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Women must seize career progression opportunities and be prepared to leave their employer if none are available, a CEDA Women in Leadership forum in Queensland has heard.
Infosys, Senior Vice President and Geo Head - Australia and New Zealand and Financial Services Head - Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, Jackie Korhonen advised women to grab career opportunities, make the most of them, and to find somewhere else to work if their organisation isn't going to provide those opportunities.
In addition she said: "The policies and practices in the work place that are good for women are generally good for everybody. Flexible work hours are not just a women's thing."
Assistant Minister for Natural Resources and Mines, Lisa France said: "There are many companies out there doing great things for you, and if you're not with one of those get up and move."
Ms France also said that in her experience it's very important to set expectations and be clear about what you will and won't sacrifice with your employers and your family.
"You have to make those decisions about the career path you want and what sacrifices you are prepared to make to pursue it. And hold on tight to the things you're not going to budge on," she said.
For me it's been about me making very clear how I intend to work and always making sure that I don't use excuses about being a mum or being a woman as to why I couldn't deliver on something, she said.
"If I've said I'm going to deliver on something it will be delivered - regardless."
Lutheran Community Care, Chief Executive Officer, Jacqueline Kelly said women need to go with their strengths.
"I think one of the things women do well is that they know how to network well and they know how to build those informal relationships and how to influence without power," she said.
The forum heard that:
On getting more women into leadership roles QR National, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, Deborah O'Toole said: "We actually have to do something to make it happen, otherwise we'll be here in 10 years' time and there will still be four CFO's in the top 50 listed companies."
On the topic of the gender pay gap Ms O'Toole said: "I think that something seriously stinks."
When we see that visible discrimination, we really need to be prepared to call it and get other like-minded people to help us to call it, she said.
Ms Kelly called for women to encourage others up through the rank as women can be hard on each other.
"We need to make a personal commitment and take personal responsibility for actually encouraging and supporting women in leadership," she said.
Ms France agreed saying women need to be kinder to each other.
"We are particularly vicious, particularly at a middle management level," she said.
"We really need to work to encourage women to come up through the ranks, because when you get to the higher levels, there's not a lot of you around."
On building good leaders and teams the panel agreed that diversity of thought - not just gender - is key.
"The key to a successful team is to build diversity within that team and diversity from a range of perspectives beyond gender," Ms Kelly said.
"I think diversity is critical and the ability to build around you, people who are strategically intelligent and will ask the right questions.
"It's really critical to have people around you who are actually going to tell you the truth…who are not put off by the perceived role power and who actually speak openly and frankly with you."
Ms O'Toole told the forum that aspiring leaders need to be fearless, not limit themselves and get out of their comfort zone to develop a broad skill set.
Ms O'Toole said she was equipped for leadership by "being prepared to take different opportunities and get out of my comfort zone, which over a span of time delivered me a range of experiences."
But leadership is much more about the journey than the destination, she said.
"The best moments for me are not the ones when you pop the champagne because the transaction has been completed and the deal is done," she said.
"It's more about what happened to the people along the way and how they felt about the experience they've had and when they feel really good about it. To me, that's what leadership is about."