International Women’s Day is an opportunity I want to take to celebrate and thank many of my greatest champions – the amazing women who I have been privileged to work beside, be inspired by, and understood by.
It’s vital to me as a mother of two sons and a daughter, along with being a business owner in heavy industry, that I always look to learn from my past experiences – and always look to take those lessons to progress both myself as a person, and society in the best way possible.
On International Women’s Day I reflect on just how powerful these amazing women have been in my journey as a business owner, and how we can continue to work towards a more balanced business culture to bring these amazing attributes into businesses to increase the success of SME’s and corporates alike.
This day always brings up a proliferation of interesting views and articles from both sides of the gender fence. Whilst reading this article on conversation.com on “Why mentoring for women risks propping up patriarchal structures instead of changing them” I took some time to reflect on my own mentoring experiences and how they have been of great benefit, yet also acknowledging how far we still have to go.
Who am I?
I am one of the 18% of female CEO’s and/or Directors of business in Australia, and even seeing this figure written down re-enforces to me how underrepresented we are in leadership roles across all industries.
I have been extremely privileged to be informally mentored by some of New Zealand and Australia’s top CEOs, Board Members and Top Business owners, all who are male and despite the numbers showing that only 18% of us are in leadership, I do not agree with the strategy of women only mentoring women. Doing business in a global manner also has taught me that culturally some of my best advocates are from regions like the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan.
No one reading this is going to be surprised by the revelation that men and women are totally different creatures. A quick scan of any bookstore will reveal how many authors have made their millions writing on this topic alone, but when it comes to mentoring in business the difference between the genders is where the gold is found.
How we see a situation can differ so broadly and when we are both able to sit down and express our views with both being heard and appreciated, the results in that middle ground can be astounding.
We cannot ignore that the current representation of women in the workplace, both in pay parity and representation from the ground up to leadership roles, is severely unbalanced in Australia, falling behind many of our global trade partners.
Times are a-changing…..
But times are changing and this is no more evident than in our young men coming into the industry brought up by women like us – independent, strong and intelligent mentors to our own children that are now exploding into the workforce with updated views and opinions.
This has opened up many conversations in the workplace that simply did not occur even 5 years ago, and it is an exciting time to be a part of the business community as women and men work to find better ways of utilising each person’s unique strengths.
My own self reflection has brought up some prominent blind spots, and reading the referenced article has certainly made me realise that I cannot adapt as a business owner without understanding how differently men and women think in my industry – and that is a GREAT THING.
By promoting the thought that “women to women” mentoring is the only way ahead, it quietens those progressive men coming through who value women’s contribution greatly, and could be a huge part of their advancement and support.
By celebrating the value of a males contribution, we are bridging the gaps that exist by being solely mentored by fellow females and working towards understanding and valuing that gold middle ground that men can provide.
Approaches to mentoring need to change so both genders can celebrate the differences and move forward in that space where the magic happens – taking the strengths and inspirations from both sides and moving forward in business in a way we have not yet seen.