Tracey Spicer is a renowned news reader, journalist, media trainer, keynote speaker, radio broadcaster, trainer, and author. But despite her long-standing career in the media spotlight, her image as a poised, pampered, picture of perfection has undergone a makeover of sorts in recent years.
Spicer has just released her first “femoir”, The Good Girl Stripped Bare, in which she unpacks the systemic and social barriers women face in the workplace, discusses the fourth wave of feminism, and shares insights into how she overcame the biggest challenges of her career.
For Spicer, a 30-year stint in the Australian media taught her some very harsh, and very personal lessons about structural discrimination in the workplace.
“Like many women in the workplace, I’ve seen or experienced just about everything from sexual harassment, to the gender pay gap, to road blockages in the way of leadership journeys, to pregnancy discrimination.”
Spicer says her greatest challenge was “being boned” when she was coming back from maternity leave after the birth of her second child.
“What I learned by facing that challenge, taking the network to the Federal Court and starting a media campaign about pregnancy discrimination, is that we all need to stand up and take on these fights in a strategic way.”
One of Spicer’s key concerns is that many young women today are living with the fallout of entrenched gender norms and expectations from their parents’ generation.
“We were brought up to be ‘good girls’, which manifests in silent compliance,” she says. “As a woman leader, you’ve got to speak out and confront challenges head on, rather than worrying about your likeability. You’ve just got to suck it up and go hard.”
But this is no small feat when it’s clear that we live in a world where women leaders are still held to a different standard than their male counterparts. And in the media world, you don’t need to look far to find some jaw-dropping examples.
“If a woman leader behaved like Tim Worner from Channel 7, she would have been booted out the door,” she said. “Women are still expected to police society’s morals.”
But for those of us who may not share Spicer’s intestinal fortitude, there is hope. Her book recommends a range of practical tips and tactics for developing self-confidence and an authentic leadership identity.
High on the list is the importance of targeted networking, even if it doesn’t come naturally. Truth be known, it’s only in the past 10 years that this stuff has started to feel a little less awkward for Spicer.
“I was really forced to do it because I didn’t have a job. I’d be dragging my baby and toddler along to these networking events and forcing myself to introduce myself to people. You’ve just got to get out there and do it,” she said. “Looking at the list beforehand, knowing who’s going to be there, walking up there, introducing yourself, sharing business cards, contacting the person afterwards, seeing if they want a coffee or a walking meeting.”
Mentorship also rates a mention, but while she agrees it can be a valuable exercise for both the mentor and mentee, Spicer believes that more needs to be done within organisations to support women to climb the leadership ranks.
“I think that sponsorship has to be the number one priority because we can mentor, we can share information, we can guide, but we’re getting to the stage where we really need active assistance from men and women in senior positions to crack through,” she said. “I’m also a believer in quotas and targets because it’s the only way that we’re going to ‘sheconstruct’ workplaces.”
From overcoming professional challenges, to coping with the highs and lows of motherhood, to deconstructing the beauty myth, Spicer’s book encourages women to take control of their leadership journeys, and to not be afraid to contest ingrained gender stereotypes.
“I really want to smash this expectation in society that women and girls have to be compliant, pretty little flowers, that decorate men’s lives.”
If you want to hear more from Tracey Spicer, and grab a signed copy of her book, The Good Girl Stripped Bare, register to attend the She Leads Conference on 1 June at QT Canberra here. Or you can buy Tracey’s book here.