Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five tips for silencing your inner critic

Whatever your work load, job role or family commitments - reading this article from a woman who has lived and breathed (and made friends with) her inner critic will give you some valuable tips on how to master yours too. Women in leadership and working mums in particular are prone to negative self-talk at some point - it's hard not to be in a world structured to crush all the amazing, inspiring work we do. So take a moment to reflect on these gems of lived experience and perhaps implement a few in your own life and see what happens.

You can’t hate yourself happy.
You can’t criticise yourself thin.
You can’t shame yourself worthy.
Real change begins with self-love & self-care.
Jessica Ortner

Five tips for silencing your inner critic

This week, I faced my demons.

Given the formidable task of presenting at the Women in Media and Communications Leadership Summit, I shared the stage with an impressive line-up of female leaders.

It forced me to face the demons within: those voices suggesting that I really wasn't good enough to be there.

And in doing so, I was struck again by how difficult women can make leadership for themselves.

Panic and preparation

Throughout my career, I have been plagued by a lack of self-belief.

I would never have believed in my ability to be a leader if it weren't for the male managers and mentors who identified my leadership potential – long before I saw the capability within myself.

And each time I present to large groups, I nurse my anxiety with hours of preparation and moments of panic.

Now that I work with, and coach, executives on leadership and communication, I'm often struck by how quickly female leaders turn the discussion to confidence issues.

During my presentation, I spoke about the work I've done throughout my career to convert my inner voice from foe to friend, and this seemed to resonate with the audience. Many women admitted to feeling that they had to 'fake it until they made it', and were comforted to know they weren't alone in facing the 'impostor syndrome'.

Character and competency

The theme of my presentation was 'building trusted relationships', as this has been the driving force behind my career. For me, nothing builds success as fast as the speed of trust.

Earning and giving trust is a factor of both character and competency. It is the key to building high performing teams and is paramount to winning executive support and fostering customer loyalty. The ability to form trusted relationships brings professional success as well as personal fulfillment.

However, the most critical trust relationship for long-term success is the one we have with ourselves.

Success and sanity

As business leaders, we have to be able to back ourselves. My tips for building confidence are simple to understand, but difficult to execute on an ongoing basis.

They are, nonetheless, essential to building your success while saving your sanity.

1. Manage your mind:

      a. Defeat negative self-talk with rational positive thinking
      b. Use visualisation techniques to create strong mental images of your success

2. Be yourself, and look after yourself

3. Truly commit to success: you need determination and stamina to reach the goals you've set yourself

4. Set small goals, achieve them and celebrate success

5. Don't take it personally: try your best, but detach yourself from the outcome

I was really pleased by the overwhelming support that the conference speakers and attendees gave to each other and the commitment this group, and many others, have to improving the alarmingly low female leadership numbers in Australia.

However, self-belief can only come from one place. If we are to assume our rightful places as co-leaders on this planet, we need to look after ourselves and we need to believe in ourselves.

By: Ava Lawler
First published: 2nd September 2014

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Six steps to flourish at work

Image via Tumblr

Eight-five percent of businesswomen describe themselves as just functioning at work over the past six months, with more than 15 % flat out languishing according to The Australian Pulse of Women In Leadership.

Perhaps it's no wonder when for so long women have been told to change who they inherently are in order to find their seat at the boardroom table. Step up, be more assertive, and, in recent times, lean in.

The message has invariably been about 'fixing the women'. Make women more like men so they can seamlessly fit into the existing organisational structures. Blend in, don't make a fuss, suppress your femininity, don't be too special or have different needs, and god forbid, don't let anyone actually notice that you are, you know, a woman!

Is it any wonder that women are opting out of corporate careers, sidelining themselves or starting their own businesses when they feel demoralised from trying to fit a model that doesn't serve them well? No.

But 75 % of business people surveyed acknowledge that business would better if there were more women in leadership roles.

So what do women need to be more successful in their careers?

Having more women in leadership roles is not just about offering child-care friendly workplaces, part time work, job sharing, or paid maternity schemes, although these things are certainly required and valuable. And it's not just about perceived ambition gaps, sitting at the table and getting the right mentor.

It's about what actually happens when you show up for work. How you show up, and how it feels to you when you do.

We know from decades of research that when people get to do what they do best everyday, they thrive, and as a result, the business thrives. Engagement goes up, collaboration improves, innovation flourishes, productivity lifts and so does the bottom-line.

A growing body of research suggests six steps women can take to help them flourish more at work – no matter what their job is or who they work for:

1. Understanding the value of feminine traits

There is a growing global trend that recognizes the bottom-line value of feminine traits – as identified by research – such as openness, empathy, collaboration, flexibility and patience in our organizations. As declining levels of engagement and productivity continue to plague our workplaces, we need to be aware of the unique value we're neurologically wired to deliver and stop worrying about being "too nice"

2. Challenge our mindsets

Studies are finding that more important than believing in our abilities (or our competence) is the belief we can improve upon our abilities (our confidence) when it comes to success. It's time to make peace with frustration, failure and criticism as natural parts of the learning and growth mindsets and stop measuring ourselves by our accomplishments rather than our efforts.

3. Boosting our confidence by discovering our strengths

It's time to stop hesitating, holding ourselves back and hedging our bets and time to turn our ideas into action. Stepping outside our comfort zone in ways that feel authentic can be easier by understanding what our top strengths are – those things we like doing and are good at – and using them each day at work.

4. Creating more meaning in our work

Having a sense of purpose, knowing 'for the sake of what' we're getting out of bed each morning helps women to worry less about what others think of them, focus their attention on shared goals and take up activities critical to our success.

5. Having a career management plan

Only a small percentage of women actually have a career plan in place, with more than 70% of women operating without one, and nearly 40% saying they are just 'winging it'. But how will we get from where we are to where we want to be without clear goals, a plan and mentors and sponsors to support us?

6. Investing in our wellbeing

Too often the first things we forgo when work and life gets busy is the sleep, movement and nourishment our bodies need to generate the energy, happiness and productivity we need to thrive at work. Sticking to a regular bedtime routine, moving from your seat every twenty minutes and avoiding fried, fatty or sugary foods are the wellbeing non-negotiables women should try to prioritize.

Women don't need to be fixed, molded or modified in order to fit into the ready-made cubicles in our workplaces. But they do need to be supported in order to flourish. And they need to support themselves.

Perhaps one of the most important changes that needs to be made, is for women to grant themselves a new permission to thrive on their own terms, and to embrace the practices they truly need to do so.

By: Michelle McQuaid and Megan Dalla-Camina
First published: 25th August 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

The CEO expecting her fifth child

Image via Glamour

Susan Wojcicki has been called the most important person in advertising, named the 12th most powerful woman on the Forbes 100, and is one of just six female CEOs of the top 100 tech companies in the US.

She's running the world's largest video site, a business reportedly worth $5.6 billion, while juggling motherhood with a golden rule to be home by 6pm to join her school-aged children for dinner. Sounds like she's already pretty busy.

Well, the recently appointed CEO of Youtube announced to tech news site Re/Code that she is pregnant with her fifth child, due later this year.

Still, she's seems more than ready to manage it all. "I'm going to do my best to try and balance it, and come up with something that I think works for both my family and office," she said when asked if she would take time off.

"I think it's important to have a balance. It's important for the family and the baby to have time. And on the other hand, I have a lot of things happening at YouTube, and I love working here."

Wojcicki appears to have found balance by inextricably linking motherhood with her work. In an interview with FastCompany earlier this year she said she associates each of her children with Google milestones.

"I joined Google when I was pregnant, so my oldest I've associated with Google. Then I worked with the team and together we created AdSense after I came back from maternity leave (with my second). My third one, I associate with YouTube. The last one is DoubleClick," she said.

In 1998 she left her role at Intel to join Google as it's sixteenth employee while she was four months pregnant -- not only making the giant career leap, she also housed the company in her garage during the early days. Before taking the role of CEO at YouTube in February, Wojcicki was senior vice president of Google's advertising and analytics products.

She says she's been called the "mum of Google" due to the fact she way nurturing the company in its early days, and became the first of its employees to have a baby. She also designed Google's progressive, in-house daycare centre.

Wojcicki recently spoke about making that bold career move, despite also being pregnant at the time.

It "was a bit of a leap, but sometimes you have to do the right thing for you right now," Wojcicki said in an interview with Glamour in May.

And Wojcicki's advice for any working women thinking of starting a family? "Don't forget that it gets easier! Having a child is a big life change, but the really hectic period is relatively short," she says. "You can get through it."

By: Jordi Roth 
First published: 15th August 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Talented Women: Please Do NOT Quit

The following is an excerpt from Sramana Mitra's book, Feminine Feminism. If you are questioning whether to stay in the workforce or not this blog might help with the decision. 

Five years ago, a good friend of mine hanged herself.

I had coffee with her the day before.

She was married to a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur who ran a couple of major companies and had a brilliant career. She did not work. But on the surface, they had everything.

I knew both of them well. It was a deeply disturbing incident that shook us all up.

Five years have passed. I have observed society around us closely. And today, I am writing this with a certain amount of lingering sadness.

One of the greatest defeats of the feminist movement in America has been the phenomenon that women in the thirties are quitting the workforce in large numbers. Many of them are highly educated, and just as they acquire sufficient experience to take on more substantial roles, the body clock sets off an alarm.

Time to have babies.

Women are programmed to want to have children. There is no point in denying or defying biology. Whatever it is that the feminists want women to do, asking them not to have children isn’t something that will gain any traction.

And if you have children, those children need to be raised.

Unlike societies like India where the extended family is deeply integrated into the fabric of society, and where domestic help is affordable and abundant, Western societies tend to consist of more nuclear families. Help is limited. Childcare is expensive.

Faced with a complex juggling challenge, women, often, abandon their professional lives and become full-time mothers. Paying for childcare, feeling guilty about not being there for the children, peer pressure from other women who are full-time moms – all eventually catch up with them. They quit their jobs in search of a less stressful existence.

In some cases, and this situation is particularly prevalent in places like Silicon Valley and Wall Street where wealth flows abundantly, women quit because there is no real pressure to earn money. The husband earns enough. The family can afford childcare, but that doesn’t put a stop to the hostile glares from other full-time moms. Even supposedly high-powered women like Sheryl Sandberg have been known to succumb to this kind of peer pressure and feel guilty. Once again, many women quit in response.

Also, some families do not believe in outsourced childcare. Especially, immigrant families who want to impart the culture of another country into the children, have to invest time and energy in doing so, personally. Children of Indian or French parents raised by Mexican nannies are subject to tremendous clashes of culture, not to mention language development challenges. Add to that the notion of cross-cultural families where there are already two different cultures to navigate. If the nanny introduces a third culture, kids can get utterly confused.

Then there is the option of a stay-at-home dad, of course. However, a large percentage of women are not drawn to the dynamic of a male partner not working. This is a bias that both nature and society have developed from the stone ages. Men are supposed to hunt. Now, in the twenty first century, it is okay for women to hunt, but my observation is that men who just gather do not turn on most women.

It is important to be turned on by your mate.

In short, raising children while maintaining a serious career is and will continue to be complex for women, forever. The temptation to quit will always beckon.

What happens if you do?

My friend Renee Fields worked in Wall Street. In her thirties, she married and supported the dreams of a man who has since become a successful Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Now in her fifties, Renee has raised four children, and along the way, gave up her professional career. She says that she has regretted giving up her career and staying at home, driving the kids around all day long to their schools and activities, feeling intellectually starved.

By the time her husband comes home from an exhausting day at work, Renee is longing for adult company, stimulation, and engagement. But her husband wants to chill.

The most telling observation from Renee’s experience is the identity crisis that she has experienced. “From a Wall Street trading desk to this domestic swirl has been mind-numbing,” she says. While most women are unwilling to admit to their regrets, Renee speaks of them candidly: “Going to lunch with other bored housewives is just not interesting to me.”

It offers a window into the large-scale identity crisis that a generation of women is going through. They have made the choice to quit. They have raised children. In the process, they have lost one of the most fundamental secrets of human happiness: the sense-of-self.

My friend who killed herself had no sense-of-self left.

She did not do anything with her talents. She had raised two great kids.

Once they left, she had no identity of her own.

A few months ago, I met Jana Francis, founder and CEO of online daily deals site Her story is one that I find both inspiring and instructional to those women who have, perhaps, already made the choice of quitting, or are contemplating doing so.

The motivation for came to Jana Francis right after she had a daughter, her third child, when she had to head back to work at the end of her maternity leave. She realized she was a smart, capable woman who could work from home. Once she started thinking along those lines, the ideas started to flow.

Jana was always the one you could count on for online shopping deals – her friends called her the dotcom princess. But when it came to online shopping in the baby space, she was disappointed. There was no website that would tell you the story of the product, why you would want it, what problem it would solve for you, and offer great deals. She developed a burning desire to create a new kind of website that would launch new deals every day – a steep 40% to 80% discount on premium baby products.

With a full-time career and three kids, one of which was a newborn, Jana took 18 months to go from concept to creation. She partnered with Rett Clevenger who at that time was an online media manager for a large e-commerce site, to launch in April 2008. was the first site to be launched and as the business became profitable, more sites were launched –,, and

The revenue in 2012 was $16.4 million.

Jana now has over 70 full-time employees, most of them based out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Her Webmaster was a former colleague who had left the company after her maternity leave. About 70% of her employees are women and about 25% of them have had a baby in the past two years.

Being a completely bootstrapped company, cannot offer its team the best possible pay. But for most of them the flexibility the company provides means a lot. Most of the customer service staff is able to work from home for 30 hours a week.

Jana says, “For me it is very rewarding to know that the situation I dreamed of for myself is being provided for so many moms in Utah who would not have a job if they were not working here.”

What I like about Jana’s story is that she has been able to have a flexible, but fully engaging career herself by moving over to the entrepreneurship side. Additionally, she has leveraged her understanding of women’s need for flexibility and desire to work, and created a uniquely appealing culture in her company that is allowing many other women to continue working, while raising children.

So my suggestion to all you talented women facing the same dilemma: Do not quit. Become an entrepreneur. Do not risk losing your sense-of-self.

Work is not just for livelihood. It is as much a source of fundamental life force.

*Excerpt from Feminine Feminism by Sramana Mitra

By: Sramana Mitra
Originally published: November 15th 2013

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

How to have flexibility without career compromise

A flexible work environment may be one of the most coveted employee engagement tools and although the workplace is responding to a changing labour force, part-time work arrangements are still considered a dead-end option for mothers returning to the workforce. However that is not the case. Whether one is juggling a freelance portfolio, a business on the side, full time studies, a second career in parallel or a number of professional reasons, it is now possible to be ambitious, career-minded and choose to work part-time. Below are some tips to ensure that your career is not compromised when working part-time:

Be flexible yourself

If an executive meeting is scheduled on the second Tuesday of every month, try and accommodate this rather than expecting a regular meeting to adapt to your schedule. There are times when this genuinely cannot happen, but it is easier to expect flexibility when you can be flexible around business requirements. When determining the days you can be physically present in the office take into account major meetings and planning events.

Stop advertising

If you are often communicating that you are not here on Fridays then you may be inadvertently distancing yourself from the business. It is important to ensure that the business feels that you are fully integrated; by highlighting your separation this may result in management calling into question your commitment. It is important to inform colleagues and clients of your availability rather than your unavailability.


Repeat after me: “I will not say that I only work part-time”. Stating that you ‘only’ work part-time devalues your role within the organisation both to others and to yourself; it makes it a little easier to be overlooked when it comes to succession planning as the perception is that you ‘only’ work a fraction of what you could. Studies have shown that employees working flexible hours offer the best value to employers as they waste less time than full-time colleagues (11% versus 14.5%)*. By saying ‘only’ you may be perpetuating the productivity myth of part-time work, when in actual fact, the opposite has been demonstrated.


Set up systems to ensure you can easily get on top of things when you are back in the office whether it is a whiteboard, a communication book, a filtering email system or a weekly staff meeting. This will allow you to ensure that nothing has slipped, all approvals have been processed, client obligations have been met and your time is spent wisely, rather than playing catch-up.

Good morning 

When you are in the office, make sure you make eye contact with colleagues and greet them. This may sound like a curious point to end with, but as a part-time employee it is easy to fall into the trap of ‘go-go-go’ and become quite insular. And that is all well and good, but it is imperative that you establish and maintain rapport with the wider business. Your work can and will speak volumes, but sometimes a friendly smile will be the first step in forging key relations in an office.

Your career options need not be limited by the choice to work part-time and this is becoming increasingly evident as employers see the benefits of offering flexible working arrangements across a broad range of industries. Good luck and happy juggling!

* Untapped Opportunity – Ernst & Young – July 2013

By: Anna Sarelas (People Manager at Veolia Australia and New Zealand)
First published: 6th August 2014
Source: HC Online 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Women's Economy

We all know that the lives of women have changed significantly over the last few decades. Overall we are working more than ever, having children later, and achieving greater levels of financial independence than ever before.

The life of a woman in her twenties or thirties today looks very different to her mothers, and certainly her grandmothers.

Women now make up nearly half of the Australian workforce (45.9%) and are the primary breadwinner in almost a quarter of householders.

More women than men are now attaining a bachelor’s degree and more women than men own their own homes (61% of women compared to 58% of men).

The change in the lives and role of women has clearly been profound, with significant implications for not just women, but business and the economy.

A study by Goldman Sachs, Australia’s Hidden Resource: The Economic Case for Increasing Female Participation, found that the rise in the female employment over the last few decades has boosted economic activity by 22%.

And yet some things really haven’t changed for women.

On average women earn 17.5% less than men – a gap that has trended gradually upward over the last 10 years.

Women continue to perform the majority of unpaid work, with an OECD study recently finding that Australia women do on average 311 minutes per day of unpaid work compared to 172 minutes for men.

Amongst this mixed picture of women’s statistics, it is clear is that women have experienced significant and positive changes in many aspects of life. 

But as long as we continue to work for less, perform the majority of unpaid work, and juggle the many competing pressures in our lives there is an ongoing need for discussion and change.

True equality is still beyond the reach of many women. Ensuring all women share in the benefits of greater opportunities for work, education, and financial independence, is a challenge for all of us.

SwitchedOn Women is a chance to expand the discussion we have been having for years about equality, to include many more women and men.

It is also an opportunity to find new ways to address the persistent challenges we face, like improving the financial security of women, helping women manage their family budgets, while also acknowledging the economic force that women are and will increasingly be in the future.

Click on the image below for a look at the full SwitchedOn Women's infograph - it has some revelatory and very interesting statistics. 

By: Amanda Robbins, Adviser to SwitchedOn Women and Director of Equity Economics
First published: 16th July 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

How many parents plan childcare around work rather than the other way around? Very few. Latest Government report gives working parents hope.

The Assistant Minister for Education Sussan Ley said: “there needs to be greater choice in child care options for parents. Australian families should be able to plan child care around their work life, not their work life around child care”[1]. Here, here!

There’s been a 150% rise in Australian childcare costs in just one decade. One. The estimated cost of full-time childcare for one Australian child is estimated at $31,000/year.[2] The new Government report on our childcare system is a welcome one especially to those working parents struggling with access and cost of childcare in both urban and rural areas across the country.

The Productivity Commission’s draft report into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning recommends the system be made simpler and broader. One of its key recommendations is to introduce a single subsidy, scrapping the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate. The overarching aim is to make childcare more affordable, shorten waiting lists and offer greater flexibility as well as make childcare more financially sustainable for tax payers. The roll on effect would be increased participation of women in the workforce, more full time workers and less financial pressure for those parents who are chronically stretched.

The Commission's recommendations:
  • Provide a subsidy that is means and activity tested for up to 100 hours a fortnight. Families with a combined income of $60,000 or less would have 90% of costs subsidised, whilst those with over $300,000 would get a maximum 30%. 
  • The subsidy should go direct to a parent’s approved provider be that a centre or nanny so long as they have the required certificate that meets the appropriate National Quality Standards. 
  • Au pairs would not be eligible for the subsidy. However, visa requirements would be changed to extend the amount of time they spend with a family to 12 months (rather than the current 6) 
  • Remove restrictions on the number of childcare places for occasional care and the hours that centres have to be open in order to receive Government subsidies. 
  • Make school principals responsible for ensuring schools offer before and after school care, including care for pre-schoolers. 
  • 'Top up' subsidies should be offered for children with disabilities, while viability assistance should be provided to regional, rural and remote areas with fluctuating child populations. 

Is it all pretty? Some things to think about…
  • Currently parents who don’t work or study can get up to 24hours/week of childcare subsidised. Would this be cut and how would this impact stay-at-home mums? 
  • Either/or. Funding the subsidy may mean diverting funds ($1.5 billion is recommended) from the proposed Paid Parental Leave Scheme reducing parental leave contributions for some. 

In her article Parental leave a distraction that will hurt childcare Women’s Agenda editor, Angela Priestley, encourages us to think long term and focus on what we really need and want as working parents…

“Based on my own conversations with new mothers on this very topic, I'm not convinced beefing up our existing paid parental leave scheme will help. It's not the amount of maternity leave a new mother gets that helps in her 'decision' to return to work (although some employers do request those who take such leave return for a period in order to 'pay it back') but rather her ability to access childcare once she's ready to return to work, along with flexible working arrangements that suit her changed circumstances.”  

Angela Priestley, Women's Agenda.

The Commission has estimated that the proposed changes could boost workforce participation by 2.7% contributing to over 46,000 more full-time workers. It also estimated that it could boost GDP by $5.5 billion.

It seems there are more significant additional benefits to the broader community to reforming our childcare system as opposed to the Paid Parent Leave scheme, which seems to benefit few beyond those directly receiving it.

What’s more, Grattan Institute research shows that the two major factors influencing female workforce participation are marginal tax rates and the net costs of childcare. It found that ”government support for childcare has about double the impact of spending on parental leave” in influencing women’s workforce participation.

So if it is an either/or scenario wouldn't it be nice if working parents were the ones that got to choose?

What do you want from our childcare system? Though we shouldn’t have to decide, if it came to an either/or scenario between the proposed Paid Parental Leave Scheme and Childcare Reform what would you choose and why?

You have a chance to take part in the discussion. This was only the draft report and the Productivity Commission is inviting the public to respond to its ideas. Click here to have your say. You have until September. 

“Two decades ago debate raged about how much women should work and if child care was bad for kids. Now we discuss how to boost women's participation in the workplace, the quality of care, trying to get it and how much it costs.” 

Sarah MacDonald, The Drum - ABC.

Thankfully things have changed. Let’s keep the evolution rolling! 

For a simple explanation of the report listen to Commissioner Wendy Craik talk about the key recommendations from the draft report into Childcare and Early Childhood Learning in this video

[1] Sussan Ley, media release, viewed 28.7.14,

[2] SwitchedOnWomen, The Woman’s Economy, viewed 25.7.14