Last week, I was lucky enough to attend the SheLeads event organised by Google Partners Academy in Sydney, and hosted by the amazing Sarah Liu, founder of The Dream Collective.

SheLeads is a new free training program available to Google Premier Partner agencies, and focuses on career development and cultivating female leadership within the agency landscape. I had the chance to be selected out 160 applicants to take an accelerated masterclass in girl power with 30 wonder(ful) women.

Read on for my takeaways!

Feminism is not a swear word

Feminism these days seems to be getting a bad rap. So many girls and women just don’t want to be called feminists, for fear of being seen as some sort of neurotic psychopath who blames all their problems on evil men.

The trouble is, advocating for women’s rights is of the utmost necessity and we should really be empowered by feminism, not sweeping it under the rug. Yes, this is 2017 and you might think that long gone are the days when women had to fight for equal rights (hell, your manager is a woman – so there).

But statistics are quite appalling my friends, and Australia is no exception. We’re the 9th worst in the OECD when it comes to pay equality between men and women. On average, women earn 85% of what men do, and the gap widens with age or a higher education level. In the digital agency landscape, women make up 53% of entry level employees, but only 19% of top level executives.

But wait until you are a mum/pregnant, it gets better. Did you know there was such a thing as ‘maternal bias’? This means that motherhood triggers assumptions that women are less committed to their careers. We will therefore have to be accountable for our (birthing) actions and receive a lower wage as penitence (7% less – per child).

As professionals, women face an overwhelming number of systemic barriers and unconscious bias from everyone in the workforce, including their counterparts. We might not be aware of those barriers, or even be able to attribute with certainty some of the challenges or issues we face to our mere gender. But the fact is, we cannot ignore that being women will most likely put us at disadvantage in professional environments, and we must fight for our rights.

How is that? Awareness – Advocacy – Application. Now the first step is complete, so onto spreading the word and applying it to your life!

We might just be our worst enemy

Unconscious biases are quite intriguing: they are automatic assumptions we make about a category of people based on our background, and we don’t even realise it. When it comes to women, people seem to make all kinds of assumptions like the maternal bias mentioned above.

Charity begins at home as they say. Turns out, most women (myself included – sigh) have unconscious biases and tend to associate women and family on the one hand, and men and career on the other handnot the other way around.

All attendees to SheLeads took the Gender Bias Implicit Association Test developed by Harvard University, and it was shocking to find out that only one of us (out of 30) had a strong association of men/family vs women/career.

Not only that, but women are also more prone to self-doubt (when men tend to think they can just wing it). We might as well shoot ourselves in the foot, you may think.

But fear not ladies, I’ve gathered 4 handy tips from Sarah Liu, our panel speakers from Google and last but not least from attendees.

  • Be comfortable with being uncomfortable: don’t wait until you’re sure you fit every single one of the requirements to apply for a role (or take the next step in your career). You can learn on the job! Ask yourself: are you ready? Are you willing? Are you able?
  • Remember that success is 60% exposure (i.e. ‘how many people know about you’ and ‘are they decision makers’), 30% image… and 10% performance. Put yourself out there!
  • Take one hour per month to think about your career: are you learning? Are you making an impact? Are you having fun? If the answer to all three is not yes, please refer to first tip.
  • Install the ‘Just not sorry’ Chrome extension and learn how to write more confident emails. Stop asking for validation, and start asking for what you want.

Final piece of advice – when in doubt, ask yourself: what would Jennifer Lawrence do (and play Spice Girls’ Wannabee really loud in your headphones).

Chloe Cipra

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