Lean In Melbourne gathered over 75 people at Slack HQ on Friday, 9 August to participate in a panel discussion about “The Power of Being a Woman”. The evening hosted three remarkable guest speakers including Dayle Stevens, Divisional CIO of AGL Energy and AFR 100 Women of Influence 2018, Nicole Brown, former CEO of Robogals Global and a structural engineer for AECOM, and Sheryl Thai, CEO & Co-founder of the League of Extraordinary Women and Founder of Cupcake Central.
The panel was moderated by Anne Koopmann-Schmidt who is a consultant, coach, facilitator and trainer focusing on leadership development and named Victoria’s young manufacturer of the year in 2017. The panelists discussed their personal female strengths drawing on themes of courage, making an impact, and empowerment.
Each guest speaker individually presented their stories of career development and growth. Sheryl Thai shared an inspiring story of her courage to dream, the courage to create, the courage to seek, and what led her to turn her passion for cupcakes into a successful business.
“The key to finding the strengths is making yourself uncomfortable. Running a business is putting yourself outside of your comfort zone all the time. It makes you stronger,” Sheryl Thai on her experience with Cupcake Central.
Nicole Brown talked about making a difference by becoming the CEO of Robogals Global, a student run organisation that inspires, engages, and empowers young women into engineering and related fields.
Last but not least, Dayle Stevens spoke about the importance of role models, leaders, and creating programs to empower other women on a bigger scale.
“The secret to finding the strengths is to identify who you work very well with. Find how we complement each other and by looking into other person’s weaknesses you can see what your strengths are,” said Dayle on the importance of working together and finding great leaders.
Following the talks of each of the speakers, Anne facilitated the panel discussion touching on topics such as finding confidence and strengths, female qualities, and taking advantage of being a minority.
The discussion closed with each speaker sharing their motivations for empowering others and invited the audience to participate in speed networking afterwards.
Read more below:
Finding the confidence
Confidence can be something that is ingrained in us by our upbringing, but it can also be built by seeking feedback from colleagues and trying to improve. Feedback can come from managers who believe in you and give you the encouragement to do your best work. Sometimes it helps when somebody just acknowledges a job well done. .
Confidence is also about self-awareness – observing what your strengths are and leaning on them. Talk to yourself and give yourself advice as you were talking to a friend – in this way it’s easier to focus on positives instead of the negatives. .
Speakers’ advice is to seek feedback and listen to the good parts instead of the bad ones and think of ways you can amplify them. Find what you love doing and focus on that. Listen to the good parts instead of the bad ones and think about how you can amplify the great traits. Throw away the weaknesses. If you just focus only on your weaknesses and try to get better in those areas, you will end up in being average. Find what you love doing and focus on that.
Qualities of women
Women care for people, they love, support and are compassionate beings. We really do it better. Those qualities are vital in these times where collaboration, empathy and emotional intelligence are important for a company’s success. And that is why women’s opinion is needed at the table.It is also important to recognise that each of us is a role model somebody else.
This thought might be overwhelming in the beginning but it’s about seeing people, listening to them and thinking, how you can help them and encourage them to step up. Don’t be shy about actively pulling them up. Talking positively about these women in front of other people is one of the many ways we can champion them.
Best managers are not the smartest people in the room. They build smart teams and use their expertise. They want their team to be smarter than them.
When you are dealing with difficult situations and feeling down, there are different ways in which you can lift yourself up.
Sheryl’s recipe is to do what you enjoy the most – running, listening to music, meditating and reading her journal. Going back to the times when things were going well, gives her hope and motivation to overcome difficulties.
Dayle, on the other hand is an eternal optimist. According to her, the crucial thing in difficult times is to find the growth mindset and focus on learning and solving the problem.
Nicole’s advice on how to deal with feeling overwhelmed with the need of changing the world is “You don’t need to change the world – you can start small like changing dynamic of a relationship in your life making a change in your own life, talking to each other and holding each other accountable.”
Taking advantage of an opportunity
In the times of diversity quotas, being female can create opportunities. You shall never feel guilty about an opportunity you got because you’re a woman or a member of any minority. Instead, take advantage of it and do the best you can.
Many women are experiencing impostor syndrome in such situations which is why it is important to find cheerleaders that will support you and help you own what you’re doing. Change your mindset from “I don’t belong here” to “There’s a reason I’m here”. Be proud of who you are and share it!
If you are not sure what to do next in your career, the best approach is to try different things. Check what opportunities are available, go out and talk to people, recruiters and mentors. “Find people that can truly see you and learn from them” advised Dayle.