Support Women In Leadership - Have A Daughter

Words by WorkScore Co-Founder Jeff Mclean.

Having children has changed my life in more ways than one, but as we continually strive to close gender pay gaps, improve diversity, and actively support women in leadership, I can’t help but reflect on the profound impact that my daughter, Lily, has had on my decision making as a business leader.

Lily is only 8, but in that short-time, she’s helped me see the world through the eyes of the opposite gender. I have also softened, displayed more empathy, actively listened, sought to understand more, and not just with her, but with those people I interact with daily at work. Why? I sub-consciously find myself thinking about how she would be feeling or responding to my interactions as if it were her on the receiving end.

For those of you that don’t know me professionally, I’ve been a business leader for nearly 15 years, of which the last 10 have been spent within Executive roles at several high growth ASX200 companies. I’ve seen and supported the rapid rise of diversity targets, gender pay comparisons, women in leadership campaigns and the like ~ so whilst I wouldn’t consider that entering ‘Dad to a daughter’ status has revolutionised who I am as a leader, it certainly has increased my self-awareness, selflessness and ability to connect with both genders more broadly.

Currently, I’m fortunate to have 7 fantastic direct reports ~ of which 4 happen to be female. I’ve got an intelligent, driven and successful wife who has co-founded Workscore.com.au and is the COO of our household. I also get to engage with highly talented female colleagues and board members, and have always consciously sought to have a significant representation of female leaders within my leadership teams.

However, research shows that businesses still need to do more to support women in leadership, so I’ve listed some practical Ideas any business can implement quickly and easily.

3 ways you can support Women in Leadership in 2018;

 Implement Individual flexibility:

Old School thinking: Having a part-time workforce, gym breaks and/or Work from home policy was considered ‘Workplace flexibility:’

A new perspective: Understanding the individual needs of your people, make it work for them ~ and focus on the output not the input. Do we even really care if someone is at their desk 9-5?, or are delivering objectives irrespective of hours more important?

An example: All four of my female senior leaders have flexibility which is unique to them: one lives far away and works 1 day per week from home and starts and finishes early to miss the traffic, another has shared parenting arrangements so she weights her work time more towards the week she doesn’t have primary care. The other two have tailored flexibility in hours when they need it.

Role model it yourself:

Old School thinking: If I put in the extra hours, my team will follow me

A new perspective: Show some managerial courage, and be true to yourself and your needs. Focus on the things that are important to you, and let your people know they should also. People will both follow and be inspired by you.

Specific example: I do as many school drop offs, pick-ups, and appointments as I possibly can ~ and I love it. I put (significant) hours in when required, and always deliver on-time and plan. I eliminate waste and align my hours to when I’m most productive (for me: when the kids are in bed, it’s hyper-drive time)

 Mandate targets for yourself and your business:

Old school thinking: I hire the best person for the role, irrespective of gender

A new perspective: I hire the best person for the role, irrespective of gender, accounting for team dynamics and recognising the importance of diversity.

Specific example: Boards here and around the world are rolling out diversity targets to bridge the gap. I encourage senior leaders and middle managers to do the same; aspire to support, promote and retain a ground-swell of front-line female leaders for generations to come.

These small changes in perspective can yield big results in terms of female talent acquisition & retention. 

Learn from women in AFL:

Switching to the personal front, I’ve been an amateur (at best) AFL player for the last 20 years and have played over 200 games for my local team. I’ve had the pleasure of captaining an under 17’s premiership side, mentoring young players, playing alongside current professional AFL players and creating lifelong mates thanks to this great game. Over these 20 years, women were typically refined to canteen duties, jersey washing or (at best) a secretarial role within the club.

However i have a vivid memory of a game In 1997, I played against a female teenager in what was the local derby. She was the only female player in a league of over 200 teenage boys. To this day I have admiration and respect for her confidence to play, contribute, and challenge the norm for what was once considered a ‘boys only’ game.   

Last year, I took the time to coach Lily’s Under 8’s AFL team. It was her first year playing, and she was keen to give it a go. Out of 12 players in her team and 40 odd players in her age category, she was the only girl. Like that teenage girl from 1997, she showed courage beyond any boardroom with her ability to back herself, connect with her team-mates and leave stereotypes on the sideline.

Today, AFLW is exploding, the club I played 200+ games for now have more females turn up to training then men, and more importantly; we’ve all come together to celebrate the significant diversity within the sport.

Whilst there may be some dad’s nodding and other men scratching their heads on how your daughter can influence business leadership, I believe that all of our female influences (wives, partners, mums, sisters, colleagues, friends) can help us progress our thinking and integrate alternate perspectives.

So next time your recruiting, retaining, promoting, developing or considering your next key business decision, take the time to see the world through alternate eyes.

Your 8 year old daughter may just have the answer.

Happy International Women's Day.