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International Women’s Day: challenging the status quo in business

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To mark International Women’s Day this month, the Business School held a panel chaired by Associate Professor Christine Woods with academics, alumnae and students discussing this year’s theme, Choose to Challenge, in relation to their experiences in the workplace.

Continuing this theme, our experts shared their thoughts on how organisations can challenge the lack of female representation at senior levels of business.

Cindy Bradley

Cindy Bradley is the Director of Executive Education. For over ten years, she has worked with CEOs, GMHRs, learning and development managers and organisational development managers to create learning and development solutions for their senior managers aligned with their organisation’s strategic direction.

Cindy Bradley headshot

What can organisations do to address the lack of women in senior positions?

“In 2018, McKinsey, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the Business Council of Australia released a joint report recommending ten evidence-based actions to increase the number of women in senior roles. In that report, two things stood out for me:

  • Communicate the business case for diversity.
    When employees know that gender diversity leads to business results, they are more committed to it. Most organisations probably don’t have an active communication plan around this or understand that they need it.
  • Normalise flexible work practices.
    Hopefully one of the positive things to come out of the pandemic was an acceptance that employees can be productive working remotely and working flexible hours. Normalising this for all employees helps women balance their many responsibilities and leads to a more diverse workplace.

What is Executive Education doing in this space?

Career progression doesn’t happen automatically.  It’s something people work on throughout their professional lives and Executive Education exists to support working professionals through all career transitions.

We offer a wide range of programmes from customised learning and development experiences to open-enrolment Short Courses that allow individuals to develop their managerial and leadership capabilities and improve their organisation’s overall competitiveness.

Our C-Suite Programmes are focused at the transition to the Executive team and we are fortunate to have a number of women serving on the advisory groups for each of these  programmes, helping with their design and delivery and, most importantly, mentoring participants. This mentoring relationship often lasts beyond the programme, and a number of our female participants have gone on to be promoted into more senior positions with guidance from their mentor.

“Our Strategic Supply Chain Programme Advisory group, in collaboration with the University of Auckland Centre for Supply Chain Management, has organised a speaker series for women in Supply Chain, which draws around a hundred women to each event. The speaker series was borne out of the need for women in roles across supply chains to meet together to discuss things that are important to them. Many of these women are the only females in their work area, and the opportunity to meet and support one another has been greatly appreciated.


Suzanne O’Leary

Suzanne O’Leary is the Director of January Group Limited, a specialist executive search and recruitment company. She also serves on advisory groups for Executive Education’s Strategic Supply Chain Management Programme and is a founding member of the Women in Supply Chain Forum.

Suzanne Ol Leary headshot

What can organisations do to address the lack of women in senior positions?

“I think if we can find common ground, show how things like working school hours can work we can move people’s thinking. If we all move together, challenging the status quo and taking each other on the journey, we can get to a better place.

“I am so grateful for the women that came before me in PwC like Suzanne Snively and Sarah Adam-Gedge who obviously had to challenge the status quo, primarily through their fantastic competence that was hard to ignore.

“These women paved the way for women in the partnership and then put down the ladder to those of us who followed. I’m also grateful for the support I received from the male and female partners to have babies, breastfeed at work and still be a partner in a large professional services firm. “


Susan Hansen

Susan Hansen is a Professional Director, Facilitator and Author. She facilitates Executives Education’s short course Finance for Non-Financial Managers and Budgeting, Forecasting and Strategic Planning

Susan Hansen headshot

What can organisations do to address the lack of women in senior positions?
Organisations can support women (and all people) by educating them and giving them the opportunity to apply the skills of financial literacy.

Financial literacy is a life skill that prepares you for everyday transactions like buying a home, taking out an insurance policy, discussing business performance and making good business decisions. Having the confidence that you can make good financial decisions is empowering. Without financial literacy, you at the mercy of the Gods and the not so godlike people.

Financial literacy is an acquired skill, which I think is the easy part. The difficulty is in applying the skill. I know lots of financially literate people who have destroyed value through not doing their homework, letting their ego get the better of them and not evaluating risk properly.

1 Comment

  1. I’d just like to say thanks to the IWD panel. It was a moving experience and I’m really grateful to have been a part of it.


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