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Extending Your Table: Cultural inclusion in leadership roles and beyond

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges women face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyone.‘You can’t be what you can’t see’.This saying is significant in the diversity sector. It reminds us to appreciate the value of role models to young people, especially young girls, who look up to women they wish to emulate. While this is great for some, the reality is that most leadership roles are still occupied by people of Anglo Celtic descent, with little space given to people from different cultural backgrounds.If we stop to think about the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon which has and continues to plague the assent of women into leadership positions they have earned, imagine the scale of obstacles for women with coloured skin, head coverings, foreign names, and accents; a veritable reinforced steel ceiling is the sad reality.We know the hollow argument historically brought forward by naysayers in referencing women’s appointments, that ‘quotas’ should be discarded because ‘merit matters most’ – has been successfully debunked as women have shown repeatedly they are amply able to turn up, excel and get the job done – cue Gillian Triggs, Julia Gillard, Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern and others.By the same token, inclusion, and promotion of diverse women of colour (WOC) becomes an area of previously unchartered conversation that warrants attention. In a 2021 report, one in three WOC felt their workplaces were not culturally safe while 60 per cent reported experiencing racism at work. Experience shows me that WOC lack neither the talent or capacity to succeed – merely the opportunity. Australian women leaders with influence are in a position to recognise and tap into this, and they should – because the ripple effect in elevating communities benefits us all.Ways to show allyship with WOC is to practice the art of cultural intelligence. This can be achieved in multiple ways, including:diversifying the way we market, recruit, and retain employees;interrogating the ethnicity pay gap that can drive real progress and action;delivering more progress through education and mentoring; andempowering WOC networks to play a key part enabling change. By limiting the inclusion of all women in the workplace, we short-change ourselves because we inhibit the full potential of our colleagues.There is more than a fiscal benefit in hiring a diverse workforce – there is a moral imperative, too.Not only does research prove the more varied a cohort of workers, the more enriched solutions can be, it stands to reason that when our workplaces resemble the communities and society we live in, we can and do deliver a product more attuned to our clients.In Australia, where one in three of us is either born overseas or has a parent born overseas, (in some states almost one in two) we are faced with a reality that diversity is very much ingrained in the DNA of Australia; this is who we are.  By extension, if women comprise 50 per cent of the nation’s population, we can and should be doing better with metrics in representation. Does your workforce resemble Australia’s cultural demographic today? If not, why?When we hear about the concept of being an ally we rightfully assume it embodies the notion that a person shows solidarity for another, without expectation or gain, holding space for the otherwise sidelined minority.  First Nations spokesperson Carly Stanley has posited we progress this idea from ally to accomplice, as the latter infers a more conscious role in the facilitating of opportunities for WOC.  This has an affirming tone to it. In the same way we know that it is not enough to not be racist, but to be actively anti-racist, so too should our support be progressed actively, and not passively.Actioning these ideas by making space for those outside the mainstream within your workspaces, will be a challenge. More often than not, that challenge will emanate from the comfort of privilege you yourself may have held without question – or even awareness – for the longest time. Acknowledging the lack of diversity in your workplace is an uncomfortable reckoning for many and it is certainly easier to turn a (colour) blind eye to it and hope the injustices dissipate. But they will not.  I need to tell you that it is okay to feel uncomfortable and that to sit in youe discomfort is a small price to pay in the evolution of social change that a shift in culture necessitates.Discomfort soon becomes comfort as it leads to growth, which leads to success. Trust in the collective good of the diversity of the sisterhood and live the mantra that if your table is full, extend it. Else I can assure you, these WOC will make their own table and it will be impressive. By Tasneem Chopra OAM. A cross-cultural consultant, Tasneem Chopra OAM addresses issues of diversity, equity and inclusion across organisational leadership, including intersectionality, within government, corporate, arts and community sectors. You can find out more about Tasneem here. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

How to overcome complex decision fatigue

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how you can manage your day to overcome complex decision fatigue, a phenomenon that is more prevalent than ever as we grapple with carers load and the associated impact in workplaces.What is complex decision fatigue?Have you ever noticed that your ability to make decisions dwindles as the day goes on? It’s easy to attribute this to being tired, but it’s actually more involved than that – every time we make a decision, our ability to consider our options and potential consequences depletes a bit. Complex decision fatigue refers to the effect that decision making has on our cognitive state. The term was coined by Roy Baumeister, a social psychologist, to demonstrate the emotional and mental strain that is created by making multiple decisions throughout the day.Interestingly, researchers have found that with smaller, routine decisions, our ability to make decisions is not greatly depleted. It is when we must focus on more complex or less routine situations that our capacity to make decisions can begin to fade. Over time, complex decision fatigue can also lead to stress, headaches, irritability, and increased anxiety.Signs of complex decision fatigueThere are several signs to look out for that might indicate that you or your team are struggling with complex decision fatigue: - Procrastination - Impulsivity - Avoidance - IndecisionTips for overcoming complex decision fatigue:There are many things you can do to minimise your risk of experiencing complex decision fatigue.Automate your less complex decisionsBy having a work uniform, planning and preparing your meals in advance and creating a predictable routine before and after work, you minimise the amount of decisions you have to make each day. Even though these decisions are less complex, they still save brain space for more complex decision making. Optimise your scheduleDo you feel freshest first thing in the morning? Try to keep it free, and use that time to strategise, plan and make decisions. Conversely, if you find you think more clearly in the afternoons, prioritise that time for complex thinking and decision making. Leave your more mundane or ‘routine’ tasks for times where you feel tired or need a break. Practice positive wellbeingWhile our capacity to make complex decisions is depleted BY making complex decisions, you can still take steps to proactively increase your ability to think critically and decisively. Eating well, sleeping and having rest times will help you overcome complex decision fatigue. While prioritising your wellbeing is sometimes the last thing on your mind, it really couldn’t be more important. Use these tips to reduce fatigue and increase your energy and enthusiasm at work. WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Celebrating the leadership, strength and spirit of our Indigenous women elders

This blog is part of our Expert Commentary series, bringing you insights into some of the unspoken challenges women face in the workplace, from experts with lived experience. The series explores a range of topics and perspectives to highlight the ways inclusive and compassionate leadership practices can benefit everyoneI distinctly remember as a young child, that I was surrounded by Indigenous women leaders. My grandmother, Ethel Saveka (nee Morrison) raised me and my twin sister from the time we were six weeks old. It was the early 1970s, and although the child removal policy was technically abolished, it was still commonplace for mixed race children, like my sister and I, to be removed by the state. We were very fortunate and blessed to have been raised by such formidable women as our Akas (grandmothers). As children, we were always busy working, travelling, planning, preparing for events and cleaning. Endlessly cleaning up! My grandmother and many others in our large Torres Strait community in Cairns, North Queensland, were very industrious women. Many of the Akas like Maryanne Morrison, Serai Lowah and Mana Morrison had husbands working on the Coral Sea as Skippers and Captains of lugger boats with crews of young Torres Strait divers, hauling all manner of produce from the reef. Those elder women in our communities managed large and extended families for months on end without their husbands.The Akas were always planning events and as a child, I never quite understood it.  They worked together to bottle coconut oil and products made from palm leaves. I distinctly remember a childhood spent sat at the end of a coconut scratcher, grinding a half coconut against a metal comb jutting out from a small timber seat.  The white flesh of the coconut would fall into a basin under the scratcher and this would either be scooped up for that evening’s meal or sent two doors down to Aunty Serai’s house.  Needless to say, us kids were thin, from days, months and years of endlessly scratching coconuts. Much later in life, I learned that all that coconut scratching was mainly to bottle coconut oil for sale to tourists and the money raised by our Akas would go towards purchasing more houses for the cooperative.  My grandparents, Asera and Ethel Saveka were co-founders of that Indigenous business way back in 1975. Younger men in the community would regularly deliver palm tree branches, the fronds of which would be deftly removed and individually stripped, de-spined and cleaned. The spines of those leaf fronds would be bundled together to make ‘island brooms’ to whack the dust out of carpets and to sweep floors – far superior to modern vacuum cleaners. The stripped palm leaves would be piled up and distributed to other Akas and Aunties in the community to weave into baskets, hats, floor mats and ornaments, all products made for sale from our little community store. In fact, it was less store, and more home.By 1975 and together with their relatives, my grandparents established the Kozan Housing Cooperative through the 1975 Indigenous Home Ownership Program (IHOP). They started with four little houses in a Bungalow. When the men in the community were at sea, the women raised money to grow the little housing co-op through their micro-enterprises. They produced cabaret nights with entertainment by ’The Grapevine’ a rhythm and blues band created by their sons. They sold hand sewn frangipani leis and coconut damper at Fun in the Sun festival stalls and they made traditional skin care oils, food and gifts that were sold to tourists and locals alike.  The housing co-op created short-term accommodation for Torres Strait families often rejected from hotels and motels and it created long-term rentals for families rejected from real estate agencies. Today the co-op has its own headquarters and a portfolio of more than 30 houses.The female leaders in my family were some of our earliest Indigenous women entrepreneurs. For my Aka Ethel Saveka, and her peers, an opportunity to sell coconut oils, frangipani leis and palm weaved mats turned into a housing cooperative that has sheltered disadvantaged families for over 46 years.  Something for which we, as her descendants, are justly proud.As my elders did back then, and so many of us do today, Indigenous female leaders often work tirelessly without fanfare, taking every opportunity to keep families and communities alive, while simultaneously pivoting around all the barriers and challenges placed in our way.My grandmother’s line today counts over 130 descendants across three generations – and ours is a small family in comparison to many Indigenous communities. Consequently, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women often evolve naturally into leaders because of the sheer volume of offspring whose survival depends on their nourishment, nurturing, guidance and ultimately their survival instinct.That First Nations custodians have survived for over 60,000 years is a testament, in part, to the strength and resilience of our Indigenous women leaders. Yet today, more than any other demographic in this country, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women bear the legacy of overwhelming disadvantage.  We experience some of the highest rates of unemployment, discrimination in the workplace, financial abuse and domestic violence.  Worst of all, Indigenous women today represent the largest cohort of prisoners in the country, comprising approximately 34 per cent of the total number of female prisoners, despite making up only two per cent of Australia’s total population.For a demographic that has never mounted a brutal resistance, we remain disproportionately subjugated.Leadership takes many forms and for Indigenous women, we often draw strength from our many elders and ancestors who themselves have overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to leave a legacy or rather a template of success that we may followAccording to Wiyi Yani U Thangani (Women's Voices) a report commissioned by June Oscar AO, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner since 2017, “… our women on the ground know what they are talking about, that they are leaders, survivors, teachers and healers. They carry with them a wealth of inherited, lived and learnt expertise….”I’m more than convinced that empowering Indigenous women “on the ground” will be the single most disruptive innovation this country has ever seen.Once we as a nation value that “wealth of inherited, lived and learnt experience”, once we as a nation, tap those rivers of innovation that continue to lie dormant through lack of opportunity, we as a nation can and will transform. By Kat Henaway.Kat is a Meriam/Mua Torres Strait Islander and German woman who has gained significant experience working in multinational organisations in Sydney, London & Edinburgh over the past 20 years. She has worked for some of the world’s largest private sector companies including Vodafone Hutchison, Arthur Andersons, ABN Amro, Société Générale, Ernst & Young and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer. In the public sector, Kat has worked for The City of Edinburgh Council, the UK Pensions Regulator, City of Sydney, UNSW and UTS. Kat gained a Bachelor in Community Management at Macquarie University and completed an Incubator Start-Up at the School of Social Entrepreneurs where she developed Blacademics.com, a website for Indigenous people navigating university. In the women’s development space, Kat worked with UN Women Sydney Chapter and is currently Board Director for Women for Election Australia. Her latest venture is Women’s Business, an enterprise that connects women of colour to leadership opportunities.Kat is passionate about empowering marginalised women. We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

How to be a trauma informed leader

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how the principles of trauma informed leadership can support you and your school community. What is trauma informed leadership? Have you ever struggled with your wellbeing and engagement at work after an unexpected or traumatic event? If you have, you’ll know that the kind of leader you work with has a big impact on how you recover.Trauma informed leadership enables you to lead in a compassionate, inclusive manner, that ultimately empowers those you lead to grow through a traumatic event. It emphasises nurturing leadership that builds trust and empowers the resilience of your team, and the organisation more broadly. Adopting trauma informed leadership strategies will help improve staff retention as well as health and wellbeing in your organisation. There are five key principles to trauma informed leadership: Safety Choice Collaboration TrustworthinessEmpowerment  What does trauma informed leadership look like? In times of disruption, leaders need to switch from ‘business as usual’ leadership and adopt a more collaborative and encouraging style of leadership, to foster positive connections and culture. Using trauma informed leadership principles will enable your organisation to heal, learn, adapt and excel, even in the face of adversity. To be a trauma informed leader, you should:- Practice the five trauma informed leadership principles above. This can be achieved by consulting and collaborating with all members of your team.- Foster a supportive environment for your team. You can do this by actively listening, taking action on people’s concerns and actively including individuals in work and social activities.- Ensure psychological and physical safety. Enable this by fostering a ‘no bullying’ culture, not just among your team and the organisation, but also in suppliers, agencies and contractors you choose to work with. Listening to and believing employees when they come to you to report incidents or express their concerns is also important. - Use adaptive leadership skills. This can be achieved by thinking outside the box when presented with an issue, being flexible and helping members of your team to embrace uncertainty. - Try to understand individuals in your organisation holistically. This is an easy one; making an effort to gently enquire about the weekends, evenings and any hobbies and activities of individuals in your organisation will give you a holistic view of them, both as they are in the work, and beyond. Not only will this increase your rapport and social capital, but it will also allow you to better understand their actions and response to different situations.- Offer support. Having an ‘open door’ policy will encourage your team to come to you if they ever need support. Make sure you have an in-depth understanding of the support that the organisation itself can offer, and also other community groups or services that might be able to help. When we think of trauma, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a broken bone, or PTSD that is the result of a dramatic, unforeseen, terrifying circumstance. However, the nature of the pandemic over the past few years has caused trauma and unrest for a great number of us. By practicing trauma informed leadership in your organisation, you will provide a safe space for people to re-engage with the work, and to heal and move forward.  WE NEED MORE LEADERS LIKE YOU​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Leading through disruption and into the future

The coronavirus pandemic – and the response that has been required by leaders in all sectors – is truly one of the most pressing challenges we have faced in our time. Many of us are experiencing serious ‘carers’ load’ and ‘vicarious trauma’ as a result of the challenges presented at work and home.This series of ‘recharge’ blogs explores themes and models that you can refer to in times of stress, to replenish your leadership capacity. In this blog, we look at how you can find the positives and lead productively out of disruption.What is disruption?Put simply, disruption is change. Often, it is characterised by unplanned, or significant, change. While COVID is the most discussed disruptor at the moment, the principles of leading through disruption can be applied more broadly – from environmental disasters, like bushfires and floods, to significant social change, like the Black Lives Matter movement, or #MeToo. One of the most important things to remember about disruption is that over time, a lot of good can come from it.What are some of the negative effects of disruption?Unfortunately, the disruption caused by COVID has had a significant impact on the energy reserves and wellbeing of leaders and employees. Research over the COVID period has found that 2020 was the most stressful year in history (1), with burnout levels increasing by 12 per cent in a single year (2). On top of that, nearly half of employees who worked from home reported that their mental health and wellbeing had declined. (3)These statistics go some way to explaining why leaders and employees more broadly are reporting decreased leadership capacity, burnout, and disengagement with their roles.How can we move forward?If we can find it in ourselves to look past the exhaustion of COVID, we can already see some effects that will help us move forward positively. Research has already told us that there has been a sharp increase in digital literacy skills across the global population (4), and that the dissolution of the ‘formal’ work environment has created a more ‘human’ culture in work environments (5). Both of these elements offer us opportunities to optimise the school environment.  How to lead through disruption: There are a few ways to lead positively through this disruption:Create a safe space You can create a safe space for people in your organisation to express their concerns in almost any environment. Making time for private one on one conversations online, over the phone or in person is one way, or gathering with small groups at a time. Having a regular all-staff meeting where people are openly invited to ask questions and raise concerns is another way.Communicate frequently with your team Understanding and utilising different communication channels on a regular basis will help your team feel connected and informed, reducing anxiety and fear about things that are ‘unknown.’ A regular update via online ‘team’ channels, and making time for regular chats in an informal setting are two ways you can stay connected and reduce stress for your team, and the organisation more broadly.Invest in opportunities that will enable your organisation to harness the new skills they have learnedReminding your team that they learned and achieved during the pandemic will help them to overcome a potential sense of loss, after two years of disruption. Giving them opportunities to put their new skills to good use in the organisation reminds them that they did achieve something tangible – and gives them something to be proud of. 1. Gallup, 20212. Glint, 20213. Qualtrics, 20204. McKinsey, 20215. The Conversation, 2021 We need more leaders like you​You're here because you care about being the best leader possible. We're here to support you at every stage of your leadership journey.For more leadership news, plus event updates and expert tips, subscribe to our mailing list.

Replenish your leadership capacity

“If you’re a leader at this moment in time then I don’t need to tell you how hard it is – finding a way to replenish and refocus isn’t any longer just a good idea, it’s a critical survival skill,” says Women & Leadership Australia CEO, Suzi Finkelstein.Investing in ourselves as leaders has never been more important than it is right now: as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, help our teams and organisations create a ‘new normal’, and plan for a brighter future.More and more, leaders like you need personalised, one on one coaching to reignite your passion for leadership and figure out what lies ahead for you.Women & Leadership Australia’s Replenish Coaching Package has been designed to support leaders to be at their best in the midst of the most disruptive upheaval of our times. This tailor-made coaching package is the perfect way to reinvigorate your leadership approach in readiness to take on new challenges and opportunities.The Replenish Coaching Package utilises a rigorous, best-practice approach to coaching which adheres to the code of ethics established by the International Coaching Federation.Here are some benefits of leadership coaching for you and your organisation:Feel inspired and energised:One-on-one leadership coaching gives you the space to step back from your current responsibilities and challenges and remember why you became a leader. Making space for yourself to appreciate your ‘why’ helps you feel energised and inspires you to continue with your leadership journey.Personal coaching that addresses YOUR issues:When you are working with a personal leadership coach in a one-on-one setting, you don’t just get general advice. You receive personalised guidance and expert support in a safe and confidential setting. Discuss your challenges, overcome your insecurities, and be supported by an expert who is there to help you.There’s a real return on the investment:Studies from the International Coaching Federation show that there is an average return for businesses of four-to-eight dollars for every dollar invested in personal coaching for leaders. This is due to an increase in productivity of around 86 per cent for organisations who invest in personal coaching for their leaders, compared to 22 per cent increase in productivity for leaders who undertake group-based leadership development programs.Create your priorities and find your path forward:After the upheaval of the past two years, knowing what to prioritise and figuring out your next steps can be hard. Gain clarity and focus with your coach, and create a plan that feels authentic to you, leaving you motivated to embark on the path ahead.In the same way that a great sports coach is integral to enabling peak athletic performance, a leadership coach enables great leadership by providing an opportunity for leaders to experiment, learn from mistakes and ultimately grow. Invest in yourself with the Replenish Coaching Package today.

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