With International Women’s Day recently in midst, let’s talk about how Australian women of all ages can flex their leadership muscles.
While inroads have been made into levelling the playing field, gender diversity is yet to well and truly hit the ‘top’ – only 29.4 per cent of ASX 200 company board directors are female. Politics does not fare much better, with only 25 out of 205 countries having women serving as their head of government. It is hard to be what you can’t see, meaning that increasing the visibility of women in all levels of leadership is essential to inspire our next generation of female leaders.
Professor Deborah Terry, vice-chancellor of Western Australia’s Curtin University and recently elected chairperson of Universities Australia, echoes this sentiment. She highlights that our “population is as diverse as ever”, and we need to have this variety reflected across multiple levels of representation. So, what can women of all ages do to enhance their skills and better their chances of being in leadership positions?
Explore every opportunity
It doesn’t matter how big or small it is – taking every leadership opportunity that comes your way will give you the experience and confidence to take on bigger and better roles in the future. This could mean answering that call out for your university faculty’s student board, nominating for a role on the representative council of your child’s school, or putting your hand up to manage a department or area at work.
Step out of your comfort zone
Challenging yourself can be a nerve wracking step to take, but putting yourself out there is essential if you would like to explore your leadership potential. Nominate yourself for that leadership position at university, or volunteer to take charge on an important project at work. The thought of speaking and standing up can be daunting, but it is a great way for you to find the confidence and self-belief that will hold you in good stead for future leadership positions.
Surround yourself with strong female role models
They could be famous figures, work colleagues, teachers or even family members – look for strong female leaders in all corners of your life and observe how they take charge. Do they stand in a way that commands respect, or does their leadership stem from the way they communicate with others? If possible, you could even ask what paths they took to get to the leadership positions they are in today.
A number of Australian universities run tailored programs that encourage female staff and students to explore their leadership potential. This can range from leadership opportunities on student groups and boards, to professional development programs that cater to academics and university staff.
If you’re interested in entering the world of leadership, why not look into some of the development opportunities on offer in our universities?
- Pathways to Politics program – University of Melbourne School of Government
- Women in Leadership development program – Griffith University
- Women Attaining Leadership (WATTLE) program – joint venture between Swinburne University, La Trobe University, RMIT University, Australian National University, Deakin University, Griffith University and Curtin University
- Aspire program – Victoria University.