Mentoring key to gender equality in the workplace

A survey of leading Australian businesswomen found 78 per cent believe that active sponsorship as well as mentoring are essential tools to breaking down barriers for women in business.

The survey of 125 state and territory finalists in the 2014 Telstra Business Women’s Awards focused on changes business women have experienced in the 20 years since the Telstra Awards were launched.

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When asked what issues need to be addressed for women in business, finalists named the deficit of senior leadership opportunities and gender pay equality, with 39 per cent saying they have encountered a pay gap compared with a male doing the same job.

when women work collectively to help each other, we will see more women thrive in business

Sponsorship Encourages Confidence

There are no quick fixes for increasing the representation of women in senior leadership positions and achieving pay equality; however, the finalists named sponsorship and mentoring as key to tackling gender equality in the workplace.

Sponsorship is believed to encourage confidence, with 83 per cent of respondents saying “confidence to challenge and influence authority” is one of the key personal attributes women need to succeed in business.

Of those surveyed, 84 per cent take on responsibility to mentor the next generation of women, while 73 per cent currently have or have had a mentor or sponsor.

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Vanessa Nolan-Woods, the General Manager at Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus, said, “when women work collectively to help each other, we will see more women thrive in business”.

At Women in Focus, they bring together “women from a diverse range of industry and experience to share their experiences and learn from one another, from both their triumphs and challenges. It’s these connections that provide for businesses to grow and women in business to flourish”.

Find a Work-Life Balance

For women, success in business depends not only one performance in the workplace, but also in achieving the elusive work-life balance.

When asked how they balance work and personal commitments many women said they outsourced activities such as cleaning, ironing, childcare and gardening. Family support and technology were listed as the most important factors helping women achieve work-life balance.

In order to prevent burnout, the Award finalists emphasised the importance of exercises, with ninety-six per cent believing their physical fitness influenced their focus and positivity at work. Other tips included diarising personal time, taking regular short breaks and meditation.

Advice from those in the know

In the spirit of women helping women, ten pieces of advice the finalists said they would give other women included:

  • Be honest with yourself and others;
  • Listen to all advice, but stay true to your beliefs and values;
  • Back yourself and draw on your intuition and emotional intelligence to make better choices;
  • Never give up or let your ego get in the way;
  • If you are a leader, scaffold other women to follow your path;
  • Be your authentic self;
  • Lead with confidence, flexibility and compassion;
  • Praise, praise, praise;
  • Learn to say ‘no’ at times and don’t apologise for it; and
  • Be exceptional at what you do and your gender won’t matter.

Thirty-seven women who won the 2014 state and territory awards are national finalists for the Telstra Business Women’s Awards. For finalists and winners across Australia, the Awards offer a share in $650,000 in cash and prizes. The National Finals were held in Melbourne on 26 November 2014. More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found at

Featured Photo: Pixabay