Last night at the Swissotel in Sydney, Leaders in Heels hosted the event: 50|50 Future Leaders.

Over 175 guests witnessed some of the nation’s top leaders discuss gender equality in the workplace.

The panel consisted of:

  • Elizabeth Broderick (Chair) – Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Gordon Cairns – Chairman, Origin Energy
  • Kate Burleigh – Managing Director, Intel Australia/ New Zealand
  • Andrew Stevens – Non-executive Director, IBM Australia and New Zealand
  • Cassandra Kelly- Co-founder and Joint CEO, Pottinger
  • Diana Ryall AM – Founder and Managing Director, Xplore for Success

Men featured in the discussions, probably because that’s where the inspiration for the event came from. Kasia Gospos, Founder of Leaders in Heels and event organiser said:

“I was inspired to create this event because I had been to so many events about gender equality which were attended solely by women. If we truly want change to occur, we need to engage men in the discussion.”

Elizabeth Broderick echoed Kasia’s sentiment stating:

“We are where we are today because of women’s activism, but it’s not enough now – we need men stepping up beside women to see where we can achieve gender balance.”

The whole event aimed to have 50|50 gender participation and managed to achieve a 24% men / 76% women split in the audience, which in itself is commendable.

The discussion covered issues for working mothers, the pay gap and organisational accountability. The need for men to be champions of change was a clear mandate for future change.

Elizabeth Broderick opened discussions by describing ‘gender asbestos’, a term she often uses to describe the unseen discrimination that is more common nowadays than the overt sexual discrimination of the past. “It’s built into the walls, floors and ceilings of so many organisations that you hardly notice it, but it’s there.”

Women in labour

In July this year, the Human Rights Commission released its report: Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review Report. It found that ‘One in two (49%) mothers reported experiencing discrimination in the workplace at some point during pregnancy, parental leave or on return to work.

‘One in five (18%) mothers indicated that they were made redundant/restructured/dismissed or that their contract was not renewed …’

As the findings of this report were discussed, Andrew Stevens acknowledged that the ‘family years’ usually result in a steep decline in female representation in the workplace but highlighted that only 1 in 10 of those who experienced discrimination during this time made a formal complaint. Often making a complaint led to firing, redundancy or restructuring – and even being encouraged to terminate the pregnancy.

He implored everyone to ask of themselves: What level of discrimination are you comfortable with?

“Is a 49% discrimination rate okay? 20%? 5%? I’m not happy with it, are you?”

Diana Ryall pointed out that discrimination can begin long before a pregnancy is announced: “Once the engagement ring goes on, people will ask ‘So, when are you going to have babies?

Breaking down old beliefs

Some of the issues around returning to work were discussed and it was clear that at least two ‘old-fashioned’ beliefs needed to be broken down in order to find solutions for today’s workplaces.

The first, Kate Burleigh articulated: “Let’s not perpetuate idea that only women make good carers.” Allowing for men to be included as carers in flexible working arrangements is a good start to breaking down this belief. Elizabeth Broderick pointed out that Telstra recently mainstreamed flexibility by introducing company-wide flexible working options for everyone.

Secondly, Andrew Stevens pointed out that we must alleviate the myth that we can’t pay someone unless we see them. “A big change is the ability to control your own schedule by working wherever and whenever you can. Input measurement of hours in the office no longer equals output measurement.”

The gap under the carpet

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) announced data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in August 2014. It shows that the average man working full-time earns 18.2% or $283.20 more than the average full-time working woman.

This figure has risen from previous years.

It was clear that Cassandra Kelly was not standing for this. Infuriated by a recent interaction with a female senior executive who stated that the pay gap was ‘Not for women like us’, Cassandra pleaded for everyone to not think like this.

In fact, it’s the opposite – the higher up you go in seniority, the great the pay gap can become.

Gordon Cairns cautioned that looking at just the averages may not reflect what’s really going on. He suggested the need to look at every case in context and conduct the analysis in a sophisticated way in order to do this issue justice.

Diana Ryall pointed out that organisations are generally not open about their pay gaps and that employers have a responsibility to disclose this information and do something about it.

What we measure, we improve

Kate Burleigh put Intel under the spotlight stating that although the company was 46 years old and had been working on equality for a long time, there was still only 25% representation of women in senior leadership roles. She admitted that the more senior you go, the worse the figures get. “This is the reality in the IT sector and it’s appalling.”

However, there is a way forward in making organisations accountable and creating real and lasting change.

“As recent as the last six months, the industry has decided to publicly print and share statistics and data around this. When you have a target or data, there’s something to rally around. Now we are starting to see some effective processes being put in place as the industry aims for 50/50 equal representation.” She said.

Leading by example

In response to a question about what pressures we need to put on the advertising industry to improve gender perceptions, Gordon Cairns – who has recently worked with this industry – highlighted the imperative for any change agents to ‘get their house in order first’.

“McKinsey has worked with advertising agencies on what the proven path is. They are sharing statistics with one another and progress is being made.”

He also mentioned that at Origin Energy, they believe in a supplier multiplier where diversity is required right down the supply chain. “Unless you have a diversity program in place, you won’t be called upon to pitch your business, let alone partner with Origin.”

Kate Burleigh outlined a policy at Intel where the recruitment of any middle management roles have at least one female in the candidature. HR departments are held accountable to this requirement.

It is this sort of action that will pave the way for equal gender representation in leadership roles.

What can you do?

The entire panel of speakers were enthusiastic to share their recommended actions not only the audience, but all Leaders in Heels community members.

Read more about the actions you can take today to build a 50|50 future.

Thank you to everyone who attended the event. We welcome your feedback and suggestions for future events.


Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Sally Miles, Gordon Cairns (Chairman,Origin Energy), Kasia Gospos

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Rebecca Sounders (Delicatessen), Kasia Gospos (Leaders in Heels)

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Paul Turner, Devika Mohotti, Kasia Gospos, Justine Mills

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Ozlem Bedlam, Kasia Gospos

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Laura Diakow, Jingwei Pruefer, Arienne Goerlach

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Kasia Gospos, Andrew Stevens (Former IBM MD)

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Diana Ryall (Xplore for Success), Kasia Gospos

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

Erica Enriquez, Sian Edwards, Justine Mills, Paul Turner (CIMA), Kasia Gospos, Yolanda Floro

See more photos from the event at Zahrina Photography Facebook album.

Sally Miles Sally is the Women’s Editor at Leaders in Heels. She is a Sydney-based mum to two children, wife to one husband, renovator to half a house and squeezes in full-time work as a publisher amid the chaos.

A lot has been written about how to promote your brand through social media, or using SEO. But how about in the real world, away from that computer or smartphone screen? What innovative methods can you use to get your brand name out there—methods which are affordable for small and medium businesses?

Use Promotional Products

When you come down to it, people love freebies. So why not ensure the freebies they get have your brand or business name on them? This is about getting your brand name out there, so get creative!

Don’t just think pens or waterbottles. For example, Fresh Promotions, which specialises in custom branded products, has a huge range of products from water pistols to cow-shaped kitchen timers. What kinds of items would encapsulate the spirit of your company, and are unusual enough to stick in people’s minds?

Do note that giving out items indiscriminately on the street will have a limited effect. You’ll find it far more effective if you hand them out at specific events, or to a certain group of people.

Collaborate with Local Artists

Firstly, the reference to ‘artists’ here does not strictly refer to visual artists, but ones in any medium. This could include musicians, performers, or writers, for example.

Okay, so you probably can’t afford people like Lady Gaga or Banksy to endorse your business. But there are many local artists in the community who have a small, dedicated following. These followers are the kind you’d want to have in your corner. They’re engaged with the artist both online and off. They’ll travel to another city if the artist has an event on. They care about what the artist is up to—and the people or brands working with the artist.

It’s a two-way street. You can offer the artist something they need, such as an exhibition or performing space at no cost. A run of flyers or postcards for their latest event. Or you could even purchase some of their art for a giveaway. And in return, they’ll promote your brand or business to their followers, whether online or during their event.

Of course, it’s crucial to partner with an artist whose audience would be complementary to your brand. You won’t get many new clients if you sell ballet gear, and you partner with a rapper. The added bonus is that you’re promoting local art—and it doesn’t get much better than that!

Hold an Event

And I don’t mean an event that’s all about telling people how wonderful your brand or product is. In this age of online spam and constant advertising through TV and print media, what people want isn’t more of that.

Instead, think about the skills you’ve picked up from running your business, or the values you consider to be a big part of your brand. How can you share them with others? It’s all about getting people with similar interests or values aware of your brand, and even personally invested.

It doesn’t have to be a big event like a whole-day conference or anything of the sort. Think small shindigs on your business premises. Have a cupcake store? Why not hold a decorating workshop? A freelance taxation lawyer? Offer an hour-long workshop on how to get the most out of your tax return.

If you can show you care about the community and want to give back, your brand will be that much stronger for it.

How else do you promote your brand offline? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured Image: rahego

This post was supported by Fresh Promotions. Check out their huge range of customisable promotional products!

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.

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.

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.