Hi there! I’m Samantha Alford, the founder of the Women in Business Podcast. My career has spanned over 25 years in IT and General Management for some of Australia’s largest companies including telcos, finance, consulting and also for the Queensland Government. I am currently CIO with the Hunter Valley Coal Chain Coordinator, and am the founder and Director of a boutique travel company. I am a Non Executive Director of the Hunter United Employees Credit Union, a Trustee of the Committee for Economic Development of Australia, and a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
Have you ever asked yourself:
- Globally, why are there so few women in the most senior levels of leadership in politics, and in corporations? For example:
- Why is there only one woman in the Australian Cabinet (of 19 roles) in this day and age?
- Why are there only 7 female CEO’s in Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies, and only 12 in the top 500?
- Why are there only 6 female Chairs of all the ASX 200 companies and 13 in the ASX500?
- Why are these numbers consistent around the world?
- And most of all WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT?
If so, then we have a lot in common.
I started this podcast because I started to ask myself those questions on 16 September, 2013 after our newly elected Prime Minister, Tony Abbott announced his new cabinet. Like most people, I don’t want women to be appointed just because they’re women, and I agree that it is appropriate to appoint the most experienced and stable cabinet (whatever “stable” means, and I can’t help but feel there’s a view that the men in this cabinet were considered more ‘stable’ than the women!). But surely there are women all over this beautiful country of ours that are just as capable at the most senior levels as some of these men!
What I wanted to know was how he, as the leader of the party had allowed the circumstances to arise where the most experienced and ‘stable’ members of his leadership team were men. It set me on a path to investigate the histories of the men and women in the party and I noticed over and over that when the men were first elected, they were given Ministries or ‘pipeline to leadership roles’, whereas when the women were first elected, they were given ‘supporting’ or committee roles. This in spite of that fact that their CV’s appeared equally accomplished up to that point.
I then started to reflect more personally in the area in which I work – corporate Australia. And the more I looked the more horrified I was to find that whilst women are these days very well represented in the workplace, again they are unacceptably under represented in executive and board roles. Again, as I delved into this (frankly) epiphany, I discovered that it all starts when women are in their early to mid careers, and whether they are in support or pipeline to leadership roles.
That’s all very well, and although somewhat frustrated to learn that this was the case I didn’t feel it applied to me as I have progressed through my career from being an office junior and photocopy clerk, to executive leadership roles and most recently an appointment to the Board of the one of the Hunter region’s most respected financial institutions. So I figured, if I could do it everyone can, and ‘someone’ or ‘they’ should do something about the inequity that is obviously rife in our country.
Until … I was reading “Leadership Beyond Good Intentions: What it takes to really make a difference”, by Geoff Aigner as part of a leadership team workshop. And I read this [my comments are in brackets]:
In an episode of the Australian current affairs show Q&A a climate change panellist summed up this fantasy [the fantasy of leadership]: “For me, leadership is making those hard decisions. I want someone to step up and take the lead on climate change in this country, because that’s not happening. I want someone to step up and take the lead on indigenous issues in this country, because that’s not happening. I want someone to really step up and fight for women’s equality in this country, because that’s not happening and I want that to happen, and I’m tired of politicians playing around and trying to win …. So that’s what I’d like to see in leaders”. (Q&A, August 6, 2009)
Let’s look at what is being expressed here. Firstly, it is an understandable frustration with the way things are. [Tick, yep, I can understand that!] Secondly it is the hope for someone else to come in and save us all. [Yep, exactly.] This is where the fantasy starts. We want someone to do all the hard work. [Yep, that too! Oh shit … hang on a minute. Who exactly am I expecting to do something about this?]
And that’s when it happened. I could either sit back and wait for ‘them’ or ‘someone else’ to step up, or I could start to think about what I could do to contribute to fixing this problem.
And here we are. I believe we get what we think about. And I don’t want to think about the problem, I want to think about the solution. And part of that solution is to inspire more women to take on leadership roles. To showcase some of the exceptional and successful women I already know who are already at these levels, and to start to promote the women who are capable and interested in taking on leadership at it’s most senior levels in this country.
That’s what this podcast is all about – inspiring more women to executive and board leadership, and showcasing those that are ready to those making decisions about these roles. It is my hope that we can do this in an informative and entertaining way. And finally, although this is most certainly a serious topic, I try not to take myself or this site too seriously – so let’s have some fun!
I hope you’re ready to step up also, and help us all make significant change in this area.