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2020 Awards

The 2021 Australian Awards for Excellence in Women's Leadership

Nominations Open

Nominate a female colleague, leader or manager for their vision, courage and hard work.

Get to know Suzi Finkelstein

Suzi Finkelstein is the CEO of the Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM), which is the parent company of Women & Leadership Australia and Women & Leadership New Zealand. We asked her a couple of questions to get to know her a bit better as she celebrates six months in her new role.Tell us about your role as CEO of ASAM?I have just celebrated my 6-month milestone as CEO. Stepping up into this role at the beginning of a pandemic was an epic decision!  ASAM delivers leadership education under six separate brands; Women & Leadership Australia, Women & Leadership New Zealand, Women & Leadership International, National Excellence in School Leadership Institute, and Government Public Sector Learning.What do you love about your job?I am passionate about social equity. I believe there are many systemic challenges, particularly in Australia, but one arena that can build capacity and opportunity is via leadership education and social capital. This is the foundation of all we do, and our purpose is to affect positive change.What is your greatest achievement?Stepping up into this role during a pandemic is an achievement that I’m really proud of. I am relishing this dedicated space to influence and build a culture that is constructive and deliberately developmental. I am committed to people and purpose and I truly gain from the mutual recognition and reciprocity that this cultivates.  Thankfully I am surrounded by good people and I don’t stand alone.If you weren’t in your current career, what would be?I would like to be the SBS host of Insight, one of Australia's leading forum for debate and powerful first-person stories. Weaving stories together whilst respectfully highlighting the differences is appealing because of the dynamic complexity which unfolds in real-time.What is the best advice you’ve ever heard?I often share these wise words from Madeleine Albright, the first female United States Secretary of State: `Women can have it all, just not at the same time’. On a daily basis, I witness the fatigue of women trying to achieve so much all at once. I also witness the frustrations and the disappointments, often followed by disengagement when it all becomes too much.As women, and as a society, we need to recognise our individual life stages because they impact our capacity. If I could speak to my 21-year-old self, I would reassure her that there is a time for everything and to respect the natural order.If I could have any superpower…It would be the ability to hear others thoughts. I am an incorrigible people watcher, fascinated by reactions, interactions and altercations. To understand what makes people tick would be fascinating. I have an education background which led me to coaching and facilitating, all of my work is underscored by my belief in people. Getting inside their head (literally) would take me steps forward in increasing compassion and capacity.

Nominations open for the Australian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership

Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) is proud to announce that nominations are now open for the 2021 Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.The awards recognise individuals who, through the visibility of their actions, have significantly advanced the standing of and opportunities for women, with the intention of further advancing equitable access for women in all facets of society.Suzi Finkelstein, CEO of WLA and parent company, the Australian School of Applied Management (ASAM), said of the awards; “We believe that providing ongoing opportunities for women’s achievements and contributions to be recognised and celebrated is essential. The Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership are an opportunity to recognise women who, by virtue of their actions, create opportunities for other women to advance in all areas of our society.”Nominations close on the 29th of November at 5pm ADST. One National Award will be presented, as well as awards for each state and territory. More information and a nomination form can be found here. The winners will be announced in early 2021.This year’s winners were: National: Nova Peris OAM OLYQueensland: Ash BartyWestern Australia: Dianne Smith-Gander AOSouth Australia: Annabel CrabbAustralian Capital Territory: Georgiena Whelan AM CSC and BarNew South Wales: Dr Kerryn Phelps AMVictoria: Jamila RizviNorthern Territory: Priscilla AtkinsTasmania: Cr. Zelinda Sherlock ENDS.For media enquiries please contact: Abby Alexander, aalexander@wla.edu.au, 0481210055About WLA: Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) is a private leadership and management education provider offering innovative face-to-face, blended and online training for junior through to executive women managers across all industries and sectors. WLA offers a wide range of courses and events in areas such as leadership and management, staff wellbeing, gender equity and team effectiveness. WLA delivers high-quality learning solutions across all Australian states and territories. Further information about WLA is available at www.wla.edu.au.About Navitas: Navitas Pty Ltd is an Australian global education leader providing pre-university and university programs, English language courses, migrant education and settlement services, creative media education, student recruitment, professional development and corporate training services to more than 70,000 aspirational learners across a global network of over 120 colleges and campuses in 24 countries each year. Further information about Navitas Pty Ltd is available at www.navitas.com.

You know your values, but what about the people you work with?

Values are a very personal, important thing to a lot of us. Ensuring that we both know our values, and are true to them, is incredibly important- particularly for leaders who are aiming to be authentic.However, how do you know that your values are coming through in your actions and are demonstrable to the people you lead? It can be hard to step out of your own actions, thoughts and feelings and instead think about how others perceive you. One of the ways we tackle this in our leadership programs at WLA is to look at the front and the back of our T-Shirt.The premise of the model is that you take the front of your T shirt, and write your values down. They might be things like honestly, equality, trust, calmness, fairness- the list goes on. Then you think about your actions, and HOW you lead. What actions do you take, what response do you give, what is your tone of voice, your body language? And then you ask the question; what would the people I lead, see on the back of my T shirt?As you walk away from these interactions, if the people you lead had the opportunity to guess your values and put them on the back of your T Shirt, what would they write? Would they match the front of your T Shirt? Would some of them match? None of them?Of course, you can never really know. But it is a useful lens to view your past actions through, and also an impactful tool for planning actions, decisions and interactions that come up during the day. Activities like open ended ‘walk and talk’ sessions with people you work with can also help you to find out how your actions are perceived, if you create a space where you are comfortable to ask the question and your colleague or friend is comfortable to give a truthful answer.Being an authentic leader is so important. Authentic, consistent leaders create a culture of trust, honesty and openness, leading to increased team cohesion and better wellbeing for your team members. Taking the time to ensure that your actions match the front of your t-shirt gives you and your team confidence that you lead with integrity.​

Advisory Board: It’s not about snapping back to pre-pandemic norms

The months since the pandemic hit Australia have seen women’s workforce participation shrink for the first time in years. Concerted action and a gender lens are needed in policy and practice to stem the erosion and build a fairer future, according to discussion at the latest WLA Advisory Board meeting. The crisis has led many organisations to cut their diversity and women’s leadership efforts. At the same time, recent cases of sexual harassment in blue chip companies show many workplaces remain dangerous environments for women. Mobilising evidence and using the strength of collaboration – across government, academia, business, and in communities – is now crucial to addressing the crisis for women in this country, the board agreed. Planning how WLA can provide that information and support most effectively in the future was another core topic at the meeting. With job losses, domestic violence and mental health issues rising dramatically, safety and support have also emerged as key themes at the WLA symposiums this year.At a macro level, the impact of the last few months has been very slowly gaining government recognition of the need for a gender lens on programs and social infrastructure.Board members pointed out that talking to government about reform and developing new policy settings is a priority.It’s not about snapping back to pre-pandemic norms but snapping forward - and the Snap Forward Feminist Policy Network has been established to ensure a coalition works on these steps, the board added.There’s a lack of women at the table and we’re paying the price for that with programs and policies that fail to take women’s needs into account. More examples were needed of the difference women’s leadership makes.With some attention being paid to women world leaders such as Angela Merkel and Jacinda Adern, there is an opportunity to develop a strong rationale for women’s leadership which now needs to be clearly seen and its value articulated, the board agreed. Another broad area ripe for a major overhaul is childcare.  As one board member pointed out, paradoxically there has been no gender lens applied to the current system, which is not working or supporting women.  Looking at ways to drive policy around it is essential.On a day to day basis, there was clear evidence of areas that are crying out to be addressed in such tough times. The pressure of caring for and schooling children at home is forcing women to cut their hours to cope. One board member noted that in her organisation, the majority of employees asking for reduced hours were women.There’s evidence the pressure to work differently and more from home potentially has a big downside for women. More women have less choice about returning to the workplace and can end up finding themselves further excluded from dynamics and opportunities.Domestic violence issues are also impacting women, and mental health issues are taking a toll on many. For most women attending WLA events this year, the grind of coping with daily casual sexism and discrimination remains a problem. There were often reported problems with meetings and interruptions, or failing to have their input recognised or rewarded. Participants were revealing much more vulnerability and sharing stories because they were in a psychologically ‘safe space’ Suzi Finkelstein said. Casual sexism is clearly still a big problem, with tactics and advice in demand from attendees.Particular challenges in the current environment include online meetings and communications. While the board heard that even a CEO has less cut through in Zoom meetings, it was also clear that women at the symposiums felt online can be a fairer forum in other ways.The discussion also covered how the crisis was affecting marginalized groups. According to one member, it has been a mixed bag for Indigenous employees: some entrepreneurs and women accessing micro financing are not faring too badly. Some of this has to do with congregating in certain sectors, mainly mining, construction and infrastructure where there have not been as many job losses, and some of these sectors are scaling up, for example domestic tourism.Another board member noticed that there is still an appetite for networking and further education. Demand for online events and mentoring has been consistent and some members are looking at upgrading their skills or studying to improve their employment prospects.Particular areas to target include providing more information about superannuation as early access is a topical issue for women. Social media platforms can be utilised too – and help in providing information on sexual harassment from experts like Kate Eastman QC and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins. Some key suggested actions following the board meeting include: Targeting every State Minister responsible for women and equip them with the facts, and ask them what they are doing in these key areas. Men in related government roles should also be included and accountable in this.Further collaboration between WLA and other industry, government and not for profit organisations with aligned values and remits. Sharing of expertise is critical at this time. Correcting misinformation and challenging assumptions and expectations around traditional gender roles. Finding ways to highlight the efficacy and extraordinary benefits of women leaders, at times like this and also in more general settings.  A quick note: Advisory Board member Adam Fennessy has been appointed the Victorian Public Sector Commissioner and took up his new role in July. Adam spent 2 decades in the Victorian public sector before joining EY as a partner in 2017. He is a Male Champion of Change and a strong advocate for diversity and fairer workplace practices.  Adam joined the AB late last year and provided valuable insights and practical advice on the work that can be done to transform workplaces. Unfortunately his new position means he will no longer be able to sit on the Advisory Board but he continues to support the work of WLA.​

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