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Grants available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women leaders

Women & Leadership Australia has announced full attendance grants for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women to attend the 2021 Australian Women’s Leadership Symposium Series.Women & Leadership Australia CEO, Suzi Finkelstein, said, “The purpose of the grants is to ensure the views of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women are represented at the events and help support the development of strong and effective leadership across Australia’s Indigenous communities.“The grants will be awarded to current and aspiring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women who play active roles at the community, local or state level, and who would otherwise be unable to attend the Symposiums due to a lack of funding or employer support.”The Australian Women's Leadership Symposiums are a national series of events focused on the experiences of women in the contemporary workforce. Held annually, in every state and territory, the Symposiums have been running for over ten years and have become the most highly attended women's leadership events in the country.The Symposiums are a valuable opportunity for female leaders to come together to hear from an exceptional line up of inspirational guest speakers and explore topics including gender equality, leadership, career advancement and life fulfilment. Women from every sector, industry, background and level attend the Symposiums each year, and this diversity allows participants to learn from each other’s experiences and be empowered to move forward on their leadership journey.The 2021 Symposium series will feature a number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander speakers including: Florence Drummond, Evonne Goolagong Cawley AC MBE, Antoinette Braybrook, Leah Cameron, Steph Tisdell, June Oscar AO, Asha Bhat, Kat Henaway and Cathy Freeman. More speakers are yet to be announced.Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women who wish to attend the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposiums can apply for a full attendance grant on the Women & Leadership Australia website.For more details, please contact: Abby Alexander, Media and Communications Coordinator, Women & Leadership 210 055 OrKellye Hartman, Marketing and Communications Manager, Women & Leadership

What’s on your recovery rocket?

Look, I am not a big believer in balance.I am a believer in balance being an admirable goal, one that should you find it, will probably mean you live a much happier, healthier life. I have just spent so long searching for it that I am sure I am running out of places to look. And this is coming from someone whose biggest responsibility outside of herself is a kelpie. (Perhaps I could have found balance in a greyhound?)I lamented this problem to a much wiser colleague of mine, who is in possession of two golden retrievers, a husband, adult children, and, if memory serves me correctly, a cat. Rather than clipping me over the ears and telling me to get on with it, she took the time to introduce me to the Recovery Rocket. I looked at it with the requisite apprehension, but delightfully, there was nothing on there that seemed unattainable.Essentially, the recovery rocket provides a model for maintaining a baseline of mental wellness over a year, and then gives you activities to do during the week to top up your engine fuel. It was originally designed by an organisational psychologist called Andrew May, who created the model for the Australian Cricket Team.For your baseline, the model recommends:300 nights of good sleep (7 + hours of unbroken sleep) every yearOne big stretch break or ‘off season’ (a good week or two on holidays)Three mini breaks (long weekends in different locales)10-15 minutes of ‘slow time’ every day (going for a walk, preparing veggies for dinner, meditation, etc)30 weeks where you accumulate 100 recovery points. What are recovery points? Recovery points are points that you get for doing activities that you enjoy. Each has a certain number of points attributed to it, and the aim is to do enough activities each week to accumulate 100 points.In the model, points are attributed to massages (50 points), going for a walk (20 points), talking with a friend on the phone (15 points) and so on. However, you can make your own up instead.For instance, I have my weekly dance class racking up a solid 30 points for me every week, along with walking my dog on the beach (20 points), walking along the beach with my friend (10 points), sitting down to do some crochet or other craft activity (10 points), watching a few episodes of my favourite show (10 points), getting takeaway (15 points), dinner with a friend (20 points) and playing a video game (5 points).What I like about the recovery rocket model is that it is set up for success, rather than failure. To tell someone that they need 365 nights of a solid seven hours sleep every year in order to live a well-balanced life is, frankly, rude. One hour of meditation every day is somewhat excessive for your average executive and you won’t always rack up 100 points every week. And with this model, all of those things are okay. There’s no need to beat yourself up because you only managed 80 points one week. One night of tossing and turning doesn’t automatically mean you have failed for the remainder of the year.So, I have a challenge for you all. This week, sit down and make a list of 10 activities you enjoy, that are easy to fit into your week. Give them points based on how refreshed or rejuvenated you feel at the end of them. And next week, see if you can make it to 100 points.What will you put on your recovery points list? Share your ideas in the comments below. ​

Recipients Announced for the 2021 Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership.

Women & Leadership Australia (WLA) is proud to announce the winners of the Australian Awards for Excellence in Women’s Leadership in 2021. Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AO is the recipient of the National Award, in recognition of her leadership as an advocate for women and girls over a number of years.Ms Stott-Despoja AO is joined by Marina Go (NSW), Carly Findlay (VIC), Dr Jeannette Young PSM (QLD), Lt CMDR Kelly Haywood (ACT), June Oscar AO (WA), Patricia Waria Read (SA), Belinda Hazell CF MBA (TAS) and Erica Gibson (NT).Ms Stott Despoja AO said of the award, “What an honor to be acknowledged in this way and join such distinguished previous recipients and share it with this year’s wonderful cohort.“In this Covid era, the leadership of women – from different backgrounds and all regions — should be celebrated. This crisis has disproportionately affected women and girls everywhere and one of its worst affects is the increase in gendered violence. My message is that we can all play a part in eliminating this scourge.“There are so many people working to end discrimination and abuse so this award is in honor of them all.”Suzi Finkelstein, Chief Executive Officer of WLA, said of the award, “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 society.“Ms Natasha Stott Despoja AO has been a positive role model for women and girls across Australia for many years. From her time in politics, and now as an advocate in her role as the Founding Chair of Our Watch, Ms Stott Despoja AO leads a worthwhile cause with both compassion and conviction.“Furthermore, our state based recipients represent a broad cross section of the community and are all women who exemplify outstanding leadership. These awards continue to prove that leadership exist everywhere, and that we need to do more to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing women leaders in our society. We are so honoured that this inspiring group of women will be joining us to receive these awards this year.”The awards were launched in 2014 to increase visibility of outstanding Australian female leaders and build momentum for gender equity in leadership positions across all industries and the broader community. The awards are nominated by members of the WLA community and presented to recipients at the Australian Women’s Leadership Symposiums, which are held annually in every state and territory in Australia.

Kamala Harris made history on January 20th. So did Douglas Emhoff.

On the 20th of January, a bit before midday (they were ahead of schedule and, frankly, who can blame them?) Kamala Harris was sworn as the 46th Vice President of the United States of America.

How to Handle Your Inner Critic

Most of us have an inner critic. They’re a little voice in the back of your head that makes you think twice about what you are doing, have done, or want to do.This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; we have all witnessed the malarkey that comes with a leader whose inner critic is totally and utterly absent.  People with no self-doubt can be somewhat destructive and feel they are more invincible than they are. Questioning your actions and opinions is actually a really important part of being a leader.However, when your inner critic moves from a valuable sounding board (are you 100% sure about those figures?) to a bully (‘There’s no way you got those figures right, you must have stuffed up,’) it’s important that you have the skills to put it in its place. Because while critical thinking, careful consideration and checking in with what you are doing every now and then is a good thing, constantly putting yourself down is another thing altogether.Here are a few ideas for managing your inner critic:1. Give it a nameAustralian musician, Clare Bowditch does an excellent job of this. Her inner critic is called Frank. And when Frank is getting her down, Clare simply says to herself; ‘F off Frank,’ swiftly putting Frank back in his place. Personifying your inner critic is an excellent way to distance yourself from that self-doubt.2. Keep a ‘wins’ fileRecently nailed a brief? Keep it. Glowing praise from your boss on a project you worked hard on? Keep that too.  Keeping comments, projects and results you are proud of on hand to have a look at when you doubt yourself is really important. They serve as a tangible reminder that your inner critic is wrong, and that you really can and will do a good job.3. Find a sponsor, mentor or office buddy to back you upWhen you are feeling a bit like a fraud, unsure of yourself or doubting your worth and value in your role, check in with a friend that you know will boost your spirits. Someone who will remind you about all the incredible things you have achieved and will be able to talk you out of a negative pattern. If you don’t have this person in your office, find someone like a mentor or sponsor who you can call on when you need to.4. Remind yourself that half the population isn’t worrying about this.Overwhelmingly, people who struggle with imposter syndrome, or who have to battle daily with their inner critic, are women. Remind yourself that Jeff in finance and Andrew in marketing are likely not wringing their hands over whether they are good enough to be in their role, or have done a good enough job on their report/presentation/article etc. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but we know from studies that the majority of employees who doubt their worth and capability are women. Take a deep breath, and do what you know best.5. Acknowledge its concerns, then move onIf your inner critic is constantly pestering you, undermining you, or pulling you up on the same thing over and over again, take ten minutes to sit with it and see what it is that it is most worried about. Acknowledge the concern, and then move on. Once the concern is acknowledged, and something is put in place to rectify it (if necessary) you can move on- and also remind it that now everything has been addressed, it should move on too.

2020 in review for Women & Leadership Australia

A webinar about Adaptive Leadership was one of the first events we ran this year at WLA. Fitting, isn’t it? If nothing else, this year has been a masterclass for us all in being adaptive leaders.

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,, 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 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

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.​