Thursday, 28 April 2016

Learning from engaging women leaders at the inaugural Women Leaders in Public Sector Forum


What makes a good leader? How to be a successful leader? How to remove traditional barriers to achieve improved gender representation in the public sector?

These were some of the questions explored and discussed at the inaugural Women Leaders in the Public Sector Forum, held at the Australian National University on 6 April 2016.

This quote was displayed during the forum.



The forum started with a video address from the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash. Minister Cash said that historically the Australia Public Service has been a leader in promoting gender equality in the workforce and highlighted the need to normalise flexible working arrangements regardless of gender.

Throughout the day we heard from inspiring, accomplished and motivating women who offered their insights, experiences and stories on leadership effectiveness, career advancement, ways to support the generation of women leaders, what makes a good leader and what makes a good follower, and how technology is changing the way we interact with and learn from people.

The forum ended with an interactive panel discussion that focused on increasing women’s confidence and advancing careers. The panelists – Brigadier Georgeina Whelan from the Department of Defence, Jane King from the Australian Taxation Office, Katrina Cooper from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Susan Price from Price waterhouse Coopers – spoke about what their respective organisations are doing in the gender equality space and how diverse workforce creates better and more productive organisations.



Panelists, from L-R: Katrina Cooper, Senior Legal Adviser, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Susan Price, Price waterhouse Coopers; Brigadier Georgeina Whelan, Joint Health Command, Department of Defence; and Jane King, Deputy Commissioner, Australian Taxation Office. Photo: ACIAR
Some key takeaways from the forum were:
  • Good leaders create environments where others can succeed
  • It can be useful for leaders to address gender through a capability lens rather than an equity lens
  • Recruiting more women to leadership roles can be achieved by shifting from high performance indicators to high potential indicators
  • Effective leaders bring their team along with them and always support them 
  • Be ready to accept advice from people you know and look up to
  • Trust in your own judgment 
  • We need to challenge stereotypes and we need more male activists who take action
  • Actively seek opportunities for your own personal development 
  • Learn from your mistakes and learn from others
The forum was a good opportunity for aspiring leaders to learn from and engage with senior public sector officials and chat with like-minded people on what it means to be a good leader.

By Laura Carew, Communications and Stakeholder Engagement, ACIAR

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