Almost six years ago I found myself part of a leadership team that was equal parts male and female. The balance was achieved when a female managing director replaced the outgoing male. There were four female executives, including our new leader.
I was warned by a couple of senior people that working closely with so many women in the leadership team would end in tears. Our new MD had also been informed that we wouldn’t get on. The chemistry between us was instead positive and powerful. Not only did we all get on, we bonded as colleagues and became friends. We added value to each other in the work place.
When our company was sold a year later we went our separate career ways. But our friendship remained strong. The marketing director Anne-Marie Lavan went home to London and is now marketing director of Bauer UK. Anne-Marie returned to Sydney for a visit earlier this year and it was like time had stood still when we came together to celebrate her return.
The publisher of the Parenting titles Jo Runciman went across to the new owners Australian Consolidated Press and my former MD Carrie Barker is a partner of events specialists The Projects. But we stayed together in spirit and whenever there was a party. I have lunched, dined and celebrated with Carrie and Jo for the past five years.
We were together last Saturday night to celebrate the 50th birthday of Carrie’s husband. It had been a few months since we were together as a group so there was much to update. We laughed, danced and sang into the night and I was reminded of the strong bond that can form when women who respect each other work closely together.
Carrie was our boss but she never made us feel like her subordinates. Sure, if the situation required, she could pull rank. But she didn’t wear her title like a beacon. We had a collegiate relationship with the men in our leadership team too. It was an inclusive and fun culture. I recall the Magazine Publishers Association awards that we attended the year we all worked together. We were a relatively small group, compared to the major magazine publishers, but we made the loudest noise. We cheered for each other. There was no internal rivalry. Carrie was one of the first on the dance floor, as she was again at her husband’s party last Saturday night. We rushed to join her and danced all night, both times.
We were a team and we really did feel stronger together than working in isolation. She taught me a lot about the benefits of strong female leadership including the impact it can have on positive team culture.
Have you worked in a powerful female team?