Law Specialists and an Adjunct Professor at the University of Auckland School of Law. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg of her amazing professional accolades. Mai is also a BNZ Board Director and a superdiversity expert. She holds many roles that showcase her unique skills in this area, for example, Chair, New Zealand Asian Leaders; Chair Superdiversity Centre for Law, Policy and Business; and Inaugural Chair, NZ Global Women and SUPERdiverse Women. With a list of achievements that impressive, it is of little surprise that she has been a finalist for New Zealander of the Year in 2014 and 2016 and was also in the Top 50 Diversity Figures in Public Life in the Global Diversity List 2016, affiliated with the Global Diversity Awards (producer of the annual European Diversity Awards) and supported by The Economist.Given the fact that she is arguably one of New Zealand’s most respected and recognised female leaders, we thought we would ask her to share some words of wisdom for any females aspiring to roles like hers.  Here is what she had to say.MeditateMai believes that women need to meditate as a form of self-reflection. Essentially, she says, meditation can give you clarity on where you really want to go and help you create a plan to get there. According to Mai, "Ultimately, meditation will help you to find your own truth…rather than accept a projection of other people’s expectations and biases."Do not wait for perfect conditionsMai truly believes that done is better than perfect. She says that women "do not take opportunities because we never feel quite ready…stop waiting for perfect conditions and make the most of conditions right now. Life is always going to be difficult!"Live every day as though it is your lastMai thinks that we all need to embrace the now in a big way. She has achieved this by accepting that she will not be around forever. Accordingly, she makes decisions about how she spends her time, whom she spends it with, and what sacrifices she is prepared to make every day. Of this, she says, ”It is liberating! When I am not sure, I say to myself, give it a go. If you wait much longer, you might not have the opportunity to try.“Make a move!Related to her last point, Mai thinks it is important to give things a shot and see how they go. By doing this, Mai says that women will get a chance to find out whether whatever it is they are trying is right for them, and even if it is not, they will not have to die wondering!Do not make life harder for yourselfOne of Mai’s favourite quotes is from Tim Sole, and it goes something like this, “Unless you are in a diving competition, there are no points in life for difficulty.“ In a nutshell, this is Mai’s philosophy on life: do not make it harder than it needs to be. Examples she cites are: getting a 6am flight is rarely essential; saying no to taking on seven things at once on short deadlines is fine; letting yourself sleep in and not running another 5 km when you are knackered is okay; and talk to the boss, that is you, and let up on yourself.And we could not agree more.If you want to hear more from the inspirational Mai Chen, along with an incredible line up of other speakers, then grab your tickets to the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium. This phenomenal event is due to be held from 21-22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. Early bird tickets are currently available, but only until 28 April, so get your ticket today for a discount of up to $500. 

3 reasons you cannot miss this year’s NZME Women's Leadership Symposium​

Every so often an event comes along that is truly unmissable. This year, that event is unequivocally the NZME New Zealand Women's Leadership Symposium. If you are a woman who lives in New Zealand and you are in any kind of leadership role (whether this be in the corporate world, running your own business or even as boss of your household), then the Symposium, due to be held from 21 to 22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland, is an event you need to attend. Here is why it is going to be so incredible:   If it is anything like its Australian counterpart, it will be HUGEThe NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium may be debuting in New Zealand this year but it has got a long history of outstanding success in Australia. In fact, it has been so successful in Australia that it is now the mostly highly attended women’s leadership event in the country and it regularly receives rave reviews. Here are a few worth mentioning: '[The Symposium] provided great role models for the leader I want to become.''It gave me the inspiration to say yes I can, yes I can be a leader. It also made me think about what’s important in life, and has given me the confidence to start to make those choices.' 'Inspirational women talking about their journeys has given me a new lease on my career aspirations. It assured me that leadership is different and we all bring different strengths to the table, and we should be confident in this.'And there are many more like that. Who would not want to attend an event that has such an incredible impact? The speaker line up is amazing Just like its Australian counterpart, the NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium has a diverse, exciting and truly exceptional group of speakers.  This year’s line-up brings together women who are leaders in many different sectors, including Makaia Carr, Founder of Motivate Me NZ; Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Human Rights Commission; Barbara Kendall, Olympic Athlete; and a whole host of other inspiring women who will share their stories of success (and failures, of course!)  Grow your network – your career will thank you Research shows that when women are surrounded by a group of supportive, like-minded colleagues they are much more likely to succeed. And what better way to meet like-minded female leaders than at an inspiring and intriguing conference focused specifically on gender equality, females in leadership, career advancement and life fulfilment.  So if you want to expand your network, grow your support group and be inspired, then the NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium is definitely the place for you. For a limited time only (up until 28 April – so hurry!) you can grab an early bird ticket to the Symposium, which entitles you to up to $500 off the standard price. Grab yours ASAP. 

Makaia Carr

Women's Leadership Symposium Series: What will Makaia Carr do next?​

We are so excited about the upcoming NZME New Zealand Women's Leadership Symposium, so we decided to interview one of the conference’s speakers, Makaia Carr, to find out a bit more about her journey.  Recently we caught up with the incredibly talented Makaia Carr. You have probably heard of Makaia. She is the founder of the inspirational Motivate Me New Zealand and M Fit. Lately, though, her career has taken a different direction.  Makaia, you recently sold your existing businesses and now you are embarking on a new venture. Can you tell us more? Yes, you are right. I recently sold both of my businesses. My plans were actually to take most of this year off and spend more time with my kids, as well as dedicate more time and energy to my mental and physical wellbeing.However, a few amazing opportunities presented themselves that I felt I could not resist. So now I am just taking my time to properly review my options and then I will decide what I will take on. Going back to where it all started, why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? To be honest, I think true entrepreneurs know from a very young age that that is the sort of person they are. It is something that is in our makeup. We know we have something to share and a special knack as to how we will get it out there in the world. So that is just how I have always felt, really. That becoming an entrepreneur was not really a choice. Instead, it was a path that I was always on that I just knew I would follow.  That is incredible, how powerful and inspiring. Would you have any advice, though, for women who are realising right now that entrepreneurship is the path for them? Dream your dream inside and out, dream until the detail becomes so clear you can see yourself taking the actions required to make it happen! We agree with you there, especially from an action perspective. And we all know that one of the actions we need to take to ensure our businesses succeed is to network. What is your networking strategy?Well, to be honest, I normally say I am not very strategic with my business. However, I think I am actually quite intuitively strategic and have just not realised it. I do not network a lot but when I find myself in a position to network, I listen. I am a good listener; I listen and talk about the other person’s business, their goals, their journeys, challenges and so on. I guess what I am saying is that when I network, really I think more about how I can help the people that I meet, rather than how I can help myself, if that makes sense? For example, I think of who I can connect that person with, who they can collaborate with and if there is a way I can help with any of their current challenges. This approach seems to work, actually, as flow-on opportunities seem to come their way – and they also come my way, too.  We like that a lot, and we are all about helping other women because we know that sometimes, it really is not easy. On that note, what do you think the biggest challenge facing female entrepreneurs (and females in terms of career more generally) is at the moment? It is the old age problem of trying to find the ‘perfect’ balance in all areas of life. Figuring out how to prioritise what is important to our businesses or careers, what is important to our families and friends and also what is important to our own personal wellbeing. It is a never-ending challenge that sometimes feels impossible. Want to be inspired by Makaia Carr and many more successful female leaders just like her? Join us at the NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium on June 21 and 22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. Tickets are selling fast, so register now.

Kelly Rothwell

What are the biggest challenges women in business face today?​ We chatted to Kelly Rothwell from Women & Leadership NZ to find out…

What skills do female leaders need most in the workforce? Can women really have it all? We wanted to talk to someone who was at the forefront of all things women in leadership, so we chatted to Kelly, Head of School at the prestigious Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand to find out her views on these questions plus much more…Kelly, tell us about what Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand (WLNZ) does and what your role in that is? WLNZ, as an organisation, is all about our vision, and that is to increase the number of female representatives in leadership in business and the wider community. Businesses realise that greater diversity (especially within leadership teams) not only positively affects their bottom line but also increases agility and innovation, among other things. So really, it just makes good business sense to invest in female talent and find better ways to attract and retain such talent. That is what WLNZ is all about. Currently, I am the Head of School for WLNZ. What this means is that I develop all our leadership programs, and lead a team of exceptionally talented female leaders who deliver leadership development and diversity programs (for females at all career levels), and run events that celebrate women in leadership, such as our upcoming NZME Women’s Leadership Symposium.  That sounds like an incredible position! Can you tell us a bit more about how you got there. What’s your background? I am a registered psychologist by trade, so over the course of my career I have become a specialist in large-scale culture change programs, especially those underpinned by psychology and neuroscience. In particular, I focus on executive leadership and high-potential leadership development within organisations. In terms of industries that I have worked in, prior to having my daughter I worked predominantly in mining and related heavy industries around the world.  As you would expect, I often worked only with males. While I enjoyed working in those industries, I really noticed the gender bias that was prevalent and how it impacted on decisions, but more importantly, how it affected what was considered ‘leadership.’ I joined WLNZ because I wanted to do just that – help individuals and organisations drive awareness of our gender bias and further provide development for competent and passionate female talent in leadership.  It is clear to me that the differences we bring to the table are all equally important, yet not enough female representation in leadership teams means we miss out. This has occurred for too long and it is time things changed! Given everything you have seen, what do you think are the biggest challenges facing women in business today? Well, unfortunately I think many women still face similar challenges to what we did a decade or two ago - for example, the ability to integrate all of our needs and wants from a professional and personal perspective, integrating work and life.  We are also often faced with challenges in finding a career and role opportunities that can satisfy these needs. Then there is gaining equal pay. Are things getting better? A little bit, but we are still paid on average 15 to 20 per cent less than our male counterparts. This is compounded (in the aggregate) by our apparent reluctance to apply for a job at the next level up, though again, then there is the fact that we’re not often seen as having the greatest potential for success in higher level roles. This all comes down to unconscious bias and a society and culture driven by expectations of how females should behave.  Although these challenges all sound daunting, I am proud to say that at WLNZ we have tools and techniques to assist with all of these challenges! Do you believe women can ‘have it all?’ Of course! I think something to be mindful of with this question is firstly that what ‘it all’ is to me may not be ‘it all’ to you and vice versa.  Also, who said we could not have it all? Why would we listen to them anyway? And lastly, you mentioned that WLNZ has regular events. How do you think women can benefit from attending your events? Firstly, the atmosphere at the events is incredible. Energy levels are always high with speakers who offer knowledge and inspiration around women and leadership. In addition, there are short development sessions focusing on offering tools to address the challenges noted before.  Of course, there are also the great networking benefits though, for me, our events go deeper than networking. We know from research that developing strategic networks is beneficial from a connectedness perspective and that key protective factors of our ‘fit, functioning and growth’ include working with other women. Often, as we move up in organisational hierarchies we tend to find a decrease in the number of peers who are female.WLNZ events offer you the opportunity to surround yourself with these peers from all industries and sectors – and to benefit from our leadership development expertise – so they are the perfect place to strategically network and accelerate your growth potential.  Want to attend the next WLNZ event? You’re in luck! WLNZ is hosting the inaugural NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium from 21 to 22 June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland. You can grab your tickets now.

Woman wearing glasses

NZ ranks in the top 10 for gender equality globally. Job done, right?​

The stunning vistas and incredible cuisine are what we often associate with the land of the long white cloud, but an achievement that we hear about less – but is just as important – is that New Zealand consistently ranks exceptionally well (far better than Australia!) in the World Global Gender Gap Index. According to the World Economic Forums’s calculations, we are currently ranked 9th, only just behind Slovenia and up from 13th in 2014. (Comparatively, Australia seems to be going backward – it was 24th in 2014, but has since dropped to 46th.)In fact, New Zealand’s lack of sexism reached international acclaim when an NZ model tried to recreate the infamous New York catcall video, and all she encountered on the streets of Auckland was a polite man asking for directions.  Yet despite the admirable ranking and international media, there is still much work to do. A recent report found that the wage gap is stuck at 12% - where it has remained for over a decade – despite many measures to counteract it. The CEO gender imbalance has also been described as ‘gobsmacking’, with no – yes, that’s right, zero – women listed as CEOs in NZ’s top 50 businesses.   The fact that NZ could rank so well in the Global Gender Gap Index, yet still experience such significant problems with gender equality means that it is more important than ever for the female leaders of NZ to band together, support each other, and plan for a more equal future. This context has set the scene for the launch of Women & Leadership New Zealand (WLNZ) and its inaugural NZME New Zealand Women’s Leadership Symposium, featuring two days of compelling speaker presentations, panel discussions and networking opportunities.  After years of incredible success in Australia (the Symposium is Australia’s most highly attended women’s leadership event), the Women’s Leadership Symposium will debut in New Zealand this year on the 21st- 22nd of June at the Langham Hotel in Auckland.  Focusing on the challenges and opportunities for female leaders, the Symposium will bring together New Zealand’s best and brightest female talent to explore topics including gender equality, leadership, career advancement and life fulfilment.  With a combination of engaging subject matter, lively debate and practical activities, attendees will learn, share, and grow. At the end of the two days, participants will walk away from the Symposium inspired and armed with a vastly enhanced network of like-minded women to support their future endeavours.  The Symposium features a diverse and impressive line-up of motivational female speakers, including Rachel Smalley (television and radio journalist and broadcaster; Host, Early Edition, NewstalkZB), Dr. Jackie Blue (Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Human Rights Commission), Barbara Kendall (Olympic athlete), and many, many more.  The event is expected to sell out so early bookings are strongly advised.Author: Natasha Gallardo, CEO, Working Mothers Connect and Strategic Partner, WLNZ

Megan Dalla Camina on stage in Sydney 2016

Thoughts on the 2016 Women’s Leadership Symposium​

My interest in attending this year’s Women’s Leadership Symposium was for both personal and professional reasons; as the mother of a six-year-old, Principal Solicitor at my own immigration law firm and the Managing Director of my own company, I was keen to learn new tips for finding the holy-grail that is the elusive work-life balance.As a seasoned attendee of conferences on business, feminism and leadership, part of me wondered if I would hear anything new at the conference, or whether we would be (yet again) asked the same questions. Fortunately a great number of new topics, ideas and perspectives were introduced and I found myself mesmerized by the discussion. I was scribbling notes furiously.The symposium made me appreciate that the conversation had evolved. There was an acknowledgement of the complexity of the issues facing women in the workforce and a need for them to be considered on multiple levels.Discussion took shape around topics such as: as a society, what do we need to do to facilitate a work-life balance for women, and men? What part should corporations and government play? On an individual level, how can we have a balanced life? We considered how to reach personal goals, whether they were related to time spent with family, time spent facilitating personal growth, re-entering the workforce, helping others or being a catalyst for change. But the biggest question related to the notion that, as women, what are the additional challenges we face with regard to career progression?  “The symposium made me appreciate that the conversation had evolved. There was an acknowledgement of the complexity of the issues facing women in the workforce and a need for them to be considered on multiple levels. “Each presenter considered issues by telling their story and sharing what motivated and inspired them, how they built resilience and how their journey still continues. Interestingly, despite the differences in personal circumstances, all presenters delivered two universal messages: one was the importance of putting health and well-being first - a lesson that had been learned by some the hard way. The second was that the path to success did not need to be linear and could certainly incorporate failure.It was inspiring to hear each presenter talk, not just about overcoming challenges such as ill health, financial set-backs, personal failures and just plain bad luck, but how these challenges were catalysts for positive change and growth. I was impressed by the diversity of speakers and audience members who were made up of women from a vast cross-section of industries, covering senior executives, elite athletes, students, board members, those working in finance and banking, the not-for-profit sector and government, entrepreneurs, entertainers, media personalities, artists, academics and scientists. You name it.“Unlike some networking events which can be awkward or intimidating, the symposium was more like a relaxed community gathering. Participants were open and friendly, and it was easy to enter into conversations and exchange contact details." On a purely practical level, it was an incredibly well organised conference. The speakers were engaging and informative, entertaining and moving. The presentations were well paced and just long enough (around thirty-forty minutes). The schedule ran on time and was led by Suzi Finkelstein, a truly impressive communicator and conference facilitator.One of the additional benefits of the symposium was that it provided ample opportunities for participants to mix and converse with each other and the speakers.Unlike some networking events which can be awkward or intimidating, the symposium was more like a relaxed community gathering. Participants were open and friendly, and it was easy to enter into conversations and exchange contact details.Attending this year’s Sydney Women’s Leadership Symposium was a wonderful opportunity. I have already recommended the event to many of my friends, colleagues and professional contacts as being a very worthwhile and beneficial experience and I am already looking forward to attending next year’s event.Rita Chowdhury is a corporate immigration adviser and Principal Solicitor at Integrate Legal. She is also the co-founder and director of Career Catapult. For more about Rita, see: www.linkedin.com/in/richowdhury

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