For women, the workplace has long been a battleground. The gender pay gap is real: in Australia, women earn 16.2% less than their male counterparts[1]. Globally, female entrepreneurs receive less investment than men, and due to societal expectations to raise children, women’s careers can suffer when employment and motherhood collide.

However, the outlook is changing. Technology is having a profound impact on helping women to work more flexibly, connect with other entrepreneurs and even access credit and investment. Let’s explore how.

The rise of flexibility

Sarra Bejaoui co-founded SmartPA after becoming frustrated with the rigidity of her corporate job. “There was absolutely no flexibility in terms of working hours or location,” she explains. “This is particularly challenging for women with children, who might need to take their child to the dentist on a Tuesday morning.”

“From their own experience, female business owners have good ideas about what female friendly work arrangements look like,” Sarra says. With a predominantly female workforce, SmartPA offers its employees complete control over their hours and projects, as well as the option to work completely from home. “Real empowerment in the workplace is about listening to how women want to work – giving women the power, the tools and the coaching to unlock their own destiny and potential.”

Hayley Smith, Director of Boxed Out PR, agrees. Also advocating a remote working model, she says that her staff are “happier, healthier and less stressed out” when they’re not as worried about managing childcare, expenses and a fixed workload.

Better access to capital

Jennifer Hart, Director of Sydney-based Everyday Cashmere, applied for finance from a traditional provider to pay for a shipment of cashmere from Mongolia. Her business growth was impressive (41% year on year for three years), and yet she was turned down. Before rejecting her application, the traditional provider asked how much her husband earns. “It made me feel worthless,” Jennifer recounts. “I don’t think the outcome of a man’s loan application would be changed by how much his wife earns.”

According to research by EY[2], women are more likely to accept rejection when it comes to business loans. However, Jennifer didn’t let it stop her. After speaking up about her treatment by the banks, she turned to alternative finance sources – who approved her application almost immediately. “At first, it was hard to swallow the rejection,” she says. “But a bank is just one – fairly traditional – institution. It’s crucial to empower yourself with as much information as possible about other avenues.”

Venture capital funding for women is still lacking: in 2014, only 3% of venture capital funding went to companies with female CEOs – which is nearly as low as the percentage of women at partner level in VC firms themselves (6% in 2014[4]). However, the good news is that women are actually leaving the big VCs to set up their own firms. Given that VCs with female partners are nearly three times as likely to invest in companies with women in management positions[5], this is great news for female entrepreneurs.

Growing mentorship networks

In her seminal book ‘Lean In’, Sheryl Sandberg points to a lack of mentorship as one of the factors that hold women back at work. Considering that many of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs wax lyrical about the importance of mentorship, observing women’s lack of access to it is disheartening.

Sarra met her mentor – who is now on the executive board of SmartPA – through work. Her mentor’s experience, business acumen, and later investment, empowered her to launch and grow her company. “One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give a female entrepreneur is to find a mentor who is interested in and committed to your business,” she says.

Luckily, in tandem with the growth of female business owners, a range of support and mentorship networks have opened up. Some great ones (besides Leaders in Heels, of course!) are:

Building confidence

It’s probably not surprising to hear that initiatives directed at women work best when they’re coordinated by women. Elli, a business consultant, recounts a programme at her former job, a male-dominated corporate. “My previous company had a women’s empowerment group. It was run by men who talked at us about how important women are in the workplace, and it ran classes on etiquette and cooking,” she laughs. “At best, it missed the point. At worst, it was condescending.”

One of the most crucial pieces of advice I can give a female entrepreneur is to find a mentor who is interested in and committed to your business.

Part of empowering women is helping them to build their confidence and assert themselves in the workplace – a trait that is often discouraged in women from an early age. At SmartPA, Sarra ensures that she runs regular webinars and training sessions to help her team grow their self-esteem, learn new skills and ultimately, realise their value.

However, women shouldn’t pressure themselves to adopt more ‘male’ traits in the workplace. Sarra explains, “don’t fall into the trap of measuring your worth in the framework of masculinity – embrace your DNA and build your confidence as a woman.”

Increasingly, women are choosing entrepreneurship, self-employment and flexible companies to work in a way that works for them. And while it is inspiring to see the myriad networks that are helping women around the world to access finance, mentorship and support, women’s work is far from done. Challenging, speaking up and making allies is essential groundwork to make the year of 2017 better than its predecessor. As Sarra says, “a woman is every bit as worthy as her male counterpart – empowerment is about helping her realise it.”


Kelly Maguire is the PR and Communications Manager for Spotcap Australia and NZ – a Berlin-based global online fintech lender specialising in the commercial lending space. Previously in corporate communications, she initially cut her teeth in journalism at the ABC, and holds a Bachelor of Communications and an MA from the University of Technology, Sydney.


Increasingly now in the Information Age, when we want answers we can find them everywhere. Online we find expert videos, blogs, articles and white papers, and offline there are books, newsletters and magazines. We can connect with colleagues in the office and peers all around the globe. There is a never ending stream of advice, opinions and expertise at our fingertips, at the click of a mouse.

But who can we go to for wisdom we can trust? Where can we turn for experienced advice to help us achieve stronger performance?

In business, the answer is increasingly, mentors.

“Mentoring lets employees soak up character, judgment and approach,” writes Micki Holliday, in the book Coaching, Mentoring & Managing. “It is the opportunity for them to apprise situations and cultivate their own ways.”

Interestingly, the concept of mentoring has been around since the days of ancient Greece. Mentor was the name of Odysseus’ faithful friend who served as teacher and overseer for his son, Telemachus, when Odysseus left to fight in the Trojan War.

To this day, mentors continue to serve as guides and teachers, providing a good, reliable sounding board, opportunity for a second opinion, and support. We learn from their experience, their mistakes and their successes. And we often gain access to their (usually extensive) network of decision-makers.

Working with mentors is generally not only good for individuals but good for the company, as well. “Now more than ever, and in most industries, human assets are of greater importance than physical and financial assets,” write the editors of the Harvard Business Essentials book Coaching and Mentoring. They make the case that neither physical nor financial assets differentiates companies nor confers a long-term competitive advantage, whereas human assets are the source of innovation and value creation. “Thus, organizations have a powerful economic incentive to develop their human assets.”

Finding your Mentor

Though mentors do provide a valuable source of feedback, the mentor-mentee relationship almost always is best if it’s free from evaluation and the subtle hierarchical pressure that come from working with a mentor within your home department or workgroup. Within companies, this is done by working with a mentor from a different area of the business, and one without a vested interest in the outcomes of decisions made by the mentee. And while it may work best to look within your own business, mentors don’t have to come from within a company, nor do you need to wait for an established corporate mentor program to begin benefiting from a mentor relationship. Below is a list of places to get your starting in finding your own mentor:

  • Professional associations: If it’s important to you to have a mentor within your industry, look to people you meet at professional association meetings.
  • Your network: Consider former bosses or professors, relatives, networking group contacts, friends, community groups, etc.
  • Service organisations: Some groups, such as Rotary Club International, offer business mentoring programs. Look around in your city; ask at your local Chamber of Commerce.
  • Others you admire or respect: Make a list of possible candidates before you begin your search. Even if you don’t know them, you may know someone who does and would broker an introduction.

Don’t forget also to spread the word. Let people know you are looking for a mentor and a brief outline of what you are seeking. Ask your contacts to keep you in mind if they know someone who might be available and suitable as a mentor.

Mentors continue to serve as guides and teachers, providing a good, reliable sounding board, opportunity for a second opinion, and support

Managing the Mentoring Relationship

It’s important to be clear on your mentoring goals before proposing a mentor relationship with the person you’ve chosen. Mentors are usually interested in giving back to their community and/or they want to mentor in order to develop skills as a teacher, manager, strategist or consultant. But be considerate about your mentor’s time, they are making a valuable contribution to your development. Mentoring relationships are usually free of charge so remember the adage that you get what you give. Buy your mentor some tea or pick up the lunch tab. Send her information she might consider useful for a pet project or offer help or services. Say thank you. Here are some other tips for working with a mentor:

  • Come prepared to your meeting. Take notes, develop action steps and review both before your next meeting.
  • Be clear about what you’re doing and what you need. Keep to one or two specific, well-thought-out questions, and ask them clearly.
  • Spend most of your time listening. You’ll get the most out of your mentor if you don’t engage in “Why I can’t do that” conversations. You are not obligated to put any of your mentor’s suggestions into action, so listen and take notes.
  • Be personable. Don’t spend all your time picking your mentor’s brain. Make your time with your mentor a conversation rather than a grilling.
  • Be real. You won’t learn a fraction of what you could if you’re trying to impress or skimming over problems. Don’t get defensive if you are given feedback.
  • Think for yourself. Mentors are not there to do your job or to figure everything out for you. Mentors should serve the role of guide. You must accept responsibility for your own decisions and actions.

Be considerate about your mentor’s time, they are making a valuable contribution to your development

Above all, if a mentoring program is to be successful, all parties must agree to maintain the strictest of confidentiality. You will discuss items that are commercial-in-confidence and your mentor will share ideas and experiences that will also be confidential. The mentor-mentee relationship is crucial. It is based upon encouragement, constructive comments, openness, mutual trust, respect and a willingness to learn and share.


Featured image via Pixabay under Creative Commons CC0


Rosalind Cardinal is The Leadership Alchemist and Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, an Australian consultancy, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations. Ros’ expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, organisational behaviour, employee engagement and motivation, strategic direction and management.

For more on developing resilience, visit to pick up your complimentary copy of Ros’ report “Thriving in Change” and to sign up for her free audio series “Thriving in the Midst of Change”.

Ros also runs the Shaping Change Inner Circle, an exclusive membership network for driven leaders around the world who are passionate about making a difference, building successful businesses and leveraging the talents and skills of their people.

When was the last time you invested in yourself not just your business?

As more and more female entrepreneurs (especially solo business leaders) are working virtually, it is easy to feel out of the loop or lonely without the social atmosphere of the workplace environment.

With limited budgets and resources, we tend to put our money towards building our business systems instead of networking and social learning.

No longer do we have to hand around boring business cards over a few soggy cucumber sandwiches, while we “network” at the local community council.

Here are three areas I think you should be investing in to build your personal brand, as well as your business success:

1. Budgets

There are numerous options of workshops, forums, networking sessions, business coaches, online courses, memberships, seminars and conferences available for the small business owner. Many groups have an online presence that makes connection so much easier than even five to ten years ago.

Plan the year ahead to include investing in yourself

Plan the year ahead in your business budget for investing in your own self. Sign up to those programs you are interested in and plan accordingly. For example, attend two conferences a year, monthly local business networking nights or bi-monthly presentation workshops.
Do you need to find an extra client or project to cover the costs of attending the higher priced workshops or seminars? How are you going to find those people?

  1. Networking Events

One the traps I have fallen into over the past year or two, was attending the “networking” events because of a big name speaker, the ‘fear of missing out’ or due to the fact they were in my local area. I didn’t actually think beforehand whether the group was within my business demographic or what I actually want to get out of the presentation.

While big name speakers are inspirational to hear, did you put any of their pearls of wisdom into place once you were back in your office, staring at your computer screen? Did you connect with at least 2 or 3 people at your table you may potentially be able to help in the future?

If there are five accountants in your group and you are also an accountant, are you willing to collaborate and share the work? Or is it a competitive atmosphere, where every woman is to fight – claws out – when work is on offer within the space? Can you deal with that driven spirit within the group or will it be a time and energy waste to work with these people?

Investing within your self is also about the emotional drain some people and situations can impact on your self-esteem. Think about these events before you buy the ticket – what’s in it for YOU, as well as your business.

Business mentorship/coach

Do you have a business coach? You may benefit from someone who is objective and independent to your business to bounce off ideas and suggestions. Someone who can provide a different perspective and clarifies your position. If you are on a budget, set yourself (and them) a set number of sessions to work with and have an agenda before you go to make the most of the time.

Maybe you can connect with a mentor and hold each other accountable for certain tasks, projects or achievements.

Other times you may be paying for knowledge you already know but it is presented in a format you understand and with a strategy to assist your business. Sometimes we just need someone else to tell us what we already know.

Investing in yourself opens your mind to the way other people operate and gives a different perspective on the way we traditionally do business.

We are often re-energised when we meet new people, our business mojo is revived and the emphasis on our self worth improves. Sometimes we just need that extra push to get going, so take this energy and run with it as long as you can.

If you don’t value “you” in your own business, then why should others?

lisa bersonLisa Berson is a freelance writer and copywriter based in south-west Western Australia. Lisa uses words to give a voice to online business owners who lack the time or know-how to engage with their online client base. Her words have been seen on Kidspot, Leaders in Heels and My Child/Parenting Express websites. Loves chocolate, not a fan of broad beans. Check her out at


Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time with people looking for advice about the next steps in their career. Each of these people has wanted something different from me – some have wanted to learn from the steps I’ve taken in my own career and others my opinion on the suitability of various roles and learning opportunities. Throughout my own career I’ve benefited from advice sort from people who had already achieved what I was looking to. Good advice has been essential to my own growth and advancement as well as that of many of the successful people I know.

Mentoring is a personal relationship, a learning and development partnership between someone with vast experience and someone who wants to learn. A trusted advisor or mentor can have a substantial impact on the quality of our choices and ultimately the level of success we are able to achieve. Finding and connecting with the right person is essential to success. Finding people who are willing and able to share valuable insights and guidance is an important opportunity for anyone looking to learn.

Finding great mentors

While you may be fortunate to have family or friends willing and able to offer quality advice, it’s important to look for mentors and advisors outside of your immediate circle of influence:

  • Talk to people who may know people: ask close friends, colleagues, associates and anyone else you respect to suggest people you need to meet. Ask them to introduce you if they can.
  • Participate in networking groups that provide opportunity to form quality relationships. Exchanging business cards isn’t enough – get to know and build authentic relationships with successful people.
  • Think outside of the square – be open minded to where you might find good advice. For example, it may be your uncle’s best friend who has the experience and insights you need to tap into.
  • Trust: throughout my life the right teachers have turned up at the right time. While it’s important to proactively take steps to find people we can learn from, it’s also important to trust you will recognise new teachers when they arrive.

Choose wisely

Regardless of who has introduced you, use your own judgment about the extent to which you should trust the character and capabilities of a potential mentor. Understand the background of the person you are meeting and be clear about how their experience and approach can help you to gain the insights, learn the lessons or make the decisions you need to in you own career.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process. They sit up straight, focus, take notes, ask questions and repeat what they have heard to ensure accurate understanding. Active listeners use non-verbal gestures such as eye contact, nodding, smiling and expressions of concern to indicate their engagement in their conversations.

Look for a mentor who is an active listener. People who listen actively don’t simply sit back; they invest energy in the process.

Commitment. Both parties must follow through on the promises they make. Trust and respect are fundamental the success of any mentoring relationship and the extent to which both parties invest and commit to the relationship will underpin success.

Leveraging a mentoring relationship well

It’s up to you to make the most of the opportunity that comes with having a mentor. Invest time and energy, listen to learn and follow through with the agreements you make with your mentor. For the relationship to have any real influence on your learning and success, its up to you to take the actions necessary to apply the wisdom you gain.

Don’t be afraid to ask for advice about anything you need to learn or improve. There truly is no such thing as a dumb question and if the person you’ve chosen as your mentor doesn’t understand that, it’s probably time to reconsider your choice. Go to any meeting with your mentor armed with the questions you want to ask. Don’t allow fear or hesitation to hold you back from asking what you really want to know.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you. So ask for what you need and take what you can get. Know what you want to gain from the time you spend together and make sure you tell your mentor. The more prepared they are the more likely it is that you will get value from the time and energy you both invest.

Ask for the time you need. People are free to say no if they are too busy to spend time with you.

Be open and willing to share honest insight to your goals and aspirations, fears and hesitations. Only with full insight can anyone be expected to have a positive influence on what you learn and the choices you make. Understanding and influencing the way you think, feel and behave all matter to your mentors ability to play a valuable role in enabling your success.

Have you had any successful experiences with mentors in your life? We’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Featured image: Don’t Let Go.

karen gatelyKaren Gately is a leadership and people-management specialist and a founder of Ryan Gately. Karen works with leaders and HR teams to drive business results through the talent and energy of people. She is the author of The People Manager’s Toolkit: A Practical guide to getting the best from people (Wiley) and The Corporate Dojo: Driving extraordinary results through spirited people. For more information visit or contact


Are you a female currently working in a male dominated industry who is looking for ways to get ahead or stand out from the crowd? We know it can be tough and we know our readers are seeking articles on mentoring and advice on how to succeed in the workplace so we thought we’d go straight to the top to get the best advice.

Sharon Warburton has been smashing glass ceilings in the two sectors with the lowest female participation rates (construction & mining) for more than 20 years. She is currently a CFO, a strategist, a Non-Executive Director and a Not ForProfit Director. She contributes her successes to hard work, cross cultural experience, great mentors and a powerful sponsor. She mentors many and is the founder of the online mentoring site (@Steel__Heels).

Sharon says there are 6 things everyone woman should strive for to become successful in their industry, and she has made them all C words to make them easy to remember. She says:

1. Confidence

Firstly, and in my opinion most importantly, Confidence.

We have to focus on increasing the self-confidence of women in the workplace. The literature says young girls graduate from high school full of confidence. Give them a few years of working in a male dominated environment and my experience is most of that self-confidence has evaporated. I encourage you, regardless of your role, to support the creation of mentors for women from the first day they enter the organisation.

If a mentor does nothing other than halt the evaporation of self-confidence then I believe you will see more women emerge through the ranks. I mentor a number of both men and women. Generally those women have issues with confidence. They are wary of setting goals high and question themselves at every turn. The males on the other hand are brimming confidence and want to formulate strategies to make their big dreams a reality.

Generally those women have issues with confidence. They are wary of setting goals high and question themselves at every turn.

I suspect many of you are familiar with the case studies that suggest that if a male can do 10 % of a job description they’ll apply, whereas if a woman can’t do at least 90 percent they won’t. Imagine if all the women who do this had the support of a mentor to help give them that confidence boost they need to ‘have a go’….

You might be wondering what Steel Heels is all about and why I have created such a a community . This is my personal commitment to increasing the self-confidence of working women. I encourage you to check out if you have not already done so.

2. Courage

My second tip is be courageous. To quote Sheryl Sandberg:

“Have the courage to lean in and take a seat at the table.”

All very well, but what does this really mean? Well it means you need to have the courage to take risks and have a go. And the courage to speak up and be heard. My view is that when it comes to their careers, women are risk averse and in male dominated industries where it’s likely there are no female role models, this issue is magnified. Take it from a Chartered Accountant turned Strategist… take on a role outside of your area of technical expertise or comfort zone and if you need to, be the ground breaker. So what if you think you can’t do 90% – back yourself to learn the rest on the job. I had the courage to take risks, and I encourage you to do the same, particularly early on in your

Courage is most important when something is not right. If you’re stuck in a toxic or negative work environment it takes courage to get out. But the sooner you find this courage, the sooner you’ll find a place in a more positive, engaging environment. That is where I was when I was in the UAE. I made the move to make change and haven’t looked back since.

A mentor recently rang me in an anxious state because she was being asked to falsify an environmental report. I didn’t tell her what to do, she knew what she had to do about it but she needed support to find the courage to do so. Mentoring is invaluable in helping women dig deep to find the courage needed in tough situations.

3. Commitment

Like buying a puppy you are either in or out. There is no such thing as in between. If I gave up the first time a male colleague berated me or made me feel unwelcome, I would not be speaking to you today. On the face of it, I have shown I was thick skinned when often I have felt totally vulnerable. I’ve had to remind myself not to sweat the small stuff and to remained focus on the broader goal.

But commitment is not just about being resilient and giving it a go. It’s also about committing to making our industries and workplaces better. About chipping away at the behaviours and practices, which are less than ideal. Rome was not built in a day and the crusty old builders and miners aren’t going to change their entrenched behaviours or workplace cultures overnight, but we have come a long way and can continue to celebrate further improvements.

But commitment is not just about being resilient and giving it a go. It’s also about committing to making our industries and workplaces better. About chipping away at the behaviours and practices, which are less than ideal.

Having a mentor when you are in this environment is invaluable. They can encourage you to take the time to adjust, not to lose sight of your long term plan and goals and not to throw in the towel when change in not happening at the pace you perhaps first think it should.

I am watching (and supporting where I can) an amazing example of this at the moment. I met a lady who did it tough in her community for many years. She then decided to join up to a VTEC program with an aim to getting a job on the mines. And she succeeded. Now she is trying to make the transition from operator to supervisor and finding it hard. But she is not giving up. She is showing great commitment by reaching out for support and having another crack at moving to the next level. And she is grateful for people who are taking time out of busy schedules to offer support and encouragement. Imagine if all the women in our workplace felt they had this level of support to continue to commit when their short term outlook is hard.

4. ‘Can do’ attitude

When you focus on the positive, opportunities will reveal themselves. As I said before women question themselves at every turn. Their first response is often “I can’t” “I don’t” . We need to adjust this negative mindset and our vocabulary. To view new challenges, roles or volunteering as an opportunities to expand our experiences.

Mentors influence positive mindsets. They can encourage their mentees to give themselves licence to try new things. And to be the person who volunteers to give something new a go. It would have been so easy for me to say no when I was contacted about the FMG Non Executive Director role some 2 years ago now. It was not great timing – my daughter was only 3. My plan had been to wait until she was well settled in junior school before I began my transition to board roles.

My experience is that opportunities rarely, if ever, arise when you want them too. My attitude is to believe you ‘can do’ them then focus on working out the how. I accepted the FMG role in addition to my Exec role at BM and I have continued to maintain a very healthy ‘work / life balance’. Because I believed I could.

Shifting mindset and encouraging positivity are areas I often hear myself talking to mentees about. And it is amazing to share in their energy when they get into top gear. The positivity is infectious and for this reason alone I encourage all the leaders in this room today to do some mentoring.

5. Communication

A problem shared is a problem solved…..

Far too often I hear young women have resigned from the business. In addition to HR undertaking exit interviews I attempt to seek out these ladies and have a chat. More often than not they have been bottling up a raft of issues….. keeping them all to themselves. Then one day they wake up and determine it is just all too hard. So they go and find another job (usually in some project management firm in a desk based role) and resign.

Upon resigning they open up and tell me what has been bothering them. It’s rare that any of the concerns they raise couldn’t have been fixed earlier but often it’s a case of too little too late. I find it frustrating that still we find a culture in today’s male dominated industries where young women feel they have no-one to talk to.

I mentioned earlier than I support the identification of a mentor for women from day one of their careers. This would help encourage more open communication and enable us as leaders to address the concerns of today. To the women here today I encourage you to find someone in your organisation you can talk to about your concerns, fears and frustrations. If you can’t identify someone within your organisation then find someone externally.

To leaders focus on creating an environment where any member of your team, regardless of seniority, feel they can approach you. We hear about ‘open door policies’ all the time but do we actually do it or just talk about it?

You don’t want me to start on the gender pay gap, but I will say this. There are so many things that employers, especially in WA, should be doing to eliminate this gap. However females need to take the lead too by finding their voice (and again some courage) to say what you are worth and asking for that pay rise. Negotiate hard and if you are feeling nervous, get support from your mentor.

There are so many things that employers, especially in WA, should be doing to eliminate this [gender pay] gap. However females need to take the lead too by finding their voice (and again some courage) to say what you are worth and asking for that pay rise.

I appreciate that speaking up is not always easy in a room full of male builders or miners. But mentors can provide tips on how to speak up, how to not be afraid to ask questions and to share what has worked best for them. I often take internal mentees with me to some meetings so they can see how I lean in. For one of my more introverted female mentees support in this area has been invaluable and she has found her voice and is kicking goals as a result.

6. Creativity

My final tip is be creative. Invest in yourself and make your own luck. As I have already said it is very likely in today’s male dominated industries that you won’t have female role models in the jobs you aspire to do in the short to medium term. But I always viewed this as an opportunity. And there remains lots of great opportunities for talented driven women.

I encourage my mentees to identify roles that interest them within their organisations and to pursue them. And if nothing appeals, to create a role. Many years ago I was offered a role in another company not long after joining Multiplex. I joined Multiplex in an accounting role and I was bored with accounting. So I met with my boss and said I wanted to move out of accounting, saw an area of opportunity and put a role description on the table for what I wanted to do.

Essentially I created a new role supporting the Deputy CEO. I called it General Manager – Operations Support, Mergers & Acquisitions. Notwithstanding that I had a fallback position of an interesting role with another company I was committed to the business so I took the risk, adopted some creative thinking and put forward what I really wanted. The rest is history – that was the start of a successful career in strategy.

So there are my six tips – confidence, courage, commitment, ‘can do’, communication and creativity.

What are your best tips for working in a male dominated workplace? Tell us in the comments below!

Sharon Warburton by Shaun PattersonSharon Warburton is the founder of Steel Heels, the 2015 NAB Women’s Agenda Mentor of the Year and 2014 WA Telstra Business Woman of the Year. And most importantly, she is Mum to 5-year-old Chloe.



Photo credit: Telstra

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.

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.

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

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