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2020 Awards

The 2022 Awards 
for Excellence in 
Women’s Leadership

Belinda Hazell MBA CF on Leadership

Belinda Hazell MBA CF is the 2021 recipient of the Tasmania 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. In recognition of International Day of Rural Women, we wanted to reshare this interview with Belinda, who is leading the way for so many other exceptional women leaders in rural, regional and remote communities across Australia.Tell us about your leadership life to date? Like many, leadership is about what inspires you – and others – to achieve a common goal. For me, this inspiration has grown from involvement in the primary industry sector. Having started work for an horticultural exporting company at a young 15.5 years (immediately from graduating year 10), I floundered until joining the Rural Youth Organisation of Tasmania. This organisation gave me the confidence to reach and explore different opportunities such as exchanges to New South Wales and Sweden. I held various club, regional and state position until family and farming responsibilities became priorities.In 1994 I joined the newly formed Tasmanian Women in Agriculture (TWiA), holding various roles until appointed as Chair from 2016 to 2020 and now as Emeritus Chair. I am Deputy Chair of Freshcare Limited (Australia’s largest assurance program for fresh produce, providing food safety, quality and environmental standards), Director of Rural Business Tasmania and Deputy Chair of the Environmental Protection Authority in Tasmania. In 2014, TWiA recognised me as an Outstanding Contributor to Agriculture.In 2018 I was awarded a Churchill Fellowship to investigate the use of horticultural QA Standards to stay ahead of social license demands – this is where my focus on #howandwhywefarm was born – inspiring farmers to tell their stories about how and why they grow their produce. My aspiration is to advance the standing of primary industry both at a State and national level. Our farmers are critical to the health and wellbeing of our nation and are essential for our future food security – they produce safe, quality, nutritious and sustainable food for our communities to enjoy. They are quiet achievers and deserve more recognition from Australians for what they do. What is your proudest moment as a leader?Delivering resources focused on addressing sexual harassment in the rural workplace. A national survey conducted in 2018 found that 93% of women working in agriculture have been sexually harassed in some form and I am one of these statistics. Speaking up or remaining silent about workplace bullying and harassment are decisions faced by workers daily. SafeWork Australia reports that one in three women and one in five men who claim to have a mental disorder stated it involved bullying or harassment in the workplace. Australia’s rural sector has a culture of male dominance and isolation which increases the likelihood of bullying and harassment, particularly against women. As the then Chair of TWiA, I coordinated a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission into sexual harassment in workplaces as I believe that the rural sector was not adequately represented. I also collaborated with industry stakeholders to obtain project funding from Workcover Tasmania on a project to review existing bullying and harassment resources and initiatives with the aim to develop practical guidance tools and behaviourally based training specifically focused on rural workplaces to prevent, respond and reduce the harm of sexual harassment and other forms of bullying and harassment.In Tasmania, a TWiA survey conducted in 2018 found that 3 out of 4 women report being been sexually harassed in the rural workplace in some form. This issue is not gender specific, but the fact remains that women are mostly impacted. Commissioner Jenkins also said the results revealed that formal reporting of workplace sexual harassment continues to be low, with only 17% of people making a report or complaint.Alarmingly, research undertaken by Associate Professor of Law at the Australian National University, Dr Saunders, finds that 70% of rural women employed in rural workplaces that were interviewed said they had witnessed a colleague being harassed in the workplace. Clearly the increasing trend and pervasive nature of sexual harassment in workplaces needs to be addressed. There is a lack of transparent processes for those people experiencing or witnessing unwanted behaviours. In Tasmania, TWiA survey results show that rural workplaces need to reassess the methods used to identify and deal with sexual harassment, and that many rural workplaces do not have any policies or procedures in place as a preventive measure. They have limited to no information on their legal obligations and how to respond to complaints, let alone have a contact person available. They are not aware of what is required to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and can also be worried about the costs of recognising and acting on incidents – or indeed, failing to act. Victims are faced with the decision to permanently leave the sector due to inappropriate behaviour as the harasser is generally a peer or in a position of power; or they are unable to access resources to help. Victims can also face long term psychological impacts. Rural workplace impacts include an increase in absenteeism and/or staff turnover, lost productivity and poor workplace culture. Who are some of your inspirations as a leader? My triplet sisters (Allison Clark and Caroline Brown) are essential to my sense of self – they inspire and challenge me to be a better and different person, always looking for ways to benefit others. They have been with me since the early days of Rural Youth and are there when I need to find a way.In her political career, Julie Bishop delivered strong, clear and decisive leadership particularly as Foreign Minister and Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. She remained steadfast in her role particularly with challenging issues facing the country at the time. Even though many women in leadership roles are criticised for their appearance, Julie Bishop inspires me – she always looks amazing and confident. If I could walk a mile in her awesome shoes I would be happy!Rosa Parks – she was an American activist in the civil rights movement, best known for her pivotal role in the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, where she refused to give up her seat to a white man. Her actions inspired the bus boycott; the United States Congress called her “the first lady of civil rights” and “the mother of freedom”. Rosa Parks became a nationally recognised symbol of dignity and strength focused on the struggle to end racial segregation. She showed that leadership can come from any person, not just the privileged few. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?At a TWiA State Gathering in St Helens, Brigitte Muir spoke about how she started her career in mountain climbing. She said on her first climb she found herself in a difficult spot and felt she couldn’t continue up. Her partner told her ‘there is no such as can’t – you just have to find the way’. This advice has stayed with me and in difficult situations, I endeavour to think outside the line of sight and work to find an alternative path.For those of you who have not heard of Brigitte - in 1997, Brigitte became the first Australian woman to summit Mount Everest and the first Australian, male or female to climb the Seven Summits (the highest summit on each of the continents). In 1998 she published her autobiography, The Wind in My Hair. Following her career in mountaineering and adventure, she now leads community building treks in Eastern Nepal, where she started a women’s literacy and empowerment program. How do you give back to women in your field?I am currently the Emeritus Chair for Tasmanian Women in Agriculture. This volunteer organisation was established in 1994 to create visibility for women working in regional, rural and remote Tasmania. It connects, supports and celebrates women in Tasmanian rural communities and industries. Together with the Executive Team we are working on providing opportunities to network and support each other, encourage and empower women to realise their full potential, advocate and represent them and their rural communities, provide opportunities to gain and share knowledge, raise their profile as part of a forward thinking and vibrant agricultural industry that is vital to our Tasmanian economy. In the last year we have worked on a range of projects to keep the organisation connected during COVID-19 disruptions. These initiatives have included online Paddock Talks, training for farmers to take their products online On Farm to Online, a virtual conference Gathering in the Cloud and initiatives to support #buysomethingtasmanian – connecting Tasmanian consumers with locally sourced produce. What are you advocating for now? Addressing sexual harassment in rural workplaces remains the key priority. There is a lack of understanding of what sexual harassment, bullying and harassment actions are, how it should be treated and managed. In 2020 we launched our campaign with three contextualised videos and simple resources for rural workplaces to use. This campaign included a nationwide media campaign that ran for 1 month. You can see more information here. What does winning the Tasmania Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership mean to you? It such a great feeling to be recognised, particularly as I represent the rural sector. We are generally quiet achievers who just get on with the job. The Award confirms for me that what I do matters and is valued by my peers. It has also been a great source of pride for my three young adult daughters – I want to inspire them to achieve in their own way. I hope that I can use the Award to promote women’s achievements and leadership opportunities as well as open doors to future prospects for myself and also promote what can be achieved in the rural sector in Tasmania and more broadly.

Creating a culture of clarity: expert tips for effective conversations

Do you ever leave a conversation with a colleague and feel like you aren’t quite sure what you were discussing? You might feel like you don’t have the full picture of what they were trying to convey. This is quite common - but nonetheless it can make it hard to gain clarity and communicate clearly and effectively in the workplace.As a leader, there are things you can do to recognise and address these confusing conversations, creating clarity for yourself and your team. We spoke with Paul Larkin, Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach at WLA, about what to look out for when conversations become clouded.Generalisations occur when someone makes a sweeping, all-encompassing, everything or nothing statement. For example, ‘everyone’s unhappy about that decision.’ While this is a concerning statement that needs to be addressed, it is unlikely that every single person is totally unhappy about a decision.Distortions occur when we take information and add meaning to it that may not be there. For example, a team member may look at their phone while someone is giving a presentation. The person presenting might take that gesture to mean that this individual does not care about the work they have done, or does not find it interesting. This may be the case – or there could be a family emergency, or an urgent alert. However, the person presenting has applied their own meaning to the action, and this is when a distortion occurs.Deletions occur when a crucial piece of information is left out. For example, ‘this is important.’ Who is it important to? Why is it important? Another example is ‘there’s no time.’ No time for what? Why is there no time? Most of the time, this will be clear. However, in situations where it is not immediately clear, or where further information is useful, it is important ask follow-up questions to truly understand what is going on.Blinking words are words that have multiple meanings, or that may lend themselves to different interpretations. Paul explains that often, there is ambiguity in a statement that needs to be addressed. But by identifying blinking words, you can ask further questions to figure out precisely what someone is saying to you.“For example, someone says, ‘The culture of this place is not healthy.’ Many people would either simply agree or disagree, aligned with their existing point of view,” explains Paul.“But by using generalisations, distortions and deletions, and by looking for blinking words, we can recognise that there is a lot in the statement that demands clarification, for example: where precisely is ‘this place’? Is it the company, department, team, city, country? What precisely is meant by ‘culture’? What precisely is meant by ‘healthy’? By recognising that there is a lot of ambiguous information in the statement, we can become curious and invite the person who said it to share some of their thinking more deeply.”In the above example, the words ‘culture’ ‘place’ and ‘healthy’ are all blinking words. To fully understand your colleague’s meaning, you need more clarity around what all these words mean to them.What happens next?Using high quality advocacy and inquiry techniques will allow you to clarify the issues and prompt your colleagues to communicate more clearly. Questions like:Who doesn’t agree with this decision?What is it about the culture here that is unhealthy?What does a positive culture look like to you?Who is this important to?Could it mean something else? Are you sure? By understanding generalisations, distortions, deletions and blinking words, and asking the right questions, you can help both yourself and your team to communicate effectively and with clarity.How will you use this information to communicate more clearly? Share with us in the comments below!

A new way of thinking: Systems thinking for leadership

As leaders, we need to look at the big picture to identify challenges and support our team to find productive solutions. We sat down with Paul Larkin, Senior Facilitator and Executive Coach at WLA, to discuss how systems thinking can allow us to strategically address issues for our teams.What is the difference between systems thinking and systematic thinking? Paul uses a frog analogy to explain the difference to the leaders he coaches.“If you wanted to understand a frog systematically, you’d take it to the lab, put it to sleep and methodically dissect it, learning about each part of its makeup in a linear, structured fashion,” he explained.“If you want to understand the frog’s system you’d go to the pond where it lives and observe how it interacts with its environment, what it eats, what eats it, how the nearby farms that fertilise their crops affect the ecosystem in which the frog lives etc. We see the bigger picture of the frog, how it is interdependent with other parts of the system in which it lives and how small changes can effect big change,” Paul concluded.So, rather than following a set process to look at individual parts, looking at something using systems thinking allows you to take a broader view, and identify the interdependent and external influences that can have an impact on the system and its parts that we want to understand. It’s about observing the environment – ecologists and economists are examples of professions that engage in systems thinking.Why don’t I already use systems thinking? As leaders, we are often thinking and problem-solving systematically. Taking action to resolve an issue is usually praised and seen as an indicator of positive influence and performance. There is nothing wrong with solving problems in a systematic fashion. But some problems are more complex and cannot be dealt with as readily.Systems thinking affords us an approach for working with complex problems in creative and sometimes counter-intuitive ways.How can I use systems thinking to create positive change in my organisation? By using systems thinking, you can step back from day-to-day problem solving, and consider the root causes of problems. You can identify interdependencies and understand the bigger picture.Paul uses the example of an IT department in a big corporation. Their team set KPIs around how quickly IT issues were resolved (90 percent of issues being fixed within a day). While this was an important measure, the team was focusing on ‘fixing’ problems, not on ‘eliminating’ problems – that is, addressing the causes and preventing the problems happening again.By taking a systems thinking approach, the team was able to shift their mental model and improving their performance. The team’s KPIs switched from the percentage of problems fixed to the percentage of problems eliminated, and within just a couple of months achieved a 70 percent reduction in problems and associated cost.This example highlights how a shift to systems thinking can increase productivity and solve recurring issues.How can I move into a systems thinking mind-frame?Taking a wider look at your organisation or team is the first step towards systems thinking.“Mentally stepping back and observing what is going on is crucial,” Paul explains. “Talk to people who are new to the organisation and who are not yet imbued with the culture and mental models that come with it – fresh eyes with different perspectives are critical.Paul also encourages leaders to have open conversations with teams: “Have a conversation with your team that explores their thinking, beliefs, mental models and values that inform how the team operates. Find out why they do things a certain way. Looking at other sectors and organisations with similar issues can also be a huge help.“Consider how success is measured in the organisation, as this often determines how people respond to different situations. There is a saying which goes, ’People will do what you ask them to do. Make sure you ask what you really want.’ What gets measured gets done. And over time, it creates beliefs (mental models) about what is the ‘right’ way to do the job.” Paul explains.What are some tips for systems thinking? The following, although not exhaustive, can provide some ways into addressing issues with a systems thinking approach:Identify a recurring problem in your team or organisation – look for patterns in results and people’s behaviour, individually and collectively.Look for interdependencies; how different parts of the system interact and affect other parts.Explore processes, performance measures and decision-making criteria to try and surface the team or organisation’s beliefs, values, and mental models (which is extremely challenging, involves many conversations and can prove the most fruitful).Do not expect easy or immediate results. Systems change usually involves many people, often with different agendas, to engage in dialogue and work together to achieve a common outcome. Is there an issue in your team that you can address using systems thinking? Share it with us in the comments below!

Explainer: What is the Gender Pay Gap, and where does it come from?

By Jane GilmoreThis 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.The gender pay gap is one of those things that is both simple and complex at the same time. The official national gender pay gap figure, which is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA), is currently 14.2 per cent.WGEA takes data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and works out the difference between what men and women earn for full time work (excluding overtime and bonuses) and express it as a percentage of men’s earning.So, very simply, this is how WGEA calculated the Gender Pay Gap on the latest data from August 2021.Average Weekly Full Time Ordinary Earnings:Men: $1837Women: $1575.50Difference: $261.50Divided by men’s earnings: $261.50 / $1837 = 0.1423Gender Pay Gap = 14.2%The method is reasonable if we’re trying to understand whether there is a difference in what men and women earn for the same hours of work. But if we’re trying to understand the difference in gender based economic security, we need to look at the bigger picture.Many women, especially women with children, do not work full time over their entire lives. Additionally, overtime and bonuses are not shared equally between men and women.Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that of parents with children under six years old, 94 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women are in the workforce. Of those parents who do work, 60 per cent of mothers work part time, compared to 8 per cent of fathers. And 48 per cent of mothers with children between the ages of 6 and 14 are still working part time.Taking time away from work, or reducing working hours, means women have fewer chances to increase skills and experience, which affects career progression and promotion opportunities. It also means women are making lower superannuation contributions during their child raising years.Additionally, female dominated industries, such as childcare and administrative work, are among the lowest paid in the country. Male dominated workforces tend to be much better paid. The intricacies of this are complicated, but it mostly boils down to what is perceived as “women’s work” is undervalued and underpaid, while still requiring high levels of skill and dedication.The accumulated lifetime effects of women’s underpaid and unpaid work are proven in the drastically disproportionate superannuation balances at retirement age.According to not-for-profit organisation Women in Super, Australian women retire with 47 percent less superannuation than men. Around 40 percent of older single retired women live in poverty.If you’re a woman reading this and you find it scary, you’re right to feel that way. The Covid-19 pandemic put pressure on all the forces that impact women’s working lives. Women lost more jobs at the beginning of the pandemic and were more likely to return to casual jobs when they did get work again, which makes them more vulnerable to job and income losses in future lockdowns.Women in all age groups were also more likely than men to withdraw their entire balance under the emergency superannuation access scheme in 2020, and women overall withdrew a greater proportion of their superannuation than men. Women over 50 were already the fastest growing group of homeless people in Australia and this will only get worse as housing affordability worsens and older women have less superannuation to pay living expenses when they stop working.Fixing the gender pay gap is a monumental task, but it’s not impossible. We need government to make policy that encourages parents to share the paid and unpaid work of raising children equally. We need businesses to actively engage in looking at their own gender pay gap, which means doing an internal audit of how much they pay everyone in their organisation and whether there is a significant gender difference in their senior management. WGEA provides a number of tools businesses can use to evaluate their gender pay equity and start to address it.We can’t change something we don’t measure, so often the simplest way to start is to measure what’s happening in our own organisations. At the very least, it gives us a place to start and demonstrates a willingness to act. That is no small thing.Jane Gilmore was the founding editor of The King’s Tribune. She has a Master of Journalism from The University of Melbourne and is now a freelance journalist and author, with a particular interest in feminism, media and data journalism. Jane is the creator of the FixedIt campaign, which highlights victim blaming and erasure of male violence from news headlines. Her book FixedIt: Violence and the Representation of Women in the Media was published by Penguin Random House in August 2019.


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