The year that was: Celebrating 2018 for Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand.

This year was a really big one for Women & Leadership Australia and New Zealand. We had events in Auckland and Christchurch, and over in Aus we ran the #100daysforchange campaign. It has been a big year for Women & Leadership!

Some of the key takeaways from the latest report on how women interact with the workplace.

A new report by McKinsey & Company and Lean In has uncovered that there has been little improvement for women in the workplace. However, they also make some great recommendations about what workplaces can do to fix the status quo

The Leadership Interviews: Kathryn Crofts, Founding Board Member of Road Sense Australia

We interview Kathryn Crofts, one of our ALP Alumni, about her experiences as a leader, what she learnt and her advice for aspiring leaders.

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.  

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What are the biggest challenges women in business face today?​

Kelly Rothwell

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 Rothwell, 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.

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