To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, CIPS asked women in procurement in Australia for their insights on topics ranging from the biggest challenge they've faced to their biggest inspiration.
Jo Bailey, CEO at Progressive Systems and chair of CIPS NSW branch
Sharron Bird, director at Adelaide Procurement
Lexia Laracy, commercial manager of Future Business and Technology at AGL Energy
Jane Wagner, assistant secretary of Procurement Policy at the Australian Government Department of Finance
Joanne Kennett, senior manager of Inclusion & Diversity at Westpac
What’s the biggest challenge you have faced as a woman in business to date?
SB (pictured): “The biggest challenge I faced earlier in my career was trying to be one of the boys. I started my career in the Royal Airforce and women had to be equal to men, mentally and physically, which wasn't always possible.
“At that time, I did not understand the importance of diversity and uniqueness, therefore I spent more time and energy trying to be the same as everyone else.”
JB: “When I was a full-time working Mum, it seemed like I was away from my children more often than not sometimes. Obviously, they were my priority, but I felt so badly that I wasn’t pulling my own weight at work, or that it might reflect on my performance.”
LL (pictured): “Sexual and physical harassment, and being put down by other women. It has taken a number of years and numerous mentors and coaches to realise that asking for help is one of the most courageous things that you can do when faced with adversity.”
Who has inspired you?
JW (pictured): “Mostly my parents. My Dad volunteered throughout his life, including at the national board of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia. While our interests are different, it is the role he could bring as a volunteer that attracted me to giving back to the procurement profession through the ACT CIPS regional committee.”
LL: “Llew Fleming, general manager of enterprise services at AGL. She was the first leader that I have worked for that started the conversation from a point of vulnerability, talking about her challenges and weaknesses. She encouraged feedback and continually seeks others perspectives to challenge her own thinking.”
What do you wish you’d known when you started out and/ or what advice would you give your younger self?
LL: “Stay curious; surround yourself with people that have different opinions, strengths, experiences and styles of working, but who are committed to sharing knowledge, as the second you think you understand, you stop learning and growing.”
JK: “That it’s OK not to have a career path planned out, that part of the adventure is discovery and it opens you up to so many opportunities.”
JB (pictured): “Just because you haven’t done it before, doesn’t mean you can’t do it. Give it a go. Whether it’s a new task, a new project, category or contract – don’t hold yourself back.”
What are the character traits of successful women and/ or what do you think makes a good leader?
LL: “Take comfort that you don’t know all the answers, be generous with sharing knowledge, and have the resolve to push through situations of inequity and inequality to make a difference for those that follow.”
JK (pictured): “Compassion, empathy and treating everyone as if they are important. Great leaders understand that wisdom comes from everywhere, not just consultants, books and people more senior to them.”
Do you have a favourite quote or statement that sums up your approach to life?
LL: “Sheryl Sandberg’s quote: ‘We stand on the shoulders of the women that came before us, women who had to fight for the rights that we now take for granted.’ It reminds me that I need to continue to build on the hard work of the women that have come before me, to continue to challenge inequity and to encourage others to do the same.”
JW: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What do you #ChooseToChallenge?
JB: “I’d like to challenge men in male-dominated industries to step up. While I don’t want to generalise because I know there are a lot of accepting, respectful men in these industries, there is still a strong ‘boys’ club’ mentality where men are uncomfortable having women attending their meetings, or find it funny to make inappropriate comments to or about women in their workplace.”
LL: “I choose to challenge myself to do things that make me uncomfortable, stretch my capability and my thinking. To others I say, ‘Don’t just do it for you, it is also for all the other women watching that now realise that it is possible’.”
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