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Published 02 October 2012 03:54, Updated 03 October 2012 05:32
Success ... Barclays’ Cynthia Whelan says women need to speak up if they want to be noticed in business. Photo: Paul Miller
The population of chief executive women in Australia is small but what they lack in numbers they more than account for in enthusiasm, determination and wisdom. And they have a very clear message that is not heard often, or loudly, enough; that corporate success is not only attainable for women but it is hugely fulfilling.
Earlier this year more than 1 million people around the world devoured, dissected and discussed an article in The Atlantic magazine by Anne-Marie Slaughter about “having it all”. The piece struck a chord for many reasons; juggling career success with family responsibilities is evidently an issue with which many people, predominately women, wrestle. The fantastic upshot of Slaughter’s essay was that it made what is usually a private wrestle publicly visible.
The trouble is, at the same time, it potentially discourages others who might otherwise have tried, from giving it a go. Along with dismal statistics and corporate horror stories, relaying the message that women can’t have it all, just serves to perpetuate itself in self-fulfilling fashion. Which is why BRW sought the advice and counsel of nine female executives who have bucked the odds and scaled the corporate ladder. We asked how they did it and how others might follow their lead. Their answers formed the basis of our guide for women who want to be the chief executive, which is on sale tomorrow.
Their stories are uplifting, persuasive and refreshing. From Microsoft’s Pip Marlow to Barclay’s Cynthia Whelan to EOWA’s Helen Conway; each of the executives we spoke to had buckets of practical advice and valuable wisdom to share with aspiring corporate leaders. And funnily enough, their tips were uncannily similar. All of them spoke about the need to talk up. That you can’t sit toiling away at your desk and just hope that someone will notice you. That you need to take risks, to take on a promotion or apply for another role before you feel 100 per cent equipped for it.
BRW’s Cover story on A Woman’s Guide to being a CEO is on out this Thursday.