Telstra Awards Caroline Kennedy

Demand Equality Regardless of Your Gender

Telstra Awards Caroline Kennedy

I was fortunate enough to be a finalist in the Victorian Telstra Business Women’s awards in 2014. I really enjoyed the journey and loved the fact that I got to meet so many inspirational women who are very successful in business.

What I was surprised by was a number of women who are advocates for the “lack of gender equality” in business.

This point was discussed a great deal over the course of the week. Now, I have written articles on this subject of gender equality and in particular, the fact that I find the activism on the subject a little patronising.

I have always believed that women should demand better. We are all fortunate to be living in a country like Australia, and we can choose to be the master of our own destiny, and each and every one of us has the liberty to demand what we are worth in the workplace.

During my Telstra business women’s journey, I had the pleasure of engaging with Australia’s best and brightest businesswomen. Some of whom are:

  • Kate Weiss, Table of Plenty
  • Sherri Bruinhout, Melbourne City Mission
  • Maria Deveson Crabbe, Marie Stopes International Australia
  • Kate Morris,
  • Mia Klitsas, Millie & More
  • Sadhana Smiles, Harcourts Victoria
  • Natalie Collard, Australian Dairy Farmers Ltd

What I found interesting is that some of these women, like me, operate in industries where at a senior level it’s very male-dominated.

One individual mentioned the fact that she walks into a room and is generally dismissed; however, she is the person everyone should be talking to.

I resonate with that; however, I’ve never really given it much thought before.  I’ve always been of the opinion that too many people in our society focus on the lack of equality as opposed to taking actual action to remove those barriers for themselves.

I’ve held middle management and senior management roles for over 17 years. I’ve been the CEO of blue-chip companies, and I’m proud of my success. I was humbled to be amongst so many amazing women.

On the night of the awards, I had some of my senior executive team at the event to help me celebrate. One of my male senior executives had, what I now call an intriguing conversation with a guest of another finalist.

He was a gentleman in his sixties, and he was the father-in-law of one of the category finalists.  It was such an achievement for this young lady, and you would have assumed he was very proud of her, hence why he was at the event – to support her.

I’ve never really considered myself a feminist, in my mind, I’m a business person getting a job done. In all my years in an industry dominated by senior male executives, I always demanded equality, because I know my worth, regardless of my gender. I’ve taken a seat at the table and owned it.

The conversation that occurred between this gentleman and my male colleague was something out of the dark ages. He asked my colleague “so why are you here”? To which my colleague replied, “I’m here to support my CEO.” The gentleman replied with, “but aren’t we at a women’s event”? Apparently, the gentleman thought he was a comedian as he found his own comment to be very humorous.

Luckily for him, I did not come to be aware of this conversation until the day following the event.

I say to him, before saying something so sexist think about your daughter-in-law and all the women in your family and life, think about what you can do to HELP ensure their success is not undermined by small-minded people like yourself.

I’ve never really considered myself a feminist, in my mind, I’m a business person getting a job done. In all my years in an industry dominated by senior male executives, I always demanded equality, because I know my worth, regardless of my gender. I’ve taken a seat at the table and owned it.

This whole experience made me realize that I actually have a responsibility to all women and in particular, to the next generation of businesswomen; to ensure the same level of sexism doesn’t exist.

So with that in mind, I encourage every single person to have more conversations about diversity and equal leadership and to include the males in your lives in the conversation, so we work to eradicate this kind of sexism.

Shame on this gentleman is all I say.

Over to you...

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I am a Mum, business founder, author and accomplished CEO with over 20 years’ experience in the corporate world. My childhood dream was to become a fighter pilot, but when that didn’t materialise, I found my place in the corporate world, climbing the sales and marketing ladder to my role as CEO of Cox & Kings Australia.

I'm the founder of Empowering Ambitious Women, I've led start-ups to companies with annual revenues from $55 million to more than $250 million. My role as CEO of Australia’s leading franchise network of professional builders saw me as a pioneer in the industry; as a female CEO leading a large franchise home building company.

I was formally recognised twice by the Telstra Business Women's Awards my achievements in business.

As a woman who became one of the 16% of female CEOs, and who has led in male-dominated industries, I’m passionate about creating pathways for women leaders to step up, take a seat at the table and own it.

I love; French champagne, socialising, dining out and having an impact...

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Telstra Awards Caroline Kennedy

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