Being the month of International Women’s Day I have thought a lot about female leadership and the relationship with a #ChooseToChallenge mindset. I know there’s been a lot of talk about breaking down external barriers to entry for females in leadership, however, I have spent this month considering more about the internal barriers. This internal barrier is what we build inside our minds and hearts that can often stop us from success and limit our perspective on what options and opportunities we could choose to embrace.
This year has already been quite momentous for women, as we see a greater presence of women speaking out against injustice and standing together side by side, with courage and conviction. Our internal dialogue that we are in it alone and we can’t achieve what we set out to do is so harmful, that’s why I admire the ‘choose to challenge’ attitude. When I see it manifest in our community through the power of female leadership, it helps set the benchmark for others to follow suit with their own voice and momentum.
Within this is the ‘choose to challenge’ mindset we are able to face up to the supposed limitations and see a pathway towards our remarkable potential as leaders to achieve our goals and inspire others. And this applies to all genders.
The recovery process after a severe accident in 2017 taught me a lot about ‘choosing to challenge’ these internal walls we build in our minds. Six months in hospital learning to walk after being thrown off my horse has enhanced my perspective in many ways. A prominent experience was to hold a #ChooseToChallenge mindset and not accept external limitations, and importantly, to challenge the internal restrictions I put on myself. Each day, one goal at a time, I embraced my inner courage to keep going.
This #ChooseToChallenge perspective is one that needs to be embraced by everyone so that gender stereotypes can be broken down and brick by brick, we can then remove the ‘barrier to entry walls’ for women in leadership and male-dominated industries. The more I have been thinking about this the more I have released again we need to look internally and challenge our own conscious and subconscious gender bias and speak out when we see and experience sexism. We need to dismantle this internally and well as externally. We need to see that all careers in our society as equally open to diversity, as we innovate and adapt to a rapidly changing world as leaders.
Models for workplace culture are where we can choose to challenge outdated stereotypes and reflect a culture that is more relevant to individual perspectives based on their life goals. There are two sides to this gender stereotyping coin; women should embrace being leaders and have pathways to these opportunities. Also when a man chooses to be a stay at home dad, this should be celebrated. With intersectional feminism and our relationship to equality, we create more of an equal society for everyone in our community to achieve their remarkable potential and the true diversity of workplaces can be reflected. As a woman with a disability, I know how hard it can be to live with physical pain and limits on my body at times. Not only am I facing a gendered glass ceiling, but a physical one as well. When we choose to challenge ourselves, we can also make way for a safer workplace culture with our mental and physical wellbeing as a cornerstone.
I’ve established an NFP ‘Empowered Women In Trades’ to support women to see careers in trades. The motivation behind this is to increase female leadership and presence in male-dominated industries. With more women, we have more opportunities to share our lived experiences of being in tune with our vulnerability and being okay with choosing to face life’s challenges with our community’s well being as a cornerstone. We need to get more women to see skilled trades (and other care paths in male-dominated industries) as a viable career pathway. We need to increase the number of apprenticeships and introductory level training so they can then be supported to develop core skills and advance to leadership positions and have job security through hard skills and support networks. We need young girls to have the opportunity to study a trade and for us to choose to challenge discrimination and harmful stereotypes that hold us all back.
A great way for society to provide this support is to give even weighting to ‘male’ and ‘female’ leadership qualities. Traits such as empathy, gratitude and vulnerability need to be seen just as important as more masculine qualities such as risk-taking and negotiation skills. With a network of Empowered Women in Trades, we have the ability to see women and men achieve their career potential as leaders innovating the industry and inspiring the next generation of tradespeople to develop their hard skills and their soft skills for industry success.
To use the words of the incredible Ruth Bader Ginsburg: ‘women belong in all places where decisions are being made.’ Diversity enhances knowledge as people bring forth their different perspectives, enhancing the creativity of the solution. Diversity is the key to innovation, which is the key to industry advancement and strong bottom lines.
I am the Australian women who defined doctors and taught myself to walk again through redefining my own version of success. I have been recognized by The NYC Journal as one of the Top 30 Women Disruptors To Look Out For In 2021 and Disruptors Magazine Top 30 Inspiring Women To Look Out For In 2022.