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If you caught the ABC’s Paper Giants miniseries last night, on the launch of Cleo magazine into Australia, with Ita Buttrose at the helm, you will have been as impressed as I was.

Coming along 10 years after Cleo was born, as I got older I certainly knew who Ms Buttrose was, she was the editor of Women’s Weekly to me, but I had no idea of her marvellous history and what a fantastic business woman she is for us all to aspire to.

Of course it was only TV, so how much of it was based on fact we won’t know, but I was so impressed by her poise, determination, passion, presentation and what a role model she was for women around her then, and several generations later.

What really struck a cord with me was her strength, despite her femininity, the boundaries she pushed (while looking absolutely glamorous) and the women that she took under her wing and mentored to succeed.

It may have been a man’s world she was working in, but she rose to the top by being true to herself. When she had to fire the older male creative director, my heart broke for her. How many times have I sat in the same seat having to let someone go that personally, I really liked, but this is business and they aren’t performing.

In today’s work force, many female bosses take the stance that to get to the top you must be tougher than the boys. Nice girls don’t get the corner office, so they step on whomever they need to in order to succeed. And other successful women? Well they should not be embraced, but feared – for they are the competition. I am sorry, but this just isn’t how I was raised.

In my early days as a journo I had a female editor who made every day a nightmare for me. If I asked questions, she looked at me like I was stupid. If I had a good idea she pooh poohed it, and then the next day I would over hear her pitching it to our editor (who loved it). If I asked how I could further myself, she would tell me to wait my turn. I went into my career looking for positive female role models like Ita, but I didn’t find them. Years later, that editor is still in the same role, which just shows you how far that attitude gets you.

People often make the comment to me that all female offices must be ‘super bitchy.’ Sure, I can’t deny that we haven’t had some real little divas grace us with their presence over the years, but those treasures don’t last on my watch. My attitude has always been to create a positive work environment where we feel we can share, have fun and learn. It’s not about how old you are, but what you are capable of and what you have achieved. If we work as a team, we will always achieve more. Also, don’t sit there and struggle, no question is silly and someone can always help you. We work hard to breed a team culture and I often have past employees say they took this for granted when they were with Red PR, but really miss it now.

I am sure Ita’s style didn’t work for everyone, I am sure there were ex staff members of hers watching the series thinking they couldn’t stand it when she did XYZ and that will happen with any work environment. In a world where positive female role models in business are far and few between, I have to say I love her and she inspired me to be better than I am right now.

It made me think, there are probably hundreds of other fabulous female role models out there that I haven’t crossed paths with yet – I can’t wait to meet you ladies.

So I’d love to hear, who are your female business role models and why?

What do you think?

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Fleur Madden-Topley

Fleur Madden-Topley

Fleur is managing director of <a href="http://www.redpr.com.au">Red PR</a> in Brisbane and Blue by Red PR in Sydney. She started her career as a journalist and Red PR was born out of the necessity for public relations professionals to deliver quality work and exceed both their clients’ and the media’s expectations. In seven years, Red has become one of the most respected lifestyle PR agencies in Australia. In 2008, it was the first Australian agency asked to partner with PROI, the largest global group of independently owned agencies.

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