Despite the growing awareness of the importance of diversity in leadership, women still hold only 8.8% of leadership positions at Fortune 500 companies as of 2022.
While progress has been made, the challenges keeping women from leadership positions are many, including gender-based biases and a lack of access to networks and opportunities.
Addressing these challenges requires a fundamental shift in the way organizations think about leadership and diversity. As research has shown, becoming a leader involves a complex process of identity transformation, and policies and practices that support this process are critical to achieving diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
We spoke with three women in leadership within different Endorsed Employers (organizations that have been endorsed by WORK180 for their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion).
They shared their unique experiences and insights on how their organizations have championed diversity and created a workplace that values and empowers individuals from diverse backgrounds. Their perspectives highlight the importance of creating policies and practices that help women overcome barriers to leadership and realize their full potential.
Nerida Mossop (she/her)
Asia Pacific- Chief Financial Officer at Nufarm
“There has been a big, positive shift in how Australian companies value diversity of thought and that has introduced more women into leadership roles. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my career is greater acceptance that women do communicate and influence differently, and that’s OK.
“When we show passion for our work and drive for outcomes, that’s now much less likely to be interpreted as being ‘emotional’ or ‘pushy’. There’s still work to do of course, and I think we all have to play an active role in that.
“One of the biggest breakthroughs for me came when our Asia Pacific Chief Financial Officer resigned. I was working in the global side of our business, and I hadn’t really thought of myself in a role like that. At the time, Nufarm had invested in sending me to the Future Women Leaders course. It really opened my eyes to the way women sometimes hold back and need a bit of a push in a way that men often don’t need.
“There were also a number of senior male leaders in the Nufarm business who personally challenged me to consider the opportunity. I shouldn’t have needed the push, but it gave me the confidence to apply. I was successful in securing the role and love the challenges and growth it brings.”
Their current team is 27% women, and 24% of promotions within the last year have been for women.
Dani Blokland (she/her)
Operations Manager at Woolworths
Dani Blokland is one of the only women in an Operations Manager role within Supply Chain.
Supply Chain and Logistics are traditionally quite male-dominated industries, but this hasn’t held Dani back from achieving success. She feels she has had the full backing of Woolworths Group at every stage of her journey, from her first years with the company to finding her strengths as a leader:
“Over my time with Woolworths Group I have had the opportunity to attend a number of leadership courses both as part of the Supermarket team and Supply Chain, which have taught me valuable skills to further my career.”
In fact, Dani says Woolworths Group stands apart from its competitors for the support it provides all its employees to thrive:
“In my eyes, Woolworths Group has always been an industry leader in the way it strives to create a better workplace for all team members, in any way possible.”
Looking back over her years of experience trying out lots of different roles in different areas of the business, Dani encourages everyone to keep pushing forward and progressing, and not to be afraid to try new things:
“Have confidence in yourself to take the next step, you will never know what you can do until you try.”
Sarah McGeehan (she/her)
Executive General Manager Enterprise Agility at nbn
“The impact I want to have as a leader is to add as much value as I can and to make it easier for the next wave of women leaders to reach their potential.
“As women, I believe it is critical to help other women.
“A common experience is women’s voices being overlooked in meetings. If a woman’s idea is overlooked in a discussion and raised again in the meeting, we can steer the conversation back to the originator of the idea and invite them to expand on it. Helping direct traffic in the conversation is vital, so women’s voices are heard and amplified.
“nbn is very visible, internally and externally, on how much it values being a diverse and inclusive workplace. We have a number of initiatives, such as our Navigate Sponsorship Program which focuses on developing women and helping them expand their network.
“We know that to really have an impact, it’s how we show up in the day-to-day – outside the programs and events. As someone with the privilege of recruiting and hiring great people, I see tremendous opportunity in supporting applicants past the transaction of the interview.
“One of the best qualities of a human is to be generous – with your time and your experience. It can make a material impact to give someone 30 minutes of your time to walk through their development plan and stretch their thinking on where and how they can develop their skills, their personal brand, their network.
“There is a common misconception that hard work and strong performance will speak for you; it helps if you can clarify and articulate with decision makers and influencers what it is you want and what you’re working towards.
“Often, we want to shy away from challenging discussions, but it is a demonstration of care and investment in a person to give them honest and constructive feedback and help them develop a practical action plan. It is often the ‘blind spot’ that can be the blocker to achieving career goals.”