gender politics

Sexist attitudes still exist in 2018 - 10 worst explanations

I’m utterly gob-smacked that these attitudes exist in 2018

“We have one woman already on the board, so we are done — it is someone else’s turn”

“All the ‘good’ women have already been snapped up”

“Most women don’t want the hassle or pressure of sitting on a board”

They were part of a list of the 10 worst explanations given to a team questioning chairs & CEOs of the 350 biggest publicly listed companies in Britain over low numbers of women serving on British boards, according to a NYT article on 31 May

“As you read this list of excuses, you might think it’s 1918 not 2018. It reads like a script from comedy parody but it’s true” ~ Amanda Mackenzie, CEO, Business in the Community

If you’re in Oz thinking that we’re different, think again, with high profile male chairs recently expressing similar sentiments

“You hear some of the blokes complaining – but we are in the midst of a social revolution; now they have to compete against 100% of the population, not 50% ~ Ilana Atlas, Coca-Cola Amatil Chair

Comments do not reflect research on the issue. Increasing numbers of investors are pushing for greater gender diversity on the boards. Watch this space.….

Read further: 


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How men can help women flourish in the workplace

Organisations that don’t have women on the leadership team are plain and simply leaving money on the table and yet many women still struggle to make it through the talent pipeline to the top. Male managers can help but many don't know what to do differently while avoiding criticism from others and having their own career penalised.

As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others
— Bill Gates

If men are interested in helping female talent to flourish more effectively, there are some easy practices to champion and adopt that will help.  Here are six ideas to keep handy, that truly make a difference.

1. Ensure that women get a voice at the table, instead of being spoken over, dismissed or bypassed.    In a 2014 study from George Washington University we learned that when men were talking with women, they interrupted 33% more often than when they were talking with men. So instead of being part of the problem, establish systems that break the cycle. Why not deploy a fair airtime to share in meetings policy so everyone has a voice? And if a woman does speak up, but her idea is dismissed or brushed over, systematically draw attention back to the idea with a "Great idea Gloria, could you explain more?"  Note to female readers: you can do this for each other too (Julie Bishop style).

2. Don't be afraid of mentoring women. Did you know that women are 54% less likely to have a sponsor and 24% less likely to get advice from senior leaders?  The latest research from LeanIn and McKinsey sheds quite a bit of light on informal mentoring. 

According the WSJ article Don't Avoid Women, Mentor Them "Mentors show women the ropes and help us navigate office politics. They introduce us to decision-makers who help us get high-profile assignments. So much of what gets you noticed at work is who you know and who sings your praises." 

If you are worried about taking a female colleague to drinks or dinner, suggest a breakfast or coffee meeting instead. 

3. Include women in informal networking situations - one of the biggest issues I'm asked about by women in masculine dominated industries is "What should I do when all the guys do is want to go to the football, play golf, go cycling or to the bar after work?"  

Never assume that women don't want to do those things, or that all men want to do those things either. Make sure that there are a range of informal networkings situations where everyone is included.

One of my female clients who works in a male dominated industry sometimes finds out AFTER the fact that the guys all went to the football on Saturday and she didn't get an invite. She loves football and also knows they talk about work at those events. Make sure everyone gets the invite and knows they are truly welcome.

4. Never assume - there is an old saying that "assumption make an ass out of UME".  As per the above, never assume that someone wouldn't want to travel due to family reasons or responsibilities. Never assume that someone wouldn't want to commute.  Just because you wouldn't want something doesn't mean that others wouldn't want it. You never know what's going on in someone's life and they may just have a work around that's a better solution.  Ask or offer anyway.

5. Don't be afraid to question practices that do lead to exclusion - such as business travel. Australians have a love affair with business travel. We're addicted to it. But does it drive better performance? During the GFC many organisations in Australia put severe limitations on travel with great effect.  It's not just women who may have problems being away from home when they have child care or family responsibilities. Many men want to participate more in this as well.  While your frequent flyer balance might not look so good, your workplace and business results are likely to be better with more inclusive policies anyway.

6. Stand up for what's right - If a visiting speaker or consultant cracks a sexist joke - don't feel obliged to laugh and be sure to let them know the those sorts of comments are not appropriate in this workplace. 

In summary, the practices suggested above are good for all. Women are equally as socialised, biased and prone to stereotyped assumptions as men. I encourage female managers and leaders to implement some or all of these ideas as well.


There is no Mars and Venus, but in fact we are allies here on planet earth and our interests are the same.
— Michael Kimmel

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Have you drawn your line in the sand? Sexist comments perpetuating the cycle

“We’re going to pay [insert male name] more because he is a man and needs it more than you.”
“Let’s give the' little woman' something to do to keep her busy.”
“I prefer to employ women, because they’re cheaper.”

These are all comments I’ve had said to me over the years.

Shocking I know.

Some might argue that they were ‘of the times’

However the last was shared with me in 2017!

Were the people saying these things bad people?

Not necessarily.

Simply misguided & mistaken.

These comments are insidious.

They did damage then & they do damage now.

Plus are symptoms of a far bigger issue still at play.

Women & women’s work is still under-valued.

And when women move in & become more dominant in an industry, the salary drops.

Yet, the tide is turning.

With globalisation & technological innovation comes increased speed, competition & new problems to be solved with DIFFERENT thinking.

Social media is providing a platform, along with increased awareness & education.

Drawing a line in the sand.jpg

Iceland is leading the way too.

Condescension is part of the problem. 

Laughing at sexist jokes is no longer OK.

Employing women because they’re cheaper is exploitation.

And if you aren’t careful, that little woman will be too smart to want to work for you anyway.

My line is drawn in the sand. Right here, right now.

Where and when is yours?

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Will fixing the gender salary gap close the gender gap?

Wow! Great topic and one I'm happy to explore because it's such a complex issue.  And in June 2017 I got to take part in the AIM Great Debate in Canberra on this very topic.

And while the issue is serious because of the very real impact it has on women and families more broadly, the format was fun which enabled us to go far and wide in creating compelling arguments.

AIM Great Debate Canberra 23 June 2017 - Virginia Haussegger AM, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Alex Sloan, Dr Saraid Billiard, Arabella Close and moi!

AIM Great Debate Canberra 23 June 2017 - Virginia Haussegger AM, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, Alex Sloan, Dr Saraid Billiard, Arabella Close and moi!

My fellow debaters are listed to the right and thanks to Jane Caro for hosting with humour, a light touch and commentary to fill in the gaps between arguments.

Closing the gender salary gap won't close the gender gap

I was on team negative so we argued that closing the gender salary gap would not close the gender gap, because discrimination comes in many forms, and while salary is one significant area, it's not the only one. 

Yes, I taught the audience how to adopt a manspreading pose - to take up more space and appear more powerful

Yes, I taught the audience how to adopt a manspreading pose - to take up more space and appear more powerful

I explored issues such as power and influence as other arenas where discrimination occur regularly which aren't always closed by money - as evidenced by some of my senior level clients who are frequently the highest paid person in the room, yet still fend off power plays, discriminatory comments and dismissal because of their gender, rather than being accepted for the contribution they are making to the value of the organisation. Sad but true. And to lighten the mood I got to talk about my four pet peevs - mansplaining, bropropriation, manterruptions and ...... manspreading. (More on that in a future post).

My fellow panelist Arabella Close, shared her experiences in educating high school students on bias and gender stereotypes and how she sees that gender stereotyping and fixed ideas start young and are hard to move. Her closing argument "the salary gap is just a symptom, not the cause" was an absolute winner, reminding us that one woman is killed each week in Australia as a result of domestic violence.

I am a feminist because it bothers me that a woman gets killed by her male partner every single week, and somehow that doesn’t qualify as a tools-down national crisis even though if a man got killed by a shark every week we’d probably arrange to have the ocean drained.
— Annabel Crabb

Virginia Hausegger AM rebutted and closed on our team's behalf with hard data about representation of women in parliament and leadership more broadly, along with compelling evidence that it's not just about the money so let's not imagine that if we get rid of the salary gap, the other issues will simply go away.

And team negative won!

Other arguments included:

  • Women in STEM as a minority

  • Ingrained attitudes towards women

  • Pink jobs for girls, blue jobs for boys

  • Feminised industries and lower pay in feminised industries

  • The cost of being female - yes our grocery basket is 7% more expensive at the supermarket

  • The tax on feminine hygiene products

  • Abortion laws in Australia

While a comedy style lunch debate on the gender salary gap probably didn't do justice to the complexity of the topic, it did allow for a really broad range of issues to be introduced.

Thanks to the team at AIM Australia for hosting the debate! Thanks to a highly engaged Canberra audience who made it all worthwhile. And thanks to our opposing team members who kept us competitive and ensured the arguments were rigorous and well thought out. 

And let's be honest, winners will only be grinners when the gender gap (including the gender salary gap) is closed.

AIM Great Debate Canberra w Amanda Blesing.JPG


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Vive la révolution! #ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

#success #career #visibility #standout #leadership#executivewomen #careerfutureproofing

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The rise of the fempreneur both inside and outside of your organisation

The most important factor in determining whether you will succeed isn’t your gender, it’s you. Be open to opportunity and take risks. In fact, take the worst, the messiest, the most challenging assignment that you can find, and then take control.
— Angela Braly, CEO, WellPoint

We live in extremely exciting times with the numbers of women pursuing entrepreneurial ventures on the rise. Did you know that .....    

“Women-owned entities in the formal sector represent approximately 37 percent of enterprises globally — a market worthy of attention by businesses and policy makers alike. While aggregated data is often challenging to find, the recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found 126 million women starting or running businesses, and 98 million operating established (over three and a half years) businesses. That’s 224 million women impacting the global economy — and this survey counts only 67 of the 188 countries recognized by the World Bank.”
Anoop Saxena, Founder & CEO, Womenora

In fact, 35-55-year-old female entrepreneurs are the biggest demographic, according to Drew Hendricks on Inc Magazine.

So what does this have to do with executive women?


The rise of the female entrepreneur is not limited to small business.  In fact throughout business, government and corporate there is a significant increase in the number of women establishing expert status as both infopreneurs (those who trade in information and ideas) and intrapreneurs (those who innovate, take risks and create new ways of doing things inside corporates). Each of these are aspects of entrepreneurialism, ergo, the feminine entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in many areas of our society.

While creating, innovating and tailoring products and services specifically for women is smart in the entrepreneurial world I wonder if in fact it’s not so smart when it comes to the gender diversity and helping women lead.

When women speak to women’s only audiences, we’re preaching to the converted. We’re also not addressing or shining a light on the issues that frequently hold women back to the people who are best positioned to do anything about it.

One area where we can make a big difference - conference planning

Over the course of my own career, I’ve booked and briefed more speakers than you can poke a stick at. I always made a point to ask speaker bureaus and brokers for female speakers for technical conferences whether they were legal, insurance, policy or consumer affairs conferences or roundtables.

One thing I remember, that despite asking for female speakers on technical topics, I’d be told that audiences preferred male speakers ( ….. yawn .....right ....).

Something else I noticed was that there was definitely a shift in the last 10 or so years, as more female speakers came on board - however they were all speaking on female empowerment topics. (Hand on heart, I fit the bill as well.)

Why are these issues a problem?

The first is that the speaker gatekeeper was perhaps not as aware of gender diversity and inclusion principles as you might expect.  Don't believe the hype. Mixed gender audiences also love female speakers.

In my time, four of the audience favourites included Amanda McKenzie (a member of the youth climate coalition), Major Matina Jewell (on leading in a crisis), Avril Henry (on leadership more broadly) and Jane Caro (on consumer emotion), who each received rave reviews from men and women alike.

Secondly, if women keep preaching to the converted and to those who are already feeling marginalised, others inside organisations and industry, who may in fact hold more power to do something about it, never hear about the issues in the first place.

And finally, we keep perpetuating the cycle that aligns masculine voice with leadership and expert status. When we don't hear women speaking on leadership and expertise more broadly, men AND women don't see it was a viable option.

Reframe for a challenge

This week I was delighted to accept the opportunity to emcee the Project Management Institute Australian Conference in Sydney. Yes, it is a peak body event, showcasing innovative ideas, best practice and establishing benchmarks and standards for industry. Yes, it’s important that women are seen and heard on such conference programs and panels in areas that showcase expertise and leadership. And no, I didn’t insist on hosting the sessions designed to empower women.  

I'm delighted to emcee and create arguments and linkages, that help those women and men in the project management profession to create more effective pathways to leadership.  

Embrace your inner Expert and accept the challenge

It's got me thinking. As a result, I issue a challenge -        

  • To female executives, experts and speakers, whether you're trading in information, business transformation or creating new realities - to step outside of the narrow band of women's only topics and to tailor content for mixed gender audiences.        
  • To speaker brokers, bureaus, conference planners and conference planning committees - to program with gender diversity front of mind, but to look beyond gender. Don't simply program women on female empowerment topics and men for leading in a crisis topics. Consider fempreneurs and experts in the mix for technical and generic leadership topics, and consider male speakers for topics stereo-typically aligned with the feminine such as emotional intelligence and communication.  


Because if we are going to move the dial on gender diversity, then we need to create a seat at the leadership table, not just at the table for women.  And until we change the landscape and establish a new normal for expert status, smart and highly visible women still run the risk of remaining in the margins.  And having feminine voice heard and accepted as part of this new normal is not just great for business, but great for men and women as well.

Go on and embrace your inner expert. You know you want to!

Feminine Leadership Super Powers + Fempreneur Expert Status = Priceless

Remember - smart and savvy truly is the name of this game! Vive la révolution!  #ambitionrevolution #feminineambition #executivebrand

Email me if you have a fempreneur expert status success story you want to share with me.

Or get in touch if you need a help with unpacking and selling your expert status brand more skilfully.


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Language Warning! Four bad habits that undermine your credibility

The gender diversity (or gender equality) debate has been going on for years and seems to have gathered a new and welcome momentum.  Some of the issues we face include unconscious bias, conscious bias and downright discrimination.  However sometimes there is a piece of the pie that we women need to own. Sheryl Sandberg talks about “leaning in”.  I call it stepping up, speaking out and taking charge. 

When it comes to gender politics in the office, just like dressing appropriately, we also need to pay attention to our language and speech habits. If we want a seat at the “big table” then we need to speak like grown ups and “own that sh*t”.  And the following four habits that we women frequently demonstrate undermine our credibility and authority all in one - without us even knowing.

“And anyway, who wears a tiara on a jungle gym?”
— Sheryl Sandberg

1. Just – the most recent culprit  in the language debate is the use of “just”. Earlier in 2015 Ellen Petry Leanse, founder, Karmahacks; strategist, advisor, online pioneer was published in Business Insider calling women out on it.

I was delighted and couldn't agree more, because the word is a pet peeve of mine.  I hear this word all the time and mostly from women. Let’s be honest, frequently there is no just about it. At the very least the word is redundant – and at the most it diminishes the opinion, status or impact of the request by the initiator/asker.

  • “I just wanted to find out …..”
  • “I was just booking for …..”
  • “ I am just enquiring about …..”
  • “Just following up …”
  • “Just checking in …."

My own research (sample size of about six close personal female friends for brunch) determined that the use of the word is part of our feminine socialisation – not to big note ourselves, not to stand out, not to offend, not to challenge, to be safe and (let’s own the negative impact of fashion magazines, dieting and body image too) to be diminutive, small and not a bother.

So check your emails before you hit send.  Listen to your own speech patterns. Then remove “just”. This one small change makes your communications far more powerful. Try it. You may be surprised at how confident you sound and the results that you get with this one simple change.

2. Deflecting compliments . Oh boy. And most of us think we are simply doing the right thing!

You know when someone pays you a compliment and you say;

 “Oh, it was nothing, it was just my job, in fact the team did most of the work and … the reality is the project didn’t go so well. We hit a few speed bumps, we crashed into a few hurdles ………..” ? 

Sound familiar?

It’s okay to accept a compliment as it is and simply say thank you.  It makes the giver feel good, it boosts your own confidence plus it helps with your own credibility. Repeat after me -

“Deflecting compliments undermines credibility.
Accepting compliments boosts it.”

As women we’ve been taught time and time again not to big note ourselves, not to take credit unless its totally ours, and not to stand out . Why? Because it's allegedly “unladylike”. 

Well in a future where women are leading equally with men it’s totally unprofessional (non gender specific) to not accept a compliment.  So own it, accept it and maybe dish out a few compliments of your own as you see how they boosts the confidence of both the giver and the receiver.

3. Apologising for strong opinions

"Women are 37%* more likely than men to identify their own behavior as worthy of an apology, which leads to women apologizing more frequently than men do ... which in turn, unfortunately, fuels the double standard that women who aren’t “apologetic enough” are bossy (or worse)."  Upworthy July 2014

All true and correct according to a 2010 study by Karina Schuman and Michael Ross entitled Why Women Apologize More Than Men; Gender Differences in Thresholds for Perceiving Offensive Behavior.

However what’s more concerning is that as women we sometimes apologise for having strong opinions.  You’ve probably heard it in meetings or in strong discussions where sometimes, if a woman lands a contrary opinion, she apologises.

“If you set out to be liked, you will accomplish nothing.”
— Margaret Thatcher

Learn to accept responsibility for your own thoughts, ideas and opinions. They are just that; thoughts, ideas and opinions, not "truths".   These thoughts, ideas and opinions are based on the evidence you have access to at that time. 

As women we apologise even when its not our fault – when we bump elbows with someone on the plane next to us, when we are startled and when we talk over someone. Sheryl Sandberg says its because have been told we are too bossy since we were little girls. Sound familiar?  

It’s ingrained into us and a hard pattern to break.  But if you want to see evidence of what a difference it makes then check out this powerful campaign by Pantene – demonstrating the power of turning off your “automatic” sorry response.  

4. And finally - Uptalk – more commonly known as ending a sentence that is not a question with an upward inflection .

If you have any ambitions to head up a team, lead an organisation or influence others to join you in your new venture you’ll want to knock this one on the head - immediately.

Linguistic experts don’t really know where it came from but it’s fairly wide spread and, unfortunately Australians and New Zealanders are rather expert at it.  In a 2014 BBC article they call attention to the rise of the upward inflection (pun intended) and how it sounds like we are asking for permission all the time. This in turn diminishes your power,  your credibility and authority. 

Picture this - you are a high performer, possibly even a perfectionist, with an eye for your next big promotion.  You go in for your performance appraisal and you are totally and awesomely prepared.  In outlining your work, your input and the key measurable outcomes, every second statement you make ends with a upward inflection - which make it sound like a question.  

  • Where is the power in this conversation?
  • How credible do you think it sounds?

More importantly it sounds like you are seeking permission - rather than making statements - therefore undermining your best attempts at negotiating that extra pay rise or next big promotion.

The fix for it all?

The ego’s deep, ingrained need for approval is hard to fix - so you’ll need to be vigilant. 

  • Next time you have a conversation I challenge you to record yourself and listen for the tone and melody of your conversation.  Listen out also for apologies, the word just and also compliment deflection. Determine whether or not they were necessary - or simply ingrained patterning, people pleasing or seeking approval behaviours.
  • Ask a trusted colleague, coach or mentor to give you feedback next time you are in a meeting or in a situation where you feel stressed or uncertain.
  • Rehearse a few times and then record yourself again so you can hear what's really going on.  Fake it till you make it is probably great advice in this instance.
  • I've even heard of a manager using this as a teaching point with the entire team to ensure the department operated more efficiently and effectively - supporting each other and getting better results as a result.

So why is this important?

We're in interesting times right now.  As women we want to lead but frequently find the journey there is not easy at the best of times and downright challenging at the worst.  You want to make sure that your ambition "tool kit" is fitted out with the best of the best, sharpest, high quality tools that help you get ahead more easily.  Credibility, authority and expertise are great tools  - and we need to make sure that we don't accidentally undermine ourselves despite best efforts and intentions.

Vive la révolution! 


—    If you missed it - 3 Signs Your LinkedIn Profile Sucks

  • I am the creator of The Ambition Revolution – the science and  art of amping smart and savvy. 

  • I mentor busy professionals to ensure they remain strategic, agile and focused on the bigger game. 

  • I also work with organisations who are trying to increase the profile of women in leadership, but struggling to do so.

Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months