Michael: stop thinking about reasons why you can't do it
There is a common misconception that Women & Leadership Australia’s events, particularly the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium, is for women only. And fair enough - the majority of our speakers are women, as are our delegates, and it does have ‘women’ in the name.
Regardless of this, we not only welcome men into these environments, but actively encourage them to join us. These events are about women, and women in leadership, but that does not necessarily mean they are only for women.
Michael works in the mining industry at South 32, and was sponsored by his employee to attend the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium held in Perth earlier this year. We had a quick chat to him about his experience of the day, what he learnt and whether he would tell his male colleagues to come along next year.
WLA: What prompted you to come along?
Michael: I was moving into a new role in my organisation; a leadership role. There are around 250 people in my department and only a small percentage of them are women. I know enough to know the value of diversity and I want to overcome those issues. So for me, I wanted to develop a pathway to success for women in the industry. I was also fortunate that there was a lot of support in my organisation for me to go, and we ended up sending 32 people.
We’re really focusing on diversity and inclusion in our workplace. It just makes a workplace more engaging and more enjoyable. Importantly, by having a more diverse workforce you add more value in terms of good ideas and different views. So I was there to learn.
WLA: How did the day go? Did it meet any of your expectations?
Michael: I was really impressed by how positive the environment was. There was no resentment or anger. There was a lot of hope, excitement, determination and support. And it wasn’t boring at all, and some conferences can be very dry.
All of the presenters had a story that was really relevant to everyone, not just to women. It was really good to hear it firsthand. I came away with a better understanding of what needs to be done, what is required of me as a leader and what we should do to change things.
WLA: How did it feel to be in a room that was mostly female? Did you have any reservations about that?
Michael: I was a little nervous about how it might go, and what people might say. But my work was really supportive and really encouraged me to go along. And as I said, the inclusion team at South32 were really keen to send men along as well as women, so that was great.
WLA: We know that men like yourself are some of the best advocates for workplace equality. What would your advice be to men who want to help advance gender equality in their workplace or industry but aren’t quite sure where to begin?
Michael: I think you just need to try harder, and look for things you can do to help. Stop thinking about reasons why you can’t do it. Get out of that ‘it’s too hard’ mindset. Take small steps and actively seek out women who you can promote and support. You just need to genuinely and enthusiastically embrace it.
I now see myself as an enabler for women in my workplace. I want to find ways to help women enter the industry and then rise up to leadership levels more seamlessly. I think maybe that is why I wanted to attend the symposium in the first place.
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