It’s still tough for women at the top: the boy’s club reigns

MP900438566The number of women in executive roles has languished around the 10% mark for the last ten years or so.  A recent survey may hold a key to why this is so.

The latest survey just released by Executive Women Australia (EWA) shows that many women believe male-dominated referral networks are so active and endemic that they constitute a real barrier to advancement for women.

Around 2/3rds of professional women in Australia still believe they are limited in progressing to executive roles because the ‘boys club’ mentality still determines succession and as a result, those networks have little experience in dealing with female top executives.

“Many senior roles are filled via referrals, and the reality is that the current field of executives is dominated by men. This creates an ongoing employment cycle that excludes women, and limits transparency in the recruiting process.

It is important that we break this cycle of male employment, and open our eyes to the
overwhelming evidence that suggests diversified boards outperform non-diversified boards.”

So stated EWA director Tara Cheesman. Executive positions on average become vacant every three years , and leaders tend to look within or to their networks to fill roles.  Arguing the point, “When the boss comes and says ‘Do you know somebody great for this job?’ they think ‘If I can do this job, he can do it. If I get along with this person, he will fit in too’,” Cheesman said.

Cheesman doesn’t believe men are deliberately sidelining women. It’s more that men with male friends in the same field often help each other with their careers. “A lot of men don’t see themselves as the person who’s going to help their female friends in their career,” she said.

Based on the opinions of some 500 EWA members, women also believe men are better self-promoters than women. Many ASX 500 employers haven’t had female executives previously as demonstrated by the fact that of today’s  ASX 500 companies, only one third have a female executive at board level.

Finally, less than 2% of survey respondents believe the new Workplace Gender Equality Act will make any impact on the ‘glass ceiling’.

Get Ready for a New Year

Gosh, less than a week to Christmas and so much to do! Where do we get the time to recover from one year before we hit the next and start all over again?!?!

That lull time in between Christmas and New Year is ideal. It’s that time when you sludge about from over-eating at the Christmas table; or when you loll back by the beach with a book in hand. Or generally just take it easy.

Use that time to do a few things that will set you in a great frame for the year:


  1. Clear out the clutter

    Feng shui endorses getting rid of the old to make way for the flow of energy and the new. No matter where we live or work, we’ve always got stuff we stockpile that we don’t need, and that others may benefit from. So start in one place that’s bothering you – it may be the bookcase or the wardrobe or the pantry. (For me, it’s the pantry – heaven knows how old some of those herbs are!). Set aside an hour and a half and clear out what you can. Stick to the timeframe or you’ll just create a real mess and end up spending the whole day and then get frustrated at the extra work! Bag up the things you can give-away and toss the rest into the garbage. When you’re done, celebrate with a little treat – for me that may be a tipple from the bottle of sherry in the pantry Smile

  2. Unsubscribe

    Our inboxes (plural because most of us have more than one), get chock-a-block full of material that no longer serves us. We may have subscribed because we wanted the info at the time or we may have received the newsletters for some other reason. Go through your inbox and unsubscribe from anything that does not add value, annoys you or just doesn’t inspire you or make you feel good. If there are a few you want to receive but don’t want them cluttering your inbox, create a rule for them to go straight to a holding folder so you can look through them when you need to. I use this for newsletter that may give me ideas for my blog content for example. Just make sure you schedule time to go through them and clear then out regularly. While you are in your inbox, answer any outstanding emails and file away important ones, deleting what is no longer required. Just because you can keep electronic ‘stuff’ doesn’t mean you have to!

  3. Commit to better habits

    Reflect back on what could have been better and you’ll realise our results rely on our habits. Decide to develop and practice new, better habits in the new year. For me there are two:

    1. adopting D.I.N. Come on – I know some of you procrastinate like me. “I’ll do that later” becomes a mantra. And, ‘later’ never comes. But a big snowball of to-do’s does pile up. So I commit to Do It Now. When I’m handling something and I know it will only take a  couple of minutes, I will do it now rather than file it away for later or rescheduling it.  When I receive an email or a phone message I will do it now rather than trusting my memory to respond later. I’m working on the principle that by doing it now I will avoid that piling up of overwhelming tasks and letting things slip away in time.
    2. eating fresher food. I realise my energy levels are higher when I eat less manufactured or produced food (think take-away, frozen, junk,  heavily sauced and smothered restaurant food) and have more fresh vegetables and salads. When I’m more energetic I’m usually more productive as well. So next year I am continuing my recently developed habit of eating the freshest food I can wherever I am.
  4. Plan ahead

    Really take the time to think about what this next year will look like for you. What will be the biggest challenges and opportunities? Where will your time and energy be best spent? How will you maintain focus on the important things rather than the urgent or unimportant? Spend the time during this break to map out a series of four 90 day plans. Those 90 day plans need to be about the BIG things you want to achieve and how you will achieve them. The everyday will take care of itself but the big things get lost in the busy-ness. Keeping a visual roadmap of the year’s key outcomes will inspire you and remind you so you can reflect on more achievements at year’s end.

Team Building Debunked!

Recently I had a request for a management team get together to motivate and inspire the team.

When I met with the prospective client, it clearly turned out that there was absolutely no reason to run the training event other than as a reward. Now, that can be a valid reason for an event to run, but if that’s the case, what you want is a different solution than training.

Personally the feedback I receive from clients and participants is centred around being inspirational. It’s not that I set out to be that. It’s just how I operate as a trainer. I certainly don’t jump around the front of the room and get people standing on chairs and shouting out. I leave that to far more capable “edu-tainers”.

I have no doubt that the prospective client found someone who would take his budget funds and run a motivational event. It’s just not my gig. I also believe training is about development of skills, knowledge and attitudes – not making people feel good for a short while and have a warm memory to reflect upon.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make – training is often not the solution!

Heresy from a trainer, perhaps. Yet well argued in this article about the team-building culture around training.

In my book, I’m happy to train anyone – where I believe there is a training need and I can add value by working the solution.

team building

Impact on Learning

training & development - playing chess with careersThe storms of economic turmoil have not passed us by in Australia and the issues in Europe in particular continue to reverberate strongly.

It is considered in certain quarters that Australia is in recession albeit a soft one although the balance is precarious.

From an L&D perspective, the question remains – how can we continue to develop staff and leadership skills in an environment of continuing financial restriction?

Money, of course, is not always the issue with providing training and development opportunities.

In future sessions we will look at some of the low-cost training methods which can provide impact on business capability through developing staff and leaders.

manage my time, productivity, set goals, goal setting

How To Write Better Goals

The best way to get ahead and have a better year than the last one (or a better month than the last one) is to have a sense of direction. Goals are the way to make that happen. Yet many people are not aware of how to write empowering goals that talk to your brain, thereby ensuring your subconscious is working for you to look for ways to achieve those goals.

In this short session you’ll learn what beleive are the four key elements of hwo to write a goals to increase your chances of success.

time management, prioritise

How to Prioritise Your Workload


One of the BIG issues I see people dealing with in managing their time and getting more done is the lack of assigning any priority to tasks.

In one case I noted someone who went religiously through their task list getting things done, which was great, but there was no order or system involved. As a result, many of the items she was working on were useful but rarely would she be hitting her big tasks and projects. Her method was to simply brainstorm a list of what she had to do, then start doing it. As something would crop up it would go to the bottom of the list.

If you really want to achieve more of the important things in life, you have to plan for them.

This video takes you through the prioritisation method using the Urgent/Important matrix. With this matrix at hand, in seconds you can make an assessment of whether what is on your list or occurring at any time is what you need to be doing now. Is it urgent? Is it important? Is it both? Is it neither?


Do it if it has immediate consequences and high risk from inaction. If it is urgent for someone else but not for you, it might be an option to suggest alternate solutions for them or to train them to handle such things themselves.


This is usually something with a longer deadline or a goal or project that needs to be attended to over time. Chunk it down and start actioning small tasks each week to make progress – before it becomes urgent or a lost cause.


No choice – just get it done and that might mean putting other tasks aside. This would happen regularly for example when I was in the public service and the Minister needed information prepared before Parliament sat or reporters turned up for a sound bite.


Why are you doing it??? Bored? Stressed and needing to chill out? Spare time on your hands? Things in this category might be browsing the internet, finessing a presentation to make it look prettier, We can usually justify spending time in this quadrant, but if we were really honest with ourselves, it’s not value time spent. Work on something else.

being mentored, find a mentor, get a mentor, mentor

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring has a long and ancient history. It is based on a story in Greek mythology. When Odysseus went to the Trojan War, he appointed his good friend Mentor as a role model, guardian and adviser to his son Telemachus. Later in the Odyssey, the goddess Athena, disguised as Mentor (Mentes), becomes more actively involved in the young man’s life, encouraging him to seek his father, introducing him to the network of heroes and fighting beside him and Odysseus to restore order (Powell in NAWE 2000 has an interesting feminist analysis of this).

From these origins, mentoring is used to refer to a relationship in which an older more experienced person acts as a guide or a model for a less experienced colleague.

being mentored, find a mentor, get a mentor, mentor

Mentoring is part of all our lives. We learn and take advice from parents, teachers, older friends. Mentoring has been significant for many successful people in all walks of life. But in recent years mentoring has emerged in many organisations as a formal mechanism to assist employees achieve their full potential. (McKenzie 1995, NAWE 2000)

Mentoring relationships can be dyadic (or one-to-one) or can relate to a Socratic model (one mentor with a group of mentees) or can take place within a peer group.

A definition of mentoring today is provided by Shea, “Mentoring is a fundamental form of human development where one person invests time, energy and personal know-how in assisting the growth and ability of another person” (1997, p.3).

Essentially all mentoring relationships feature two main roles: the mentor and the mentee. Many other different terms can be used for these two roles, but these have become widely accepted.

A mentor is more experienced, and often in a higher position in an organisation. The mentor is one who is explicitly willing to assist others in developing their career.

A mentee is a term used for someone who is less experienced and seeking guidance in career development. The mentee must keep in touch with the mentor and feel free to speak openly, ask for guidance, discuss the relationship and seek advice on how to approach problems.

The mentor’s role is that of a trusted adviser and supportive guide, encouraging the mentee in effective strategies for accomplishing career objectives. A mentor may also act as a teacher or tutor, helping the mentee learn organisational and professional skills and providing insights about how to ‘decode’ the corporate culture. At times, the mentor may also perform the role of supporter, providing insights from experience to help the mentee manage difficult situations. An effective mentor keeps in touch with the mentee, suggests appropriate resources and encourages the mentee to establish or seek out professional or supportive networks.

Both mentor and mentee must trust and respect each other. The relationship must be based on clear principles and shared values.

While informal mentoring has long been a feature of many work environments, formal mentoring has only recently emerged as a staff development strategy. What are the reasons for this?

Work in general has become more complex, with more rapid turnover of staff in many organisations, so that mentoring is required. Perhaps more importantly, the hitherto unrecognised trajectories of power within workplaces have been identified, and attention drawn to those who through gender, race or other reasons may not have equal access to senior positions.

Formal mentoring occurs when an institution takes a decision to implement a scheme of mentoring which will have formal recognition within the institution even if there are no tangible rewards for being involved as a mentor. Formal mentoring has emerged when there is executive commitment for it and champions ready to argue for such a scheme.

A formal mentoring program extends the mentoring experience to those who may not readily find informal mentors or who would not otherwise consider it.

Formal mentoring can lead to a more supportive work environment. Interestingly formal mentoring may also lead to more effective informal mentoring. If the formal experience has been good for mentee and mentor and they have learned skills, they are more likely to mentor other people. In this way, lessons learnt from one program can extend to the whole organisation.

Many higher education institutions now organise more structured mentoring schemes, to ensure that all members of the institution have equal opportunity to participate.

Formal mentoring schemes have a clear rationale; measurable goals and outcomes; mechanisms for assessment and selection of both mentors and mentees in place and accountability, since results are monitored.

The most significant variable to any mentoring scheme is the quality of the relationship with the mentor.

Source: Women & Mentoring in Higher Education, C Chesterman