All About Women festival: Cassandra Kelly’s speech ‘A new movement for success’

Cassandra Kelly’s speech ‘A new movement for success’ from the All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House, Sunday 30 March 2014.

Let’s face it – we all need a little extra motivation from time to time.

The All About Women festival at the Sydney Opera House proved to be the perfect setting for inspiration, debate and story-telling.

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Among the many important ideas for women presented at the event, a speech by Cassandra Kelly, Joint CEO at Pottinger and one of Leaders in Heels’ valued Thought Leaders, truly set the tone for motivating women to support each other.

Instead of giving in to our natural competitive instincts and letting our insecurities rule our relationships with other women, we should be encouraging our fellow females to succeed. Cassandra shined a light on the need for all of us to follow international trend and take action.

“In Australia we need to start a tidal wave movement. One that supports and encourages other women and one that demands opportunities for women.” she stated. And this will mean better economic prosperity for the country. She went on to say “We all have an obligation to Australia to ensure its mid to long-term success and we all should be paving the way for women to contribute their very best to this.”

Thank you Cassandra for giving us a brilliant wake-up call and motivating us to pay attention to how much we could be encouraging other women to succeed.

You can read a summary of her speech here.

A new movement for success – by Cassandra Kelly

Madeleine Albright famously said, “There’s a special place in hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.” This quote has been repeated by countless women since. Why? Because at some time or another many women have felt the neglect of another woman. Sheryl Sandburg has felt it too. She tells us that as a woman becomes more successful, men and women like her less.

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I am announcing a new trend. A new wave.

Instead of women criticizing each other or complaining about the status quo, we’re going to support one another. We have all heard the old cliché that behind every successful man is a woman. Well that’s old and tired. It’s time for a new phrase:

Behind every successful woman is another successful woman.

Given genetics, this isn’t necessarily as easy as it sounds. We know through psychology that women are innately competitive. Competitiveness is not just reserved for men. We’re genetically programmed to view every woman as a potential threat. And of course the marketing at women is unhelpful. The pressure to look a certain way, the products promising youthfulness, the air-brushed photos of the perfect women, leaves us unsurprisingly overwhelmed. It encourages us to make comparisons, compete, and often reinforces a lack of confidence. It does nothing to build resilient women with self esteem.

I would like to believe we have learned to master some of our genetic coding. But if I am realistic, then I have to accept that this competitiveness and insecurity still runs deep. The problem is that if women allow genetics to dictate thoughts and actions, we will never find equality or the success that we deserve in this world. Success is not about competing with one another. Success is about leading others and becoming the role models that others want to emulate. Success is about helping others find their success as well.

Traditionally women have always provided each other with quiet support and encouragement on the home front. But now, overseas at least, women are coming up with their own rules of interaction and support for each other professionally. They’re being called the new power sisterhoods. US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour said to a crowd “All of us at Vogue look forward to putting the first female president of the United States on the cover.” Donatella Versace said to Miuccia Prada, “I LOVE what you do.”

So what are we waiting for? We have a very severe problem in Australia. We are still at the talking, even the complaining level, with nowhere near enough action. The numbers are not good in many countries but yet there is a greater sense of action. In the USA, women are blasting their way through. Saudi women get the vote next year. Women are obtaining loans to start new businesses in third world countries. The list goes on.

I think Sheryl has done a wonderful job of opening this dialogue and suggesting that we lean in to our careers. However, stepping up our effort and getting more involved is one thing, but it’s quite another thing to take action. We need to do more than just lean in around the meeting table. We need to do more than continue the dialogue.

It’s crystal clear to me what needs to be done.

In Australia we need to start a tidal wave movement. One that supports and encourages other women and one that demands opportunities for women. We need a movement that shines a light on their success and communicates the positive impact and results that women are producing. And yes, we need a movement that ends the isolation and loneliness that far too many women in this great country feel in their journey.

Why should we start such a movement? To help women achieve their full potential is only part of the answer. It has been 50 years now since Donald Horne wrote The Lucky Country. He told us back then Australians never really consider the greater picture. I wonder sometimes if much has changed. Are we really asking ourselves the tough questions such as where is Australia going as a nation? How many have stopped to realize that we are sitting on a valuable untapped resource that you don’t have to dig out of the ground? I am talking about the potential of Australian Women. We are well educated, we are willing and we are good.

We all have an obligation to Australia to ensure its mid to long-term success and we all should be paving the way for women to contribute their very best to this. If we were successful in lifting more women up, both men and women would enjoy better economic prosperity. True diversity is essential to make the most of opportunities in a complex and fast changing world. Those organisations, governments, countries and industries that get this right will dramatically outperform. Those that do not will drift backwards.

So are you going to curl up in a corner and put up the white flag? Are you going to find an excuse to give in? Or will you join me in a movement to help others so that they can be successful too? If we keep complaining, if we stay fearful, we may as well all get back in the kitchen and give up. Yes I know, that’s sexist. But it’s true.

So what can you do? Reflect on how you are helping other women. Do an audit. Take a piece of paper and answer this question: How much time am I giving to another woman? And if you think you’re coming up short, resolve to step out tomorrow and give, support and encourage another woman.

It may be as simple as saying, “you know I’ve been noticing you here each day – I just want to say I admire your tenacity – I want you to know I’ve got your back.”

Women need validation. We’re really good at giving it … and receiving it.

Sometimes all it takes is for someone to say, “Yes, you can do that – you know you can.”

For behind every strong woman there should be another strong woman.

And she could be you.

Thank you to Cassandra for providing us with this speech summary.

Sally Miles Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels and a passionate advocate for women’s rights and equality. She is a wife, mother to two toddlers and a writer, editor and publisher with a global education company.