mindset

Balance is better, crazier

This year’s international women’s day theme is #balanceisbetter. I’m Libran, so balance is in my DNA. However, I dug a little deeper to find out why balance of men to women in the workplace is better. Better for you and better for the organisation’s performance.

This week, I’m organising a corporate breakfast event for International Women’s Day. I interviewed three women and a male in senior roles across male-dominated fields. Here was their resounding response to why balance is better in their corporate world:

  • balance of ideas and innovation

  • balance of opinion and ways of doing things differently 

  • balance of customer representation and direct resonance with the customer persona  

  • balance of opportunity to bring out the best in people

That all makes logical sense to me. But what do we mean by balance, they ask, challenging my question. Indeed, balance does not assume 50/50.

Balance is something much deeper than quotas or parity. They agreed that balance is subjective to each organisation, or industry, or team. Balance is difficult to quantify but they said that progress towards balance should be identified and measured. Programs, projects and teams which are led by women will be great initiatives to measure, as well as flexible workplace practices for all employees; working groups, interest groups and mentor programs all provide a platform to build equality and opportunity.

Communication is also highlighted as key. It’s ok to state that we all have preconceived and unconscious bias because of the environment that surrounds us. They tell me that it just needs to be overtly recognised and adjusted. For eg, hey we don’t have any females candidates put forward for this job. Why? Go back to the recruiter and ask them to cast the net out wider. And if there are some women considering applying but are not quite confident enough, let’s put in place some mentoring to anyone - male or female - to help them through the process. You get the idea? Identify unconscious bias and fix it.

In Nike’s latest ad “Dream Crazier” they explicitly call out this unconscious bias. The ad draws you into the discriminatory sporting landscape. However, the ad turns around with a response. It challenges its female customers to not feel defeated. Accept the bias undertow but prove it wrong through achievement. What have we got to lose? Nothing but everything to gain under the right mindset which I coin as #nobarriers in some of my previous blogs.

Let’s move to another landscape - the media.  Last week the ABC shared its desire to interview more female spokespeople in its news and opinion programs. In order to achieve a closer to parity balance it has set up a register of potential talent for their interviews of which women are able self nominate and be nominated to join. This gives women the opportunity to take the stage and offer balance of ideas, opinion, representation and opportunity. But wait, there’s more. And here’s the key. They say:

For women who have never participated in a media interview or written an op-ed before and feel nervous or unsure, please don’t be discouraged from nominating. All nominees contacted by the ABC’s experienced interview producers and talent bookers will be guided and supported through the process.

I’m really proud to see Ita Buttrose take the helm as ABC Chair and you can be assured that she will not put up with any unconscious bias from her board, given her history of success working under the Packers. 

However, we won’t have many women in Chair or CEO roles just yet. Men in current CEO roles need to listen and take notice to this new mindset of balance. In a stand up comedy show, Hannah Gadsby said that white males have a lot of power in this world and it’s up to them to promote equality and equal opportunity. Some are threatened by this prospect, knowing that a bit more competition could expose them, warts and all. For others, who genuinely care about shareholders and the organisation’s performance and not their own hip pocket, they are already listening to the benefits of balance. My advice is to seek them out and go work for them. Just do it.

Now, for all you Facebook fanatics, I will be recording a Live Facebook feed from my International Women’s Day event. Click going here: https://www.facebook.com/events/267076654213742/?ti=ia

Until then, please share your thoughts on this topic in my comments section below or via my social media post for this blog. I want to hear your opinion, both male and female as I prepare for this exclusive interview!

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Show them what crazy dreams can do. #justdoit
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Why I’m on a high

In March this year, my family was invited to climb Mt Kosciuszko with The Rotary Club of Turramurra. Such an expedition mightn’t seem worthy of a blog but if I told you that my eight year old daughter was wheelchair bound would you lean in to read more? 

If you’ve climbed this mountain, all 2,228 metres, you’ll concur that the rough and steep terrain is not for the faint hearted, let alone those of whom are wheelchair bound. We got up there in the end, with the help of a very dedicated crew and the support of our family and friends who raised over $1K for SpinalCure as part of the trip’s Summit Wheelchair Challenge.

But this blog is not about the expedition. It’s about the “no barriers” mindset that my family has adopted since my daughter turned six. She entered our lives, born with profane physical and developmental delays which remain undiagnosed to this day. It has been a hard slog but we’ve come a long way in therapy, building a support crew and landing the perfect school.

It was through the school that this mountain trip became available. We were given two weeks’ notice, leaving no time to plan or ponder too long on every possible thing that could go wrong, 2,000 metres above sea level with no medical services for our daughter. But we took the plunge in any case.

That’s what we call the “no barriers” mindset. I first took it on two years ago when I realised that I needed to make a choice whether I sink or swim in my adversity. Living daily with disability is beyond your worst nightmare. It breaks families apart. It causes poverty. It brings on grief and depression. It makes you isolated. 

So my husband and I chose to swim. And I chose not to be a victim of my circumstance. A friend said I make disability look easy. Well, it’s not easy, but another friend said “it’s about 80% mental and 20% physical.” It is for me. I cannot imagine life any other way and I love my daughter and all that she has taught me.

Now, two years since the switch to a “no barriers” mindset, I can reflect and smile. The most amazing thing about this mindset, besides seeing our daughter do all the things that every other nine year old does, is that you attract like-minded people who spur you on for more. 

In order to lift our daughter on a daily basis my husband and I train in the mornings at CrossFit2147. I never thought I would like high intensity sport and risk lifting 50kg over my head but I’m doing just that and we have amazing coaches to get us there. It includes a fitness community that encourages and lifts each other up to achieve our goals. We’re strong enough now to be able to take our daughter everywhere we go (beaches, waterfalls, even Kakadu).

On the hike up Mt Kosciuszko I met a woman who also exuded a “no barriers” mindset. Sam Bloom had a horrific accident in Thailand that broke her back, resulting in a wheelchair bound life too. She tries her hand at Olympic kayaking and just competed in the Adaptive World Surfing Championship in San Diego, taking first place. In her book “Penguin Bloom” (a story about her recovery now being produced into a film) she says “surround yourself with a supportive inner circle.” That’s very true and it’s what we’ve done to survive, in addition to our belief in the grace of our Lord who gives us daily strength and wisdom. 

Sometimes, we encounter negative people. And it’s about navigating away from them before you lose sight of yourself. 

Hence, now, as I embark on my first new business venture, despite having my hands full as a mother and primary carer, I take on the “no barrier” mindset once again. I hope that this will open opportunities to meet more amazing people.

When we reached the top of Mt Kosciuszko we let out a “coowee” which was a huge relisation that we were heading in the right direction on life’s journey. Do you have a “no barriers” mindset? Want to gain one? My advice is to set some life goals that benefit your loved ones. From there, you can apply the same tenacity to another area of your life. Here’s some further advice from Elenor Roosevelt that I adopt: “Do something everyday that scares you.” That way, you’ll know you’re pushing a barrier that will fade over time and one day soon you too will coowee from the mountain tops!