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What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

Gender equality within the workplace is an issue we are continually striving to improve, with movements like #Metoo highlighting its importance. Despite this, an imbalance still exists, one which women work against every day to achieve the same positions as men. 

In Australia, women make up 47.4% of all employed persons, yet a woman’s full-time average weekly earnings are still 14.2% less than for men. Women hold only 14.6% of chair positions, 18.3% of CEO roles and 35% of director titles. 

So, where does this leave us? Unfortunately, COVID-19 hasn’t made this plight any easier, with women’s jobs being more vulnerable than ever due to existing inequalities. 

We’ve asked female business leaders from varying industries across Australia their view on gender equality in the workplace in 2021.

Female business leaders reflect on workplace equality 

Alana Mai Mitchell author, careers and corporate coach and product development manager 

What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

“Overall, I see that corporate environments have become more supportive of women in business and leadership. The COVID-19 pandemic and the huge shift to working from home, has opened up greater opportunities for women, especially with children, to choose a schedule that suits their needs and not feel obliged when they need to leave the physical office “early” to attend to school pick up etc. 

“I’ve faced challenges in my mental health and navigating through the opinions that come when you are promoted into senior management in corporate roles. My mental health was a personal challenge that saw me experience five mental health crises. Yet once I had done the inner work to accept these within myself, the outer work of sharing that with my colleagues became much easier.” 

Mentors: “Margaret Drudge was my mentor as I successfully navigated selection into CommBank’s graduate program in 2008, a role that changed my life. In years to come, she encouraged me to stay in the role, which turned out to be a blessing as a new senior female leader joined and became a major advocate for me”. 

Keren Moran and Noa Peer, Co-founders, MeMeMe Press

What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

“We started MeMeMe when our daughter was four because we wanted to see different family representations, like ours, reflected. But we’ve worked together on our other business, a digital agency, for the past 20 years. 

“From a tech perspective, it’s definitely tougher to be a woman in the start-up landscape. However, in the creative industries, we’ve been judged by the work we do, which makes it a more equal playing field.

“We immigrated to Australia from Israel and started a business without knowing anyone or the culture, which was quite a shift. So, in a way, coming from a different country has helped us, as people seem to have mutual respect for the challenges this poses. Women also have a heightened EQ which can be really helpful when running a business and pitching.” 

Role-models/Mentors: “While neither of us had a mentor, we did rely on each other along the way to figure out the journey. Our culture also impacted the way we viewed business and gave us the drive to push forward out of a necessity to survive.” 

Caitlin Zoti, Operations Manager, checkout.com 

What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

“When I moved to Sydney, I worked at an advertising firm where the finance team was 100 per cent female, and the CFO and Financial Controller were both incredible to work with. 

“After that, I moved to a sports media group where most the staff were men. While this was a big change in dynamics, I had a great manager who supported my growth. Interestingly enough, the few women in this workplace made me feel more discriminated against and excluded. 

“Sadly, because of the challenges and competition women face, there is often an attitude of ‘I can’t help you be here too, because this is my space’. This definitely isn’t always the case, and I’ve worked with many amazing women who have supported me. However, some are still afraid to share the space with other inspiring and empowered women in the workplace, for fear that there are only finite opportunities for women. However, I’ve been very fortunate overall to work with progressive and supportive managers. 

“In my current role, I’m part of the management team where I’m listened to and given equal opportunities in all discussions. As the newest manager at the time, and a young female, it was – and still is – amazing to have such an equal footing. Checkout.com invests in their employee community and has various culture groups and diversity workshops, all peer-led, including a women’s community. This provides a voice for all employees and boosts inclusion and diversity in the workplace.” 

Mentor: “My previous advertising CFO. Not only is she the type of leader who would support you 100 per cent, but she also showed me that women could be leaders through all life’s seasons.” 

Yasinta Widjojo, Marketing Manager, Pin Payments 

What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

“Tech and IT can be challenging industries, as they’re predominantly male-led. Unfortunately, because of the lack of female-representative, it can create a culture where women feel they have to be better than everyone else just to succeed. 

“Women feel they need to be alpha leaders, and it can be rare to find someone willing to help them. I think as a woman, there’s a bit of a disconnect on how to reach those high-level leadership positions. We need to be willing to support each other professionally, but that’s not exclusive to gender. Inclusivity is important across all areas, but to make sure we support women, especially in the tech space, we need to take that extra step.” 

Mentors: “Michelle Obama is an incredible role model for anyone seeking to create a more equal and empowered world.” 

Rachel Louise, General Manager, Natasha Schweitzer 

What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021

“Being a professional in fashion, I’ve spent most of my career working with women. Despite this, jewellery design is heavily male-oriented, so our team, which is made up of only women, is quite unusual. 

“There used to be this idea in silversmithing that women didn’t do it because they’d have to get their ‘hands dirty’. Thankfully that idea is changing, and we’re seeing young women jewellers come to our brand who are passionate and inspired. Despite this, I’d love to see more women in leadership roles and challenge stereotypes across all industries, so we can finally reach a place of equality. 

Mentors: “Our founders, Natasha and Alex Schweitzer are both under 30 and have done a tremendous job at lifting each other, the brand, and other young women in fashion.” 

 is a month-long campaign aimed at raising awareness surrounding women’s mental health and empowerment. Dedicated to supporting and celebrating women, Liptember runs for the entire month of September to raise money for a range of Impact Partners who carefully chose women’s health initiatives, research, programs and support services.

One in six women will experience depression and throughout COVID-19, women have experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress (25%) when compared with men (16%).

Liptember makes a positive and powerful impact on women’s wellbeing, to break down stigmas associated with mental health. To find out more or to donate visit www.liptember.com.au

Read more: 5 personal branding tips for women

Read more: Sustainability: Solutions require diversity of leadership and talent

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Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas

Ruth Thomas is the founder of ChangeMakers Media, a media and communications agency which aims to make a positive difference in business and charity. Ruth has over 10 years experience working across Australia and the United Kingdom as a media professional. With skills across film and tv to journalism and content production, Ruth has assisted brands like The Australian Greens, Network Ten and the Ovarian Cancer Council, to name a few.

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