Women In Leadership Event – Key Take Aways

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Women In Leadership Event – Key Take Aways

Lotus People and SustainDigital hosted our first Women in Leadership Event last week at the beautiful offices of MedicalDirector and, by all accounts, it was a huge success.

Our stellar panel consisted of Alex Hattingh, the Chief People Officer of Employment Hero, Helen Waldron, Head of Membership and Marketing at Australian Industry Group, Emma Jones, founder of consultancy, Future of Work and Petra Gross, Chief Product Officer at MedicalDirector, and the evening was moderated by Bek Day, Newscorp journalist and producer of new chart topping podcast My Father, The Murderer.

Be Gender Bilingual

We opened the night by speaking about how important it is for companies to be gender bilingual – leaders need to understand the differences between women and men. Women tend to hold themselves to higher standards and are less likely to put themselves forward. There was a collective sound of agreement in the room when Emma told us that women need to meet 100% of the criteria before applying for a new role, where men only need to meet 40%. Men back themselves more and, therefore, can tend to put themselves out there for new roles and get ahead faster.

Negative Feedback

Emma then spoke about how women receive 2.5 times more feedback about their communication style being aggressive. “Abrasive” is a word used about women in the workplace, but never for men. Men are described as powerful or persuasive. 

Some other shocking statistics that Emma mentioned; Out of 248 performance reviews, 71% of negative feedback is geared towards women while only 23% is geared towards men and 81% of the constructive criticism is towards men, 2% towards women. It’s important to be aware of this, so we can challenge it and create change. 

Imposter Syndrome

Alex then touched on how important it is for women to be backed and to back themselves. She spoke of imposter syndrome (a fear that we are fraudulent and will be found out) and how women can suffer more from this more than men. In order for women to succeed and progress, it is important to be given honest feedback – effective communication is key. Fake it till you make it and back yourself.

The US versus Australia

Both Alex and Petra have worked in the states and tell us that one of the biggest differences in culture is that Australians have less confidence than Americans. It is, therefore, so important to support females here and encourage them to lean in – a term coined by Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, who was referenced a number times throughout the night. Our panel agreed that you need to take risks in order to build confidence. 

Backing Yourself

Helen thought that as you get older, you become more self confident. She spoke of the importance of positive self talk – what would your best friend say about you, can you channel this and hear it for yourself? She thought one of the keys to success is getting to the core of who you are and, whatever your style is, bringing your whole self to work, and being genuine and authentic.

On this topic of backing yourself, Petra asks – how would you behave differently if you knew you wouldn’t fail? She believes risk taking is essential and you will gain new levels of confidence if you push yourself. 

Find a Mentor

One of the biggest questions of the night was; will we get there? Will we reach gender parity in leadership? Alex believes that it is just historical and is optimistic – it will take time to get there, but we will. There will be some discomfort because we aren’t use to it, but women can support this change by finding mentors and sponsors to back them and also by backing themselves.

The panel agreed that the presence of a mentor is highly important. This often happens informally and you must be willing to ask – the support and guidance you can receive can really help navigate your career.

We Can’t Do It All 

Petra shared that, as women, we have a tendency to overload ourselves and she touched on how important it is to delegate and to reset your expectations. We should learn that there’s only so much you can get done in a day – focus on the top 2 or 3 tasks and be conscious of the distractions that come throughout the day. She also mentioned the importance of being frank, open and honest in our challenges. Social media has created a falsified image of perfection, but it’s important to know that this isn’t real life.

Final Take Aways

There were so many insights shared on the night and some articulate and intelligent questions asked by our audience too – the audience were so engaged and supportive that they even ended up even answering each other’s questions at one point! See below for the panel’s final pieces of advice;

  • Make sure you are aligned with a manager who sees your strengths and can challenge and champion you
  • Get a mentor, you can have different mentors for different things but it’s important to have a support network
  • Back yourself, have confidence to speak out
  • Feel proud of where you are, grow a tough skin and be kind to yourself
  • You can’t do it all – don’t be afraid to delegate and pick 2 or 3 things you want to get done in a day
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for flexibility and encourage work places to be progressive when it comes to flexibility


Thank you again to everyone for their involvement, to MedicalDirector for hosting us and to the wonderful Lotus People and Sustain Digital teams for bringing it all together.

If you are interested in being involved or invited to our next women in leadership event, please reach out to sinead@lotuspeople.com.au or hollie@sustaindigital.com