What does the next generation of female leaders need in the workplace to flourish?
“Have confidence in the value that you bring to the business. You don’t have to conform to an archetype of what a “powerful” or “successful” leader is. Lead in a way that reflects your unique strengths, experiences, and personality. Authenticity engenders authority.”
What have been some of the challenges you have experienced as a female leader?
“I’ve often felt the pressure to set the standard for those who come after me. If I can excel at my role, there won’t be a concern the next time a woman is considered for similar responsibilities. That’s part of my duty to the next generation, though. My mentors and role models paved the way for me, so I hope I’m able to do the same for the next woman.”
Jo Horgan, founder and co-CEO, Mecca
Who are some of your female business heroes and why?
“There are so many incredible female business heroes that I have come across. Former Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham came from a traditional world and did not try to shape the practices of the day, but stuck with who she was, what she believed in. She became incredibly strong and unyielding by sticking with her values, and as a result, helped change the course of history.
“Ex-Westpac CEO Gail Kelly rose to the very top of the corporate world not by trying to fit in, but by bringing her true and thoughtful self to her role. She raised a family of four alongside her husband, while showing a different approach to being seriously successful and she showed a whole generation of women what they could be.”
What are some of the ways you nurture future female business leaders?
“I believe education, strong networks and access to capital is incredibly important, with examples of remarkable female leaders who are paving the way for the next generation. At Mecca, education is at the forefront of everything we do, be it self-development, operational, interpersonal or beauty subject-led, exposure to incredible speakers, thinkers and books. We give teams responsibility, promote from within and give permission to fail fast and fail forward, which leads to empowerment and realising what is possible.”
Erica Berchtold, CEO, The Iconic
What is the role of men in achieving more gender equality in the workplace, particularly when it comes to the leadership gap?
“I look forward to a world where we eventually have more balanced gender representation and there is no longer a need to ask these sorts of questions. However, the current reality is, men are the larger share of leaders in corporate Australia, so the role they play in driving progress is key.
It’s important to note that it isn’t, and shouldn’t be, just women championing diversity and gender balance, but an equal ownership between both genders to help drive progress. To me, diversity of thought brings more effective decision making, and this can only be a good thing when it comes to running businesses to yield performance and engaged teams.
I strongly believe that in order to achieve real results, gender equality has to be something the entire business believes in and makes a long-term commitment to. Organisations need to walk the talk, as barriers are dissolved over time through collective action and personal responsibility from the top down. For example, when it comes to supporting women in the workplace, this needs to equally extend to things like empowering men to be able to step up across key parenting roles and normalising it for men to leave early to do school pick-ups, take paternity leave, etc.”
Charlene Perera, general manager, Hush Puppies and Clarks
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received from another woman in business?
“Back yourself! It’s so simple, but so many of us doubt ourselves and the imposter syndrome can go into overdrive. It happens all the time! I was told to back myself, trust my gut and remember that I have earned the right to be here. It’s advice that I am constantly repeating to myself. One day it will sink in!”
Jodi Bricker, CEO, Quay Australia
What’s something about the experience of being a woman leader that you wish people would talk about?
“People don’t spend enough time talking about how incredibly hard it is to balance being a mum and a leader. The expectations for parenthood today, along with very low parental support in the workplace, have created the myth that you can have it all. In my experience, you can’t have it all at once. You have to figure out how to integrate your home life and work life — and where to lean in based on what needs your attention at any given time — to be better and happier on all fronts. As a single mum, it took a lot of effort and support to figure out this formula, and I’m passionate about paying it forward to the next generation of female leaders.”
Livia Wang, chief brand officer, Access Corporate Group
What are some of the challenges that working women face and how can leaders support them?
“I think work/life balance is a difficult concept to achieve for many of us, especially anyone working across multiple time zones. Rather than feeling like we are inadequate because we can’t manage everything, I think we need to accept this may never be possible and not be too hard on one another.
“[In our business,] flexibility has certainly been critical since 2020, moving from office to home and back again, and we know it is productivity that matters most, rather than how many hours you spend at your desk. We are fairly flexible at Access — we treat employees as grown-ups, people don’t clock on and off and they are able to arrive and leave at times that suit their work arrangements.”