24 May 2018

Canberra's professional women: let's update the memo

| Catherine McGrath
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Catherine McGrath MC for Engineers Australia’s International Women’s Day series 2018.

This is a city with loads of intelligent women. So why don’t we see more of them speaking on panels and at events around town? Why do men always seem to have the microphone? There are still way too few women out front.

I have learnt how to do it and these days I run #WomenSpeaking workshops to help women boost their speaking skills. In business, I talk to women a lot about workplace communication and I try to encourage them to speak at conferences and events.

Some women are thriving in the public service or in business/professional jobs and that is fabulous. They deserve all they have achieved. But a significant number of professional women are not feeling as confident.

Lexi Sekuless, Suzanne Mostyn, Catherine McGrath, Merry Kirkwood.

Yes, there are still barriers to gender equity, and I am not dismissing them, but women need to have the chance to build key skills as well. Somewhere along the line we as working women may have missed the memo explaining how workplaces operate and how successful people communicate at work.

Many women are hardworking but are shy to put themselves forward. They are reluctant to promote their wins and to take their rightful place at the forefront of their organisations.

We are overall too modest, too polite and too critical of our own performance. We have had a lot of knockbacks too. Some of us find it difficult to get back up again. When we succeed we often think that hard work, determination and the satisfaction of a job well done will be appreciated by our co-workers and managers.

I am sorry to have to tell you the bad news but that just isn’t true. It is a fantasy as out of date as Sleeping Beauty.

So here is an updated memo for all of us Canberra women who feel that description applies to us:

  1. You are a strong successful professional. Your opinion matters. In a meeting, your colleagues and leaders need to hear from you so that your professional insights can have an impact.
  2. You must promote your successes internally (all the successful men are). It is also what the workplace expects. When you have done a great job you need to let people know so they can understand the impact and result.
  3. Don’t let a lazy colleague take credit for your hard work (don’t need to say any more about that one).
  4. Don’t apologise for doing your job. Don’t say sorry to someone when it isn’t necessary. Save that for when you have made an error or misjudgement.
  5. Build relationships with other women in your organisation and in your sector. Share experiences. Give each other support. Build relationships with a wider group of professionals (female and male) and join networking groups.
  6. When you are asked to deliver a presentation or speak at a conference, say yes. Later you can work out how you will do it. Don’t ever think you don’t deserve that opportunity. You do. Take it.
  7. Practice standing tall in your own space and practice standing in front of a group of people at meetings. It isn’t easy. It feels weird but it really helps build confidence.
  8. Look forward and over the horizon as you build your professional career. Examine the skills you need to develop and set a plan to achieve them.
  9. Grab any work experiences that can take you to new places. It will be challenging and fun I assure you. Even a 3-month stint in Dubbo, Longreach or Launceston can teach you something new.
  10. Look for professional opportunities because they can lift your career to new heights. Grab that opportunity. Examine it strategically. Enjoy it and afterwards see how you can utilise the opportunity to develop your career.
  11. Try to enjoy the ride as much as you can.

The First #WomenSpeaking grad group at QT Canberra April 2018.

Catherine McGrath’s next #WomenSpeaking workshop building speaking skills for conferences, events, and workplace meetings is on June 1, Telstra Tower register here.

What do you think? Are our young women being prepared for the workforce as it really is? Are our current professional women learning to get out in front?

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