Forget lowering a ladder, drop down a fishing net!

Forget lowering a ladder to support one woman at a time, drop down a fishing net to raise up many

Women's Agenda Leadership Awards
Dr Kirstin Ferguson was the Chairman of the 2017 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards judging panel. Below is an edited version of the speech she gave at the Awards luncheon on Friday.

It is such an honour to have been invited to Chair the Leadership Awards judging panel in 2017. The Awards judging panel (listed below) is comprised of some of Australia’s most senior leaders each of whom is a stellar example of a leader one can aspire to. I cannot think of a better group of individuals to have considered each of the applications the Awards received. Every judge was invited to participate due to their absolute commitment to gender diversity and to supporting women, especially women in leadership, however they can. I thank each and every one of my fellow judges for the time, effort and dedication they have given to this task.

The process of being a judge involves reviewing a long list of online applications and trying – with a great deal of difficulty I might add – to narrow that down to a short list of finalists. For the first time, we introduced face-to-face panel interviews and there is no doubt that every finalist should feel incredibly proud.

To our inspiring finalists, I know your stomach will be fluttering right about now and you will be hoping, humbly of course, to hear your name called. But please know, it really isn’t about whether or not you win. OK, well maybe it is a little, bit but please let me explain.

You have already won simply by being a finalist. In fact, you won the moment your application was submitted. Because simply by being involved in these Awards you have demonstrated the courage and leadership to put yourself forward, to be a role model to others and to be prepared to celebrate your successes.

As many of you in this room may know, this year I have been celebrating women through the #CelebratingWomen campaign. In fact today I celebrated the 554th woman from the 37th country having committed to celebrating 2 women every single day in 2017.  Through celebrating women every day this year, I have learnt about the importance of celebrating our successes and particularly the importance of women celebrating their successes.

Today we are here to celebrate women who have been identified as leaders in their fields and industries. Women who are role models and beacons to follow by those who aspire to follow in their footsteps. Women who have overcome obstacles, biases, pay gaps, busy complicated lives to succeed. Women who absolutely deserve celebrating.

Celebrating our successes is critically important, and I think particularly for women because what I know for sure is that the imposter syndrome is alive and well in 2017. If you ask virtually any woman, they will tell you that they have not done anything worth celebrating.  There is an ingrained reluctance amongst many women to put themselves forward. To say even amongst friends and family, let alone work colleagues and strangers, that they are proud of whatever it is they may do.

But the finalists here today, women who did put themselves forward are, I am sure, glad they did. Not only would those women in our audience be releasing endorphins right now that make them feel good, that feeling also reinforces success and therefore also the behaviours (and confidence) you want to have in reserve next time you are faced with a challenge or an opportunity.

Even better, being prepared to put yourself forward encourages others to do the same, since you can role model to others what is possible and you help inspire them with your story. So every single woman here today who participated in these Awards has role modelled for other women the power of putting yourself forward and seizing opportunities. For that, thank you, since the ripple effect is enormous.

In short, sharing stories of successes and achievements inspires others to excel and to make a difference. And that is what being a leader is all about. And as leaders, each and every one of us, should we be so fortunate to achieve our own goals – whatever they may be – we have a responsibility to help others get there too.

To our finalists, whether you win or not today, others will look up to you to role model how they can find themselves in the same position as you in years to come. How they can achieve all you have achieved. Take that responsibility seriously. But rest assured, you are not alone.

Today is a great reminder that we all have a responsibility – men and women – to continue to help other women however we can. Whether that is to help a woman you work with apply for a qualification they have always considered completing, nominating them for an award or perhaps even helping a friend find a safer environment to live in at home. You may find yourself encouraging a woman to accept a promotion she has been offered, but isn’t too sure she can do. Support other women wherever you can.

Forget the old saying that if you are successful be sure to throw down the ladder so you can bring up another woman behind you.

Forget the bloody ladder. A ladder will only ever help up one person at a time. It is possible for us all, through being role models to others, to throw down a fishing net and bring many, many women along with us.

So enough from me. Good luck to all the finalists. I can say with 100% confidence that the judges had a difficult time judging every single category this year so please remember, simply by being involved, by putting yourselves forward you are a winner. And you will have inspired many, many more women as well.

The 2017 Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards judging panel

Dr Kirstin Ferguson, Leading non-executive director and creator of #CelebratingWomen

Sally Loane, CEO Financial Services Council

Professor Larissa Behrendt, Chair of Indigenous Research, UTS

Nicole Brown, Women in Focus, CBA

Paul Zahra, Company advisor and diversity advocate

Pip Marlow, CEO of Strategic Innovation, Suncorp

Suzy Nicoletti, MD Twitter Australia

Emma Alberici Journalist and Host of ABC’s Lateline

Kate Morris, CEO Adore Beauty

Marina Go, Leading non-executive director

Conrad Liveris, Corporate advisor and diversity advocate

Kendra Banks, Marketing Director, SEEK

Georgie Dent, Contributing Editor, Women’s Agenda

Juliet Bourke, Head of Deloitte Australia’s Diversity and Inclusion

Nicola Hazell, Director, SheStarts

Nick Steiner, Executive search consultant, Egon Zehnder

Madonna King, Journalist and author

Stephen Conry, CEO Australia, JLL

Anastasia Cammaroto, CIO for the Consumer Bank division, Westpac Group

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