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2021 Awards

Natasha Stott Despoja on Leadership

Natasha Stott Despoja AM is the 2021 recipient of the National Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. We had a chat with her to find out about her leadership life, her biggest inspirations, and what she is currently advocating for. Tell us about your leadership life to date?My school and university life always revolved around student representation and advocacy. I was a proud activist and advocate at university: I still believe that education is the great equaliser and that education should be publicly funded and accessible to all. It leads to a more enlightened and democratic society. I was proud to take my place as the youngest woman to ever enter the Federal Parliament when I was 26. It was important to me to show young people and women generally that our experiences and lives deserve to be reflected and represented in parliament. I have had a number of formal leadership roles, including as a national political party leader, all of which have taught me a lot about the differential treatment of men and women in politics as well as our perceptions of women as leaders. Throughout my leadership journey I have found double standards apply to men and women in public life and in politics especially. I was subject to ridiculous and demeaning stereotypes throughout my parliamentary career. I look forward to the day when this is no longer the case.I am also wary of defining leadership only in the sense of formal leadership roles: leadership is a mindset: that you, and your actions, can make a difference. I believe that real and lasting improvements to our world-- require us all to be leaders – within our families, with friends, in workplaces and our communities.  What is your proudest moment as a leader?As Leader of the Australian Democrats, I was proud to introduce cutting-edge legislation, such as Australia’s first national paid parental leave legislation. I was proud that I always stood up for the things I believe in even when they were not always popular including opposing regressive policies that demonised refugees and asylum seekers, paternalistic legislation that targeted Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and changes to the Family Court that have made women’s and children’s lives worse. I have always been a proud feminist and my commitment to gender equality has been lifelong…and will continue to be.Who are some of your inspirations as a leader?Many women around the world, from Angela Merkel to Malala Yousafzai, Lowitja O’Donahue to Hilary Rodham Clinton. I also derive a lot of inspiration from unsung heroines and take heart from the next generation of leaders: I love the new movement of young people who are calling out inappropriate behaviour, championing social justice and refusing to deal with injustice and discrimination. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?Always stand up for what you believe in.  I am also a great believer in networks – be it friends and family or like-minded colleagues and campaigners. It is so hard to fight every day for things you believe in without support.How do you give back to women in your field?In any way I can. Where I can I provide financial support and resources be it donations or support. This week, I am excited to celebrate 16 years of my scholarship at The University of Adelaide. It is for women in the humanities who need help with their fees. I also try and meet with women and provide some personal advice, networking where I can. My working life has been about promoting women’s rights and supporting women. We don’t always get it right but I try. I was taught very early by my single parent mother, Shirley, that’s it not enough to succeed or achieve, we have an obligation to make it better for the next woman and for all women.What are you advocating for now?My daily work revolves around primary prevention of violence against women and children in Australia, but I combine that with my international work through the Committee on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (CEDAW) at the UN which involves safeguarding and protecting women’s rights as well as progressing these rights through Member States around the world. I am involved in a number of not for profits including ActionAid, Carrie’s Beanies for Brain Cancer and Global Citizen, Girls Takeover Parliament and the Fay Gale Centre at The University of Adelaide, so all my work is underpinned by a commitment to social change and social justice.What does receiving the National Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership mean to you?I share this with the many women who work every day to keep women and children safe. It is a generous acknowledgement which I value greatly. It means so much to me to have the issue of preventing violence against women recognised in this way. It propels me to work hard for the rights of women and girls, especially those from disadvantaged and under-represented backgrounds.Natasha will accept her award in Canberra at the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium. Find out about the event here.

Lt CMDR Kelly Haywood on Leadership

Lt CMDR Kelly Haywood is the 2021 recipient of the ACT Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership. We had a chat with her to find out about her leadership life, her biggest inspirations, and what she is currently advocating for. Tell us about your leadership life to date? I joined the Navy 24 years ago and have the absolute pleasure of leading teams at sea, ashore, in war zones and at home in Australia. My most recent leadership role (and probably the most rewarding) was as the Navy Women Strategic Advisor. Outside of Navy, I am also the founder and manage a mental health initiative called ‘Choose to Live; Love your Life’.What is your proudest moment as a leader? Most definitely the significant changes we have been able to make in recent years in the Navy Women space. We have established several initiatives that have directly impacted the retention of our women in Navy. These include the Navy Women Mentoring Program, the development of a Navy Handbook on Pregnancy and Support to Navy Parents and revised policy on Breastfeeding in the Workplace. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing others succeed and the opportunities we have provided to our women such as speaking courses and external developmental opportunities have enabled this.Who are some of your inspirations as a leader? Jacinda Ardern, Michelle Obama and so many amazing humans leading the way in our ADF.What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given? Back yourself, be kind to yourself, ask for help when you need it.How do you give back to women in your field? Everything we do in the Navy Women space is about giving back to those coming after us and making sure our people feel valued, supported and respected. We give back by ensuring our people are recognised, empowered and have the courage and confidence to do all they set out to achieve in their careers.What are you advocating for now?I want to continue to give back and make change where change needs to be made. I would love to continue to build on the amazing work already happening and make sure our people have every opportunity to succeed.What does receiving the ACT Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership mean to you? The award means everything. I am so incredibly passionate about the Navy, the ADF and our people. I want to be able to show what can be achieved whatever path or career you choose and the difference you can make when you find your purpose. My purpose is helping others.Lt CMDR Haywood will accept her award in Canberra at the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium. Find out about the event here.

Navy Women’s Expert Mentor Program available to all

The Expert Mentor Program , created by Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) to support the Navy in their gender equity work, is now available for all people in Australia who wish to contribute to gender equity in their industry and organisation.The program was created in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, as part of their initiatives to support more women to take on entry level, middle and senior leadership roles within the organisation.LEUT Kim Green from the Directorate of Navy Culture, said of the program, “the Navy Women’s Mentor Program links Navy personnel of all ranks, categories, primary qualifications and experience, from across the country through a virtual mentoring framework where the support and development of all Navy people is a priority. Navy views mentorship as a key enabler to retention and capability and as Navy continues to grow our female participation rate, the mentoring program is seen as a key enabler for gender equality and future gender parity.“The inaugural first round of the Navy Women’s Mentor Program was well received with over 200 personnel registering for mentorship. As the mentoring program matures, we are seeing an increased demand for future participation which is a fantastic outcome for Navy and our people.”The program has now been adapted to assist current and aspiring mentors in all industries to maximise their approach, in order to provide meaningful professional and personal growth to their mentees.Suzi Finkelstein, CEO of WLA, said of the initiative; “We have done so much meaningful work with the Navy. The impact of this program inspired us to adapt this program for all industries. We want to ensure women across all industries and sectors can benefit from this best-practice mentoring program.“Mentoring is a powerful tool for enabling gender equity and breaking down stereotypes. Good mentors have no agenda other than assisting their mentees in reaching their own goals. They aim to provide a safe, confidential space for their mentees to explore new ideas, and an unbiased sounding board to test their assumptions.“And for the mentor, the relationship can build confidence, provide opportunities for self-reflection, and generate a sense of satisfaction in supporting emerging women leaders.​“The Expert Mentor Program imbues mentors with the skills required to facilitate learning, connection and advancement for the mentee.”Chief Petty Officer Zoe Mack, who participated in the Navy Women’s Mentor Program said that “throughout working with my mentor I have gained insight into different opportunities available to me that I hadn’t previously considered. My mentor encouraged and supported me to tread my own path and facilitated a space for me to be unapologetic with my ambitions. Discussions with my mentor have propelled me, shaping my career into something that fulfils me and helped me find strength in non-traditional paths.“The Navy Women’s Mentor Program has not only assisted me in having clarity of my own professional career path, but has also given me the confidence and the skills to support the younger generation of Navy personnel to develop theirs.”The Expert Mentor Program is a one day, online, immersive program. Facilitated by Women & Leadership Australia, participants will spend the day learning from WLA’s expert leadership facilitators and subject matter experts. You can see more about the program and enrol here.

The Mentor Diaries: Tracey Spicer and Nicole Iligoueva

To celebrate the launch of the Expert Mentor Program, WLA Connect is bringing you a series of interviews with mentor/mentee pairs. These interviews aim to shine a light on the benefits of being a mentor and mentee, the qualities that mentors and mentees find useful, and what both parties most enjoy about their relationship. This interview focuses on Tracey Spicer and Nicole (Niki) Iligoueva, who were connected through the Media Diversity Australia mentoring program.More than ever, we need to support women to step into leadership roles. The Expert Mentor Program will help you develop the skills to be an exceptional mentor and champion emerging women leaders in your industry and organisation. Find out more here.What are some of the benefits of being a mentor? Tracey: I'm extremely inspired by the intellect, energy and broader world view of the women I mentor. After working in difficult environments in the media for more than 30 years, I'm heartened to hear from these strong young women about their determination to speak out about discrimination. I always feel re-energised after a mentoring session. Truly, I learn as much from my mentees as they learn from me. It's a symbiotic and collaborative relationship.When you are looking for a mentor for yourself, what qualities do you look for? Tracey: I look for someone with solid values, who's encountered barriers or challenges in their careers. Everyone has their own ways of overcoming hurdles, so you can build a toolkit of strategies. I also look for someone with patience! Working in quick turnaround news environments for most of my life means that I like things to happen quickly. One thing I need to learn is that change takes time.What can a mentor do to make sure that both the mentor and mentee are able to make the most of that relationship? Tracey: Listen! It's more important to hear what your mentee is saying, rather than to talk all the time. Also, be led by your protégé. This empowers them to make their own choices.What are some of the most important lessons/pieces of wisdom you have learned from a mentor? And what makes them so important?Niki: I think the best nugget of wisdom I’ve received from my mentor is that we all have our moments and it’s okay to mess up sometimes. In the context of journalism, audiences want relatability and realness, so if you just be yourself, learn from your mistakes and continue to put yourself out there, good things will come your way.Just remember to take deep breaths, try your best and ask for feedback so you can improve. This was an important piece of advice because realising that it's okay to fail or not know things actually alleviates pressure and encourages you to get out of your comfort zone and move forward.When you get the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, what sort of mentor would you like to be? Niki: One that acts with empathy and genuinely wants to see their mentee grow. Trying to upskill or find work can be a lonely process, and having someone there to listen, believe in you and help you take the necessary steps to achieve your goals can make all the difference.If I were a mentor, I’d also like to identify and keep at the forefront what the mentee would like to gain from the relationship, to ensure that it is being utilised as efficiently as possible. This could include organising regular catch ups to discuss intention, progress and what can be done better on both sides of the relationship.What can a mentee do to make sure that both the mentor and the mentee can make the most of that relationship? Niki: Be real with your mentor about your struggles so that they can properly identify how they can help you, and also ensure that there is a clear line of communication and that you’re being appreciative and respectful of your mentors’ time.About Tracey: Tracey Spicer AM is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers and emcees in the region. In 2019 she was named the NSW Premier’s Woman of the Year, and in 2018 chosen as one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence, winning the Social Enterprise and Not-For-Profit category. You can connect with Tracey here.About Niki:Nicole (Niki) Iligoueva is a Sydney-based freelance journalist, film fanatic, foodie and fellow book nerd. She loves telling stories that matter and is currently producing for FBi Radio's flagship politics and current affairs show, Backchat. You can connect with Niki here.About the Expert Mentor Program: The Expert Mentor Program (EMP) has been designed to assist current and aspiring mentors to maximise their approach, in order to provide meaningful professional and personal growth to their mentees. The EMP will provide participants with a dynamic, peer learning experience which is highly collaborative and responsive. The program is delivered online over one full day. The day is broken up into three high-impact, live sessions with breaks in-between. Each session is designed to foster rich dialogue and debate between participants and facilitators. Participants will also be provided with a digital workbook to support their learning.Have you ever been in a mentor/mentee relationship and would like to share your tips? Let us know in the comments!


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