Could thinking like a woman be the key to leadership in STEMM?

December 7, 2022
women in STEMM

How many times have you heard the advice that for women to get ahead in the workplace they need to act more like men? But what if being more yourself was actually the secret to success? Alison Jordan, Head of Workplace Technology at CitiPower and Powercor, thinks so. As a progressive leader in her field, we asked her what she believes can really help women advance in a career in STEMM.

Diversity in senior leadership

Alison believes that seeing women and other less-represented groups in executive roles not only inspires others to aim high but creates a more inclusive working environment throughout the whole company. Having a range of perspectives and opinions across all levels she says can strengthen the overall success of the business too, keeping it fresh and continuously moving forwards: 

“Diversity is important for the outcomes of any organization. Having diversity at the top is possibly the most important because it shapes the thinking, culture and strategy that can really drive change.”

Embrace the differences between men and women

Recognizing the different strengths men and women can bring to the workplace can sometimes still seem like a controversial idea. But for Alison, it’s time we started fully appreciating that those differences can be hugely beneficial and should be celebrated!

“I think women absolutely think differently to men! It’s so important that people start to realize that a woman in an executive role can bring just as much – if not more – to the table than their male counterparts.” 

Alison says it’s time we get rid of any prevailing negative gender stereotypes – for both women and men – and instead realize that everyone has their own unique leadership style. This, in turn, can create a more collaborative environment at all levels, where everyone feels valued and heard.

women in STEMM

“To be frank, I think the struggle is that men often seem to see women in senior roles as overly emotional, and women then think they need to lean away from that and act like men. What we really need to do is get to the point where being yourself is what is considered valuable and important. This will drive more modern strategies in the workplace and allow for a range of leadership styles.”

Flexible working for everyone

Whether you’re a parent or not, flexible working and being able to meet your other life commitments is fast becoming a top priority for many people when it comes to considering their next career move. Alison says STEMM may not seem like the most obvious industry for workplace flexibility, but CitiPower and Powercor “has come a long way” and recognizes that employee satisfaction is vital for growth:

“People have different priorities and commitments – everyone needs different flexibility and CitiPower and Powercor understands this and we make it work. Most of my team do two or three days in the office and work remotely the rest of the time. We know it’s about outcomes, not time at the keyboard.”

Alison’s daughter is now grown up, so she doesn’t need the same flexibility as others on her team who have younger children to care for, but what Alison needs now is “true work-life balance.”

“My role is high-stress and high-pace. My partner has a property in the country, so I really appreciate that I can go to work there on Fridays and stay for the weekend to unwind, giving myself a quieter pace when I need it. CitiPower and Powercor is very supportive of that.” 

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There are always new opportunities at CitiPower and Powercor

Alison originally joined CitiPower and Powercor on a short-term contract as a project manager, but quickly found she wanted to stay: “I loved my manager and team – and loved working at CitiPower and Powercor!”

After roles as a program manager and a brief stint sitting in as a lead on another contract, she became permanent staff, and in June 2022 took on her current role on the IT leadership team. Alison feels CitiPower and Powercor has always encouraged her throughout her career growth at the company:

CitiPower and Powercor have been very supportive and consistent in the creation of my career opportunities, and I’m really thankful to them. There’s always something going on – a new initiative or new technology – and this in itself creates new opportunities. CitiPower and Powercor are always reaching out to employees with secondments or new roles for staff to try. They say, ‘We think you’ll be great!’ They never doubt you or your abilities and always give you the support to open up career paths.”

Taking on new opportunities is one of the key ways Alison says women can really help advance their own careers and it’s an effective way to build self-confidence:

“I’m always one to put my hand up and try. At CitiPower and Powercor these opportunities become a self-fulfilling, self-perpetuating prophecy. The more you lean in, the more opportunities they offer you, and the more you grow and feel ready to take on more. I’ve continually felt confident to take on new opportunities here.”

Alison has always been “very career focussed” and is now keen to pursue a “c-level” role: 

“The next role I have my eyes on is CIO. It’s definitely always been a personal dream of mine, but I also want to prove it for my gender – that you can be yourself and make the change. It would be my contribution to represent women in senior leadership.”

It’s all about the people

Alison wasn’t on the lookout for a new job when she was initially approached by a recruiter friend about a role at CitiPower and Powercor. She’d actually been planning a short career break but agreed to a “short meet and greet” coffee and chat with a contact there. Within seconds, Alison knew she wanted to join the team. 

“From the first minute, we clicked! It was like professional speed dating. She told me about the work and what skills she needed from her team, and I told her about myself and it seemed to be a good match. It felt like it was meant to be.”

Finding the right people for her team is very important. At CitiPower and Powercor, Alison says they’re taking big steps to change its misrepresented “blokey culture.” As a “heavy engineering” arm of STEMM, Alison says some people may still see it as “old-fashioned” but she says, “that’s really not us anymore – it’s an exciting time working on the innovation needed for a clean energy future and a great company to work for.”

“When I recruit staff for my team, it’s always a people thing. I think the places and career opportunities that mean the most for you are because of the people you click with. I just like working with good people.”

Alison says working alongside a great team also allows you to feel more comfortable taking on new opportunities as you feel fully supported by those around you:

“When you’re in an organization where you feel good and happy with the culture and people, you can be more courageous with opportunities that are presented to you. You feel psychologically safe to take those steps forward, knowing that it’s OK to fail – we will learn from it and move on.” 

Final words of advice? 

Alison says CitiPower and Powercor is “a big supporter” of career growth, through mentorship, coaching, and providing new opportunities, but she says the most important thing is to believe in yourself. 

“Back yourself! As women, we can often think we don’t have the right experience or doubt our abilities, or we worry about outcomes. Men might be better at ‘faking it until they make it’. But if you’re a woman and you want something, then bet on yourself and lean on the people around you, and you’ll do a cracker job! We women really are good enough – so say yes and give it a go. If you work hard, good things will happen.”

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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