How to Handle an Employee’s Resignation the Right Way 

How to handle employee resignationEmployee resignations are a regular occurrence in the workplace. In fact, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times during his or her career. As an entrepreneur and a leader, it’s always wise to know and have a process in place to properly handle employee resignations. This helps reduce or prevent any negative impacts resignations might have to your business and to your professional relationships with your colleagues and past and current employees. To help you out, we’ve come up with several key pieces of advice on dealing with employee resignations the right way.

Consider the Emotional Impact of Resignations 

Resignations can be emotional and hard on all parties. However, it’s important to never take it personally. Getting angry or feeling guilty will only make the situation worse. Some employees become very emotional and, as we all know, unchecked emotions can trigger conflict. If it happens in the case of a resigning employee, the effect could be anything from a professional misunderstanding to low morale in the workplace since the other employees will most likely be curious about how the situation was handled. You also risk burning bridges if you let your emotions take over, which is something you don’t want especially if the resigning employee did his or her tasks really well.

Dealing with employee turnover is part of being in business. Sometimes, even your best employees will leave, and many times it has nothing to do with you. If it’s time for them to move on and there’s nothing wrong with their reasons or intentions, be supportive and keep communication open. This could lead to future opportunities to work with that former employee in another situation that’s beneficial for your business. For example, he or she could get a new job at an organisation that either currently is or could be a potential customer.

Counter-offers Don’t Always Fix the Issue 

Managers sometimes give counter-offers to convince employees to not leave the company. However, take note that counter-offers may not fix the issue. Most of the time, they just offer an increase in salary or added benefits not found in the original employee contract. If an employee’s main issue is the compensation package and your business has the capacity to offer a bit more as justified by his or her performance, then don’t wait for them to resign before offering an increase in salary.

However, if the issue is not about the salary or benefits, a counter-offer won’t be the remedy. Sure, the employee might stay for a bit longer but, ultimately, you’ll just be masking the issue and he or she will still resign, probably more disappointed if you weren’t able to address the real issue. Be careful also of how you present a counter-offer; it won’t sit well with your employees if you always look at things from a monetary perspective and without recognising their true value beyond money.

Encourage the Four-week Notice 

Ask a resigning employee to work with the standard four-week notice. Some businesses immediately dismiss someone after a resignation request, which shouldn’t be the case. When that employee leaves, he or she does so with all their knowledge. Including a four-week notice or adjustment period allows for a smoother transition and helps ensure pending tasks are taken cared of (or at least delegated the right way).

The resigning employee may play a critical role in your business’ operations. With a four-week notice, you’ll have the time to delegate duties, and that employee can spend time with co-employees who will be covering for him or her in the meantime, for an effective handover. You can also ask the resigning employee to assist you or the people and culture in fine tuning the job description for his or her replacement.

Think of Resignation as a Fresh Start

Be open to the opportunities a resignation can bring. The resigning employee may have been a model worker, but maybe he or she was lacking innovation or initiative. Often, when someone is in a position for a long time, complacency can become an issue. Bringing in a fresh perspective through hiring a new employee with a different but still effective take on doing the needed tasks could be advantageous in terms of evolving the vacated job position and your business as a whole.

Reflect on How You Can Improve and Reduce Turnover Costs 

Review how you interact with and manage others. Look at turnover rates for your business or department. How do they compare to industry averages? An Australian Human Resource Institute survey found that in 2015, the average staff turnover rate was 16-percent. This is a good baseline to start with.

Employee turnover can be expensive, thanks to direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include payouts due to the leaving employee and recruitment costs. Indirect costs can involve lost productivity and training. Depending on the position and the resources needed to maximise it, you could end up with a very expensive resignation that could really cost your business if it’s not filled soon or if it’s frequently being vacated. This is especially important for SMEs since they usually have smaller budgets and less resources to handle frequent resignations.

Research on ways to reduce this attrition by changing some of your approaches or policies to increase employee retention. These costs can also be minimised by having that employee work out his or her four-weeks’ notice so that the rest of your team is prepared to complete tasks or effect handover to the new employee. Take these situations as a means to learn as a businesswoman and to improve your business to become one which truly values workplace satisfaction.

Let Others Know Sooner Rather Than Later 

Once your employee submits his or her notice, you have to communicate that effectively to all those who will be impacted by the move. Be transparent in your communication. Call a quick meeting with all those who need to know and lay out a plan for transition. Be positive in sending off the employee. Handling things in this manner shows your confidence and professionalism, and other employees will appreciate this as well, knowing that you reacted and handled the situation in a constructive fashion.

Develop a Resignation Checklist 

It’s a great idea to have a resignation plan in place when employees leave. This could be a checklist of all the things that need to occur and the items you should have to ensure proper communication and transition. The checklist could include things such as returning company property, transitioning the current work load, handling benefits, and conducting an exit interview.

Established companies usually have this checklist supplied people and culture. For new businesses and SMEs, it’s important to have it to reduce disruption of daily operations which will result in losses—something that smaller companies should proactively avoid to ensure sustainability.

Being able to properly handle employee resignations is a characteristic of an effective leader. However, with the different attitudes and factors involved, it could prove tricky without proper guidance and experience. At Behind Closed Doors, we drive the professional development of women through networking, peer mentorship, and other tools and resources. As a leading network of businesswomen, we can guide you in your business and professional career and prepare you for any eventualities, paving a clearer path towards success.


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Building Connections: Knowing Who to (and Not to) Pursue

Building ConnectionsBuilding connections is important regardless of your industry, position, or tenure. Simply put, it’s hard to get anywhere in life without the help of others. Going at it alone can only do so much; you’ll still have to rely on external help and guidance at some point if you really want to succeed and exceed your expectations on yourself.

This is especially true in your business or professional career. As such, it’s highly important to look at the significance of connections and knowing who you should pursue (and avoid) in building them.

Why Connect?

In a nutshell, connections provide opportunities to learn, grow, and become a more accomplished person, as well as a chance to give back to others and your community. These connections lead to additional beneficial relationships, fuelling your growth as a business person or professional. However, please remember that, when seeking connections, your mindset shouldn’t be one that’s just about financial gain. Growing your financial capability and making that your sole purpose will lead to negatives such as unrealistic expectations and shallow, unauthentic connections that may bring more harm than good.

Connection Advice

Not everyone is an extrovert and comfortable in networking and approaching strangers. There are many ways to connect and channels you can use, even if you’re shy and uncomfortable with networking.

For example, you can employ the power of social media networks like LinkedIn which has 4.2 million active Australian users. Being active on LinkedIn will raise your profile and help get you noticed. Offline, you could try getting involved in work, community, or industry groups where there’s a good chance you’ll meet interesting, like-minded individuals who not only share your values but also could offer guidance in your own career. As a businesswoman you can also choose to attend female-only networking events if you feel more comfortable interacting with fellow women and in a space that nurtures collaboration. Find something that works with your schedule, and try coming up with your own communication strategy, such as having your own elevator pitch. You also need to have an objective that you want to achieve when attending each event such as to gain a meaningful connection or business opportunity.

Which Connections Matter?

Finding people you want to connect with is much easier than thinking about who to avoid. Start by connecting with people who interest you and represent the values you want to embody. Australian entrepreneur and brand ambassador Jennifer Hawkins said, “Loyalty, kindness and compassion are very important in friendship and business partnerships. I like to think I have those qualities, too.” When you decide you want to hear what people say and their story, you’ll have a much more genuine connection. Experience is also an important factor. When someone has accomplished or experienced much, they have a great story to tell. You’ll appreciate and even learn from what they have to say.

Who to Welcome

Knowing who you should connect with comes down to your goals not only for your business or profession but also for yourself. For example, connecting with recruiters (head hunters) makes sense if you are seeking career opportunities, while meeting key industry stakeholders and personalities is beneficial if you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of your industry. Thus, your connection strategy may change depending on what you want to achieve. Whatever it is that you need help with, focus on how a potential connection can help you meet your goal. This helps keep you organised in your interactions as well.

At the core of any strategy is, of course, a common denominator you share with the persons you want to build a connection with. You’ve only got so much time and attention to give so pursue connections proactively but efficiently.

Find people who not only have the same values as you, but also encourage you to improve and extend yourself. You could also surround yourself with different kinds of people who share the same values to give you an idea of how to interact and speak with individuals with different personalities. Diversity in connections is important since, as you go along in your career, you’ll have to deal with all sorts of people on your way to success.

Knowledge in a particular field you want to excel in is also another factor you should consider. People who have knowledge and experience know what it takes to succeed in their own industry and, if you connect with them, you could be the recipient of invaluable knowledge that will give you a competitive edge compared to others who ignore the value of connections. This is why industry experts, speakers, and recognised alumni are sought after, and having them in your circles gives your own profile added credence.

Ultimately, the best connections are those that are mutually beneficial. For instance, a writer may provide a guest post on another company’s blog through a connection. The writer gets more name recognition and the company gets quality content. You could also trade expertise with a connection, enhancing both parties’ skills in the process. The important thing is that it shouldn’t be one-sided.

Who not to Pursue

On the other side of the spectrum, you should also know who you should not pursue. This is not to say you dislike them but, in the long run, there are connections that won’t give you any value and could even lead to poor relationships and you being taken advantage of. Watch out for red flags, such as negativity. People who are very negative and talk bad of others shouldn’t be pursued as they can demotivate you and affect how you interact with others. You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life. Red flags include if you get the sense a person isn’t being truthful. Honesty, in your career, business, or personal life, should be top priority. Trust your gut feel.

Stay clear of those who don’t support your own success. Remember, everyone’s in their own pursuit of happiness and success; you don’t need to feel guilty about achieving it, and you don’t have to explain yourself. Also, these people bring little in terms of encouragement, which is something we all need at different times.

Reputation matters so be protective of yours. If there’s anyone in your network, group, or business who clearly has a questionable reputation and an attitude to match it, it’s probably good to not associate yourself with them. Think things through first since connecting with someone with little or no integrity may reflect poorly on you, affecting your business or professional life.

Last but not the least, be wary of “fake personalities”. As previously mentioned, honesty is important. They may act positively in front of you but, in the background, spread rumours for their own personal gain, affecting your own growth and how others perceive you, which is important since we are our own brands.

Where to Start

There’s much to learn about being connected, and much to be said about its importance. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, has this to say, “Leaders need to find that place of wisdom, strength, and real connection (with themselves and others) and they need to lead from that place. Only from that place they can truly create miracles and change the world.” As with many things in life, building the right connections takes practice and patience but, as long as you have the right motivation, values and mindset, there’s every reason you will be successful.

Want to get started on finding the right connections? We at Behind Closed Doors nurture and cultivate the kind of environment business and career women need to find and build connections for true business and professional development. We value working together and have the mentorship, networking, and resources to extend women further to ensure their continued success.


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Be Heard: Why Speaking Up and Building Relationships Matter

Be HeardYour voice matters. As a business woman, you may sometimes hesitate to make a name for yourself or proclaim what you can do. You may feel like you need to hold back or keep your ideas to yourself to avoid offending anyone.

But what you have to say is important. In fact, it is valuable. Putting yourself forward and building relationships is empowering. Not only will you empower yourself, you’ll empower those around you. Opportunities for professional, business, and personal growth occur as a result of these relationships. Here we’ll talk about the benefits of being heard and the value of building connections.

What Does “Being Heard” Mean?

In simplest terms, it means speaking up. This could be in the boardroom, around an executive table, at a networking event or just in everyday conversations. Having a “seat at the table” offers you the chance to tell your story, your experiences, share knowledge and your expertise. Think about how you can contribute to every situation you find yourself in on a daily basis.

You have the right to be heard. Take opportunities to connect with others who embody the qualities you find ideal. These connections will help you grow as a person and progress in your business or career. Giving and earning the respect of others will also enhance your emotional intelligence—something that’s needed if you want to build strong connections with more people.

Why Speaking Up Matters

Having a plan to expand your network makes for success in business, and part of it should be you aiming to be heard. In a general sense, not being afraid to speak up and be heard makes your presence known to more people. This is important because, if you want to build more connections, other people should know first that you exist, that you are a woman of substance, and that they need to take you seriously.

Being heard also gives the impression that you are confident in your own abilities and in who you are. This is another trait successful businesswomen share. Without confidence, you will hesitate in facing new challenges, talking to more people, and exploring opportunities. By speaking up, you’ll let others know that you are confident, and those willing to pursue new business or professional connections will find this more appealing than talking to someone who seems to be too afraid to take risks.

Speaking up and being heard also broadcasts what you can do, what you’ve gone through, and what you believe in. While there’s a risk that some won’t agree with what you say, there will also be those who share your views and values. This opens up possible opportunities such as business partnerships, joint ventures, or events and engagements (e.g. public speaking opportunities) that will bring valuable business or professional experience.

Last but not the least, you being heard is also a chance for other women to be heard as well. Confidence is contagious and you speaking up and sharing your opinions and success stories will inspire other women to follow in your footsteps and shed the veil of anonymity. Like you, they’ll develop the needed poise to interact with more people and the confidence to take on challenges on their way to achieving their own success.

There are certain events and interactions that are conducive to women who want to be heard and build meaningful professional or business relationships, such as the ones below.

Networking Events

Networking is one way to build both professional and business connections. Through networking events, you’ll meet a variety of people, from those who are just starting out to experts who have made it in their fields. It is also a way to know more people who share what you stand for, what you believe in, and your own business or career values. However, there’s no sense to be too timid or anonymous in a networking event—chances are, no one will approach you if you don’t speak up or make any effort to let others know you.

If you’re new to networking, you can opt for women-only networking events. This type of networking provides a more comfortable space where women can talk more freely and share experiences. Women sometimes have the tendency to not ask for advice even when amongst peers. In a women-only networking event, you’ll feel less self-conscious about speaking up or asking for tips.


Being a mentor in a mentoring relationship is rewarding. Mentoring fellow women, in corporate programs, or through professional associations can greatly impact other women who aspire to have leadership roles. Through mentorship, you can encourage others to be more confident in their abilities and empower them to face challenges and progress in their respective fields. Your voice has the ability to empower those around you and, in return, they’ll feel grateful and hold you in high regard.

Mentorship extends beyond the workplace. Being a part of your community or through volunteer activities, you can meet other women who have similar interests as you. If you are a mentee and need advice on becoming a mentor, the connections you form within your community will help you build your self-esteem and get to know more people at a deeper level which is important if you want to be a successful mentor.

Social Media

You don’t have to be physically present to speak up and be heard. You can go online and reach even more people through your digital voice.

For example, how often do you use LinkedIn to get advice, pitch an idea, engage in a business or professional conversation, or write a post? It’s not just a portal to showcase your resume; it’s one of the fastest-growing social media networks. It’s also a place to build and nurture relationships through constant communication, and women can have a strong presence on this platform.

Naomi Simson, CEO of online gifts and experiences retailer Red Balloon and a LinkedIn influencer, has over 2.5 million followers and has used the platform as a way to build her personal brand, her company, and relationships with other women. She is an avid poster on the site offering her wisdom. Naomi said of gaining success on social media, “Posting consistently, writing the way you speak and offering original ideas are the best ways to build a major following on social media and garner influence as a thought leader.” This is an example of how being heard and having a voice, may it be online or offline, can positively affect your business or career growth.

It’s Hard to Get Anywhere on Your Own

Speaking up, being engaged, and being involved in person or online is a must for success. It’s hard to get anywhere in your business, career, and, most importantly, in life without a support system or external relationships. You can’t be always silent; you can’t be a wallflower if you want to be in the conversation. Fashion legend Anna Wintour, once said, “In today’s world, you have to interact. You have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus, and what you believe in.”

If you need advice, empowerment, and guidance to help you speak up and be heard and in building positive relationships, it’s wise to seek the help of the right people you can learn from and share ideas with. At Behind Closed Doors, our focus is on helping women achieve business and professional growth through networking, mentorship, and having an environment where women can help each other achieve their goals, objectives and dreams. Learn more about how Behind Closed Doors can help point you on the path to success by watching the stories of some of our members.


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The Art of Negotiating: How Women Can Be Better At It

The Art of NegotiationMany women miss opportunities from negotiations for the simple reason that it can put them so far outside of their comfort zone that they panic. Yet, negotiating is an essential skill that is certain to boost your business, career, and self-worth. And make no mistake about it: not taking the art of negotiating seriously could hamper your progress.

Whether you manage your own business and need to get a good deal on a partnership or contract, an Executive that needs to negotiate business deals, are psyching yourself up to ask your boss for a salary raise, or need to deal with conflict at work without backing down, being better at negotiating is key, and below are several ways to do just that.

Negotiate from a Position of Power and Influence

Men are traditionally known to be more forward than their female counterparts when it comes to negotiations, as their traditionally assertive role in society means they generally aren’t afraid to ask for what they want and they enjoy the interaction. Women, in contrast, often lack this skill as they are generally not confident and feel uncomfortable, which may mean letting the other person get their own way in deals.

When professor and author Linda Babcock was researching for her book Women Don’t Ask, she found that there was a 7.6% difference between the salaries female MBAs were getting compared to those of male MBAs. During her research, Babcock also discovered that approximately 7% of women tried to negotiate initial salary offers compared to 57% of men. This tells us two key things: that negotiating is crucial for getting a better deal, and you won’t get it unless you try. As such, having the confidence and will to negotiate is an important first step in this regard.

Prepare Notes Beforehand

Go into negotiations knowing exactly what you want, including your baseline on what you are willing to accept. It’s not enough to have an outcome in mind—you need to detail that outcome and write it down, along with clear steps towards your aims. This will help you show the other party (or parties) that you have thought things through, have really studied your options, and have strong reasons to support your case. Sometimes, half the challenge of convincing others is convincing yourself first!

Preparing notes beforehand also lets you avoid getting confused and guides you when it comes to what you need to say and when to say it. Doing so gives you a chance to outline what you would be willing to settle for as well, should you need to compromise during negotiations. We recommend you know your position, tactics and outcomes and enter into negotiations without notes.

Be Clear About What You Need

Accomplished Australian businesswoman Geraldine Buckingham, global head of corporate strategy for BlackRock, explains that you should be explicit about what you need whenever negotiating. She says she used to try to slip what she wanted into talks instead of being absolutely direct, which often led to miscommunication and didn’t always bring her the result she desired. Now, she advises that women state their outcomes in a concise way so a clear conversation can be had, resulting in less confusion and miscommunication between the parties involved.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language

As well as having confidence and using clear language, it also helps to pay attention to your movements while negotiating, even the most subtle ones. If you squirm and look uncomfortable, you’ll look less convincing and the person you’re talking to will know they have the upper hand no matter which words come out of your mouth.

There are plenty of guides on improving your body language, and some of the basic principles which can be applied to negotiations include:

  • Make eye contact. This gives you a more confident and genuine aura and helps build positive rapport with the person you’re negotiating with.
  • Practice your handshake so it’s firm but not too strong. This conveys a sense of self-assurance on your part as well as confidence.
  • Ensure you seem like you’re actively listening to the other person. Not only is it polite, it will make them feel more comfortable. This means you can have a genuine conversation with them and that they’ll possibly be more open to what you’re proposing.

Positive Interactions

There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. Don’t relentlessly pursue your outcome if you keep hearing “no.” Keep your interactions as positive as possible. Ensure you are willing to compromise, and keep conversations to convince the other person to give you another meeting in the future. Ask what you can do to keep negotiations alive and tell them that you will be pursuing the aims they outline in the meantime.

Remember, a negotiation doesn’t ensure that your demands will be met. Leaving a positive impression on the other party is important as is building relationships, as it helps ensure that they’ll be open to future negotiations with you. However, coming off too strong or aggressive will result in the opposite, effectively closing the doors on future negotiations with a specific party.

Negotiating, when done correctly, can help you progress faster, close business deeds, resolve issues and conflict situations better, or even be a great leader and communicator. If you want key advice on how to be better at negotiations, we recommend joining organisations aimed at the professional development of women. At Behind Closed Doors, we help career and businesswomen improve their skills through networking, mentorship, and other resources, enabling them to progress further, reach greater heights, and take their careers and businesses to the next level.


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Moving on from Failure the Right Way

moving on from failureWhat do Emily Dickinson, Oprah Winfrey, and Marilyn Monroe all have in common? Well, apart from being some of history’s most well-known women in their respective fields, all three have suffered the same thing: significant setbacks during their careers.

Dickinson received countless rejection letters before her work was published, Monroe was told she should set her sights lower and become a secretary, and Winfrey was even sacked from her job as an on-screen reporter because she was, laughably, told she was “unfit for TV.”

But another thing these women have in common? Their willingness to keep trying in the face of adversity and even downright failure.

Yet that’s easier said than done. So how exactly do you motivate yourself to fight back when something serious stalls your business or career trajectory?

Keep It in Perspective

Key is you need to try to keep everything in perspective. When you look back at the many years you’ve been in your business or profession, the failures you’ve experienced are going to pale in significance or become memorable in a positive way because you used them as stepping stones to success. Take successful Australian businesswoman Sarah Cordiner as an example. When the government completely cut funding to her company training for long-term unemployed people in remote areas, she was devastated. Instead of wallowing in failure, however, she immediately spent eight weeks launching a brand new idea.

As she writes on her blog: “That unfortunate experience gave me not only the chance to reduce the high-risk operations of my business; but also the Captain’s hat to lead the way of a new and wonderful era.” Don’t think of problems or failures as a sign that you should be discouraged. Instead, use them as learning and motivational tools to continue going at it. As they say, it’s just a matter of perspective—and having a positive perspective or outlook is what matters here.

Continue to Believe in Yourself

Try not to let a failure debilitate your confidence or make you limit your belief in your ideas or what you’re capable of. Success doesn’t come easily and if you open up a conversation with other brilliant businesswomen, it’s likely they’ll have their own stories of failure, too. They’ll also surely mention how these stumbles made their drive to succeed stronger eventually, and made success even sweeter.

Consider joining a networking or business/professional group either online or face to face. This will put you in touch with plenty of admirable women who will give you valuable advice, especially in regards to maintaining confidence and the drive to move forward despite encountering business or career setbacks.

Use Your Mistakes as a Springboard

As painful as it may be, try to assess to what led to the failure you just experienced. Write down any points you feel contributed to what happened and then address them: what would you do differently next time? You may even need to speak to your boss or mentor and ask them to be honest about how they feel you could have avoided the situation. You could also post on a careers forum to see what other businesswomen’s opinions of what you did wrong are and how they would have navigated the issues.

Australian businesswoman Leanne Faulkner runs a small consultancy firm called Fortitude at Work in which she helps small business owners navigate the pitfalls of entrepreneurship. She sold her first company after suffering a breakdown because of the pressures of running a business.

“I think failure has been my greatest success,” Faulkner told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If I hadn’t really had that breakdown, which my husband calls a breakthrough, I wouldn’t be advocating for mental health for small business owners”.

Be Better Prepared

Once you have a good sense of how you would catapult yourself over the obstacles you faced last time around, think about how you can prepare yourself this time around. Was the failure because of poor people management? Consider professional development with a focus on people management and ask your employer to support you by way of funding or at least attending during working hours. Was it that your own business ran out of cash? Research different ways of gaining funding and attracting clients and set about making them a reality.

While business or career failure is often seen as a negative event, it also allows you to take a look at things in a different, more productive perspective. This gives you the necessary insights that will help you improve yourself and avoid the same failure in the future. Experience is the best teacher, after all.

Reset Your Goals if Needed

Now that you’re ready to get going again, it’s a good time to reflect and determine if your goals are the same as they were before you encountered failure. Just make sure any aims you’re dropping or tweaking are because of a more realistic approach or a genuine change of heart rather than because of a dent in your confidence.

Again, asking for second opinions can be vital for success, especially after experiencing failure. As such, consider seeking advice from fellow career or businesswomen. At Behind Closed Doors, we believe mentorship is and should never be underrated and use it, together with networking and other resources, to help women achieve true professional development in their own careers and fields.


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Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace ConflictWith leadership comes the challenge of dealing with conflict. As a businesswoman or manager, it’s important to deal with conflict resolution the right way. The 2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace authored by Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM tells us that half of all Australian workers have experienced one or more conflicts of a serious nature in the workplace. Of the total number of employees who participated in the study, 16% personally experienced conflict with a co-worker, and 20% had major problems communicating with a colleague.

You can’t escape dealing with conflict if you’re in a business or professional setting, especially if you’re in a position of authority and/or leadership. You have to learn to identify conflicts in the workplace, understand their nature, and take steps to resolve disagreements in a timely manner so you can avoid loss of productivity, encourage a fair and positive working environment, and help prevent future conflicts from happening or escalating.

Dealing with Workplace Conflict for Career and Businesswomen

In today’s dynamic workplace environment where the pressure to deliver and finish tasks on time and in-budget is high, misunderstandings are bound to happen. Studies reveal that men and women differ in certain ways when it comes to perceiving and managing workplace conflicts. For example, lower-level female managers are more keen to collaborate and less willing to avoid conflict at home than at work. Meanwhile, male managers, in general, are less likely to compromise at home than at work. The way leaders handle conflict resolution is important because the end result could either have a positive or negative impact on a company’s overall performance.

As a career or businesswoman, it’s important to be aware of the effective conflict resolution strategies that exist. You could use these to turn conflicts into opportunities for growth, creativity, and improving professional relationships and communication in the workplace. We’ve put together a list of conflict resolutions tips that will help you create order out of chaos even in the most toxic of environments.

Act in a Timely Manner

As a leader, one of the things you should not do is ignore major conflicts or wait too long before resolving them. If you fail to take charge during times of adversity, disputing team members could have heated arguments and engage in manipulative, self-serving behaviours that won’t benefit anyone. Conflicts amongst team members could also result in low employee morale and high dissatisfaction rates.

Unresolved conflicts only fester over time, affecting professional communications and relationships negatively. According to the Australian Disputes Centre, the costs of workplace conflicts to an organisation are high. An article published by the Centre suggests that ‘bullying complaints’ have risen significantly over the years. These complaints have big financial implications because they result in higher absenteeism rates, work accident/error rates, and staff turnover rates. Businesses also have to consider ‘opportunity costs’ associated with conflict resolution and the importance of the time spent on resolving workplace issues that could have otherwise been spent on driving productivity.

Hear All Sides First

As a leader or businesswoman, you will have to know how and when to intervene and achieve positive outcomes in often emotive situations. When approaching conflict situations, find out whether the disputing employees have discussed the matter and tried to resolve it between themselves. If they tried but couldn’t reach a consensus, you could set up a meeting to hear both sides before taking any steps to resolve the issue. You have to act as an intermediary between the two parties. Your role is to ensure that no one is being condescending, manipulative, or using unacceptable language during the conflict resolution process.

Hearing all sides first lets you dig deeper into the situation and know better what it’s all about. This enables you to determine strategies and steps that consider the points, issues, and suggestions of all parties involved, allowing you to be a step closer to a resolution that benefits all.

Be Objective

Identify the core issues that lie at the heart of the conflict. Evaluate all the details of the conflict and try to come up with a solution that will benefit both parties as well as the organisation. Document a plan of action once both parties have come to a consensus. You must make sure all team members fully understand what needs to be done and track actions so the same conflict doesn’t happen again.

Being objective also allows you to make decisions not based on emotions and biases but rather on facts. Thus, it enables you to have a clearer perspective and understanding of what has happened and what needs to be done to resolve the issue.

Don’t Let Personal Biases or Relationships Get in the Way

Your role as a leader requires you to leave biases at the door. Also, avoid playing favourites or getting emotionally or personally involved in the conflict. This way, your judgement won’t be clouded by factors such as personal relationships and will allow you to remain impartial. Beware of subordinates who use emotional deceit to their advantage and ensure that each side has the chance to understand the other’s perspective. This is one of the ways to help disputing team members find common ground.

Remember, when managing workplace conflict, the goal is not necessarily to please. Rather, it’s more about coming up with a solution aimed at resolving the conflict’s core issue, settle misunderstandings and miscommunications if they exist, and address the situation in a way that each party can learn from it. This way you not only manage conflict, you and the parties involved also gain important insights in preventing similar negative situations from happening in the future.

Effective conflict resolution is one of the trademarks of being a true leader and, therefore, is very important for success in the workplace. If you need advice or guidance in this aspect and in your business or career in general, joining organisations and networks that cater to the professional development of women is a great step moving forward.

Behind Closed Doors offers mentorship, networking, and other resources that will help you improve as a leader and be closer to business and professional success while allowing you to guide your employees and peers along the way as well.

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Why Mentorship Shouldn’t Be Underrated

Why Mentorship Shouldn't Be UnderratedWorking with a mentor is a potential way to accelerate your success as a business or career woman. A mentor will support and share with you their own knowledge and expertise, developed through years of being in business, and help you deal with problems you’re likely to encounter along the way. Whether you’re running your own business or looking to further your career, a mentor can definitely be a big help in taking you to the next level.

However, many still play down the value of mentorship, not seeing it as a primary tool to help you achieve more as a professional or as an entrepreneur. This shouldn’t be the case, however. We’ve listed below several reasons why mentorship shouldn’t be underrated and instead be seen as a definite key to success.

A Fresh Perspective

Working with a mentor can provide you with a new perspective on your business or career challenges. If you find yourself sitting on problems and challenges for too long, the new perspective offered by a mentor can prove invaluable. They can act as a sounding board and bring fresh insights from their many years in business. A mentor may also bring new solutions and ideas that you hadn’t previously thought of.

In the words of Thérèse Rein, Australian businesswoman and founder of Ingeus, an employment services provider: “It’s really good to have people who are not in the midst of the idea, who can stand back and ask the ‘have-you-thought-about-this?’ question.” In other words, when you think you’re at a dead end while facing a problem and can’t think of anything else, your mentor could provide the inspiration you need to get over the hump, learning more in the process.

Setting Goals, Done Right

Setting goals can be tricky. You need to aim high enough to achieve the best results possible while ensuring the goals are achievable, too. Set your sights too high, and you risk feeling demotivated when you’re not on target to achieve them. But if they’re not setting goals high enough, you risk not reaching your full potential as a career or businesswoman.

A mentor will have a clear idea of where you can go with your career or business. They will be able to ensure you are being realistic and focused, and they will know exactly when to push you harder.

Access to a Bigger Network

Networking is a vital part of a woman’s career or business plan. Without it, options are limited. If you really want to succeed, you need to get yourself out there and meet more people, especially those who you can learn from or can help you.

However, it takes years to build a solid network. When you work with a mentor, you get to benefit from their hard work as well. Your mentor will be able to identify opportunities for you within their own network, helping you progress faster or solve business or career problems. Not only that, but they will be able to provide the all-important personal introduction to any worthwhile contacts.

This is something Australian entrepreneur, Gen George, stresses. Here’s why she chooses to mentor other businesswomen: “I know first-hand what it’s like to start a business or develop an idea with no technical experience. I guide them in the right path by connecting them to the relevant contacts and advising them on business tips and tricks.”

An Impartial Opinion

Without a mentor, asking for feedback isn’t always easy, and there’s a good chance you won’t get the answers you need. Often, your contacts will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Outsiders, with no industry knowledge or experience.
  2. People with a vested interest in your business or career.

With this in mind, it can be difficult to find opinions you can trust. Here’s where mentorship comes into play. A mentor will be impartial with his or her opinion, and will give it to you straight. No more, no less. If you’re seeking their advice or opinion, they won’t tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear. When you need to make an important decision, a mentor can be relied upon to provide evidence-based opinions that give you the feedback you really need.

Better Control

Through effective mentorship, you’ll know one very important thing in running your career or business: Prioritisation. A mentor will be able to help you realise what you need to prioritise. For example, how much time do you spend working IN your business, instead of ON your business? By asking this and similar questions, your mentor will help you know if you’re prioritising the things that matter, and he or she will guide you in addressing the situation if you do need help.

You’ll then be less susceptible to falling into the trap of “I need to do everything by myself to make sure I succeed,” letting you focus more on being a leader and on the areas that will take your business or career forward.

Guidance Through Failure

Remember, your mentor most likely has more experience than you in your chosen field or industry. That also means that your mentor has encountered problems and failure at some point, and the lessons they learned may prove invaluable to you as well. By imparting this knowledge to you, your mentor will help you avoid the same problems, especially in the early stages of your career or business, or, at the very least, give you the needed insights to solve them.

Sure, you could still go at it alone, and you could achieve success even if you don’t have a mentor. However, given its benefits, you shouldn’t disregard mentorship; the guidance, insights, and lessons it can give you might just be what you need not only to survive but also succeed.

If you’re in need of effective mentorship for your career or business, it’s a wise decision to join organisations that aim to help its members achieve greater heights. Behind Closed Doors offers networking, mentoring, and other tools and resources to help women gain more success in business and in the professional world.


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The Importance of Working ON and Not IN Your Business

The importance of working on and not in your businessWomen operated 34% of Australian businesses in 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In many cases, these are one-person or perhaps two-person businesses. Not surprisingly, that means the entrepreneur is actually working hands-on in the business, due to the limited amount of employees and, of course, to save on employment costs.

However, as you grow your business and achieve more success, things will have to change. You’ll need help, and here’s where hiring new employees comes into play. You’ll then start to assume more of a leadership role. In order to grow the business further, however, you as the leader must gradually switch to working on rather than in the business. What does that mean? Read on!

In the Beginning…

Startups are quite often the brainchild of an individual with a vision or a great idea. In order to achieve that vision, the entrepreneur spends long hours performing the hands on tasks—ordering materials and supplies, driving to shows and stores to display the products, creating advertisements, bookkeeping, writing proposals, and, in some cases, actually creating the products themselves. What typically happens is that a little success results in the need to hire one or more employees. At that point, you must begin to work on, rather than in your business.

What this means is that you must avoid trying to do everything yourself if you have employees, just because you want to make sure everything is done according to your standards. This includes managing or doing your employees’ tasks, and not delegating some of yours to them. While your effort is commendable, this is nonetheless a negative for your business. This is what many call working in your business, and it can result in you getting exhausted and having less time devoted to the tasks that you, as the leader, need to do, which includes strategising, knowing your business’ weak points and addressing them, being the face of the business through networking, looking for business opportunities and therefore leading the business to success.

Meanwhile, working on your business basically means you’re working on the ways to improve your business overall, focusing on the things that you need to do as the leader (rather than the tasks your employees are tasked to do), identifying problems, delegating solutions, and improving your leadership skills for your company’s future. Therefore you’re looking at the bigger picture and being more strategic.

Leading is Different

In terms of working on your business, leadership is about problem solving, working on the long-term goals, delegating to others, and growing your company. Setting the organisation’s direction, marketing, finding new business opportunities, acting as the trouble-shooter, and being the visionary are just some of the tasks involved in leadership. If you try to manage all the details as well as the leadership functions, you will quickly become frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted. You must learn to be the executive rather than the “doer.”

Noelle Sunstrom, CEO of biotechnology company NeuClone, created a technology that decreased the manufacturing costs for biological drugs. According to Sunstrom, some basic strategies she used were “surround yourself with very smart people, delegate, (and) learn from setbacks.”

Find the Right People

An important task in getting to the point where you can work on, rather than in, your business is selecting the right team members. Hiring the right people is an art and it gets better with practice. You should have a clear mental picture of the kind of person you want in each job, a well-thought-out job description that ties into the company’s mission and standards, and an effective training and development program.

In the early stages of your business, you may want to do the training and development yourself to ensure that people fully understand the expectations and the job itself. Always be on the lookout for the right person to become the coach, for you and your team, —this is a key position to keep your business growing successfully.

Having the right people means less stress and more confidence that you can leave the tasks to your employees and focus on guiding your business in the right direction, making working on it even easier.

Keep the Right People

Don’t hesitate to terminate the wrong employees, respectfully. When you have employees you can trust to handle the day-to-day operations, you are free to do what only you can do. It’s best to end the employment of people who are clearly not performing, don’t care about customer service, don’t fit your culture, or who are dishonest. It’s harder with the more subtle issues, however. Sometimes good people simply don’t fit with the job or the mission or the team. Be honest and respectful and replace them with the right people especially if training and development doesn’t work anymore—you cannot be successful with the wrong people, and you will never feel comfortable delegating to someone who is not a good fit.

This is one of the harsh realities of being a leader. It can be really hard to let go of an employee who works hard, has good ethics, and has developed a good working relationship with you and the other members of your business. However, if that person is clearly not compatible with the job, you might have to move him/her to another position or let go entirely. This is why having a probationary period for employees is important—you have the time to analyse to see if a newcomer is a good fit and can perform in the role.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Delegation is the key to allowing you to work on rather than in your business. It may be the biggest hurdle for an entrepreneur, however. Moving from “doing” to “leading” means letting go of your “baby” and entrusting important tasks to others. Your employees must be clear on their priorities and jobs, the limits of their authority, and how you measure their performance. Constant communication (as well as listening carefully to what people say and don’t say) is one of the most important keys to good delegation since it allows you to better understand if an employee can handle a job or if he or she might need more direction and supervision from you or the other employees.

Without proper delegation, there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck with tasks not done correctly by people who are not competent to do them. The end result is you having to fill the gaps yourself and clean up the mess afterwards, leading to frustration and exhaustion, as well as being discouraged because you feel you still have to do everything by yourself. This also leads to confusion among your team members—who really need to step up and learn from making mistakes and you understanding there are other options and methods to achieving desired outcomes.

Learn From Mistakes

At first, your employees may not do things as well as you can or do them exactly as you would. In the first case, that may mean more coaching or supervision is needed (although your goal should be to have employees who need little supervision once they are fully competent). In the second, a difference in style doesn’t matter as long as the goal is achieved. Of course, you and your employees will make mistakes—and each one is an opportunity to learn. Whenever something goes wrong, ask yourself and all concerned, what could we have done to avoid this? Or if it was unavoidable, what have we learned from it?

Doing so gives you and your employees a better idea of how to avoid similar problems in the future. It also gives them the impression that their insights are important, and that they are valued members of the business.

As you work through the transition from being a hands-on worker to a true leader, it’s always a wise move to seek professional advice and guidance. Behind Closed Doors offers resources, networking, and peer-to-peer or one-to-one mentorship to help you work on rather than in your business, giving you a better chance of developing yourself into a better businesswoman primed for long-term entrepreneurial success.


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Why Women May Want To Consider Board Opportunities

why women should consider board positions

There are many more doors open to professional women in the business world today than ever before. However, the door to the boardroom has still not opened wide. Women currently make up only 30% of ASX 200 board positions, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

To some extent, this is because there are still not a lot of senior executives who are female. On the other hand, it may be partly because women are not on people’s radars ie Chairs and Board Directors don’t know you exist or are actively seeking Board roles. Here’s why you may want to consider board opportunities.

The Impact of Women on Boards

Women make up about half of the global population. If they are not represented well at the board level, their issues, concerns, advocacies, and requests may not be addressed or considered. It was women in board positions who fought for parental benefits such as on-site or subsidised child care, parental leave, flexible work practices and breast-pumping policies.

Organisations with high numbers of female directors also perform better regarding return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital than those companies with fewer or no female directors. This is despite the fact studies show that small-holding firms often cut back on investments in a company in the first year after women join the board.

Tech companies, in particular, are under significant pressure to diversify their boards—specifically by adding women, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The boards of huge companies like Facebook and Google are usually male-dominated. With the increasing evidence that boards with limited diversity are more susceptible to group-think and performance issues, that’s beginning to change. Boards have begun to court women like Stacy Brown-Philpot, the Chief Executive of online freelance marketplace TaskRabbit, Selina Tobaccowala, who runs the fitness app Gixo, and Clara Shih, the Chief Executive of digital marketing platform Hearsay Systems.

What a Board Position Can Bring You

Board service will boost your professional development and provide you with opportunities to gain more experience in mentorship and leadership or hone specific skills such as public speaking and even diplomacy. This enables you to more effectively guide and mentor other people as well, helping develop them into better contributing members for the organisation or for society in general.

As previously mentioned, a board position offers a great opportunity to make a positive change not just within an organisation but within society as well. And since you’ll also be working with other talented and skilled people with experience in the business and at professional levels (some of them with much more board experience than you), you’ll potentially have the support you need to attain your board objectives and be successful with your advocacies. However, for this to be possible, make sure you join a board within an organisation with values aligned with yours. For example, if you’re advocating for a healthier lifestyle, joining a fast-food company’s board might not be a good idea.

During the course of your board service, you will be exposed to other disciplines or fields you might not otherwise encounter in a regular work setting such as financial reporting, market analysis, or strategic planning. With greater experience you will grow into a well-rounded business or career woman.

Having a board position can be a rewarding way of giving back to the community—particularly if you serve on profit-for-purpose board—and can also provide you with an opportunity to help mentor other professional women. This is particularly true with local profit for purpose boards in a smaller community. The other advantage of joining a local board, if it’s your first time, is that many of the larger companies are looking for people who already have extensive board experience. Gain experience at the local level and then move up to the larger organisations that will help you make a greater difference.

In certain cases, board service also means extending your networks and additional income. While this is true, one shouldn’t join a board with the primary intention of acquiring profits or growing their own business financially. It is best to view and address board issues objectively and without a hidden agenda in mind. Board decisions tainted with personal interest are not the best ones and can have far-reaching negative effects for the organisation in the long run

Prepare Yourself for Board Service

Once you’ve decided that board service is part of the path you want to  take, spend some time educating yourself first about the companies you’re considering, the duties of a board member, and the potential risks. Boards make their selections on the basis of capability, trust and character. If you want to join a board, you need to market yourself. Enrolling in relevant courses such as those offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors will educate you on what will be needed from you in the boardroom and the lessons you need to succeed within it.

What are your special competencies? You must also be able to judge others well. Remember, the board has oversight of the CEO. Successful board members raise tough questions, collaborate, and are trustworthy. Finally, a board member needs emotional intelligence—specifically self-knowledge, empathy, and humility.

Board service does mean work and added responsibility; doing it right takes time and considerable effort. But if you’re successful, you will reap many rewards that will help not just you but the community as well. If you’re considering joining a board, Behind Closed Doors has the tools and resources such as networking. coaching and mentorship that will prepare you and alert you to opportunities.


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The Benefits of Female-only Networking Events

Importance of female only networkingNetworks are important for ensuring you not only thrive but attain great success throughout your career or in your business field as the more people you meet—and make a positive impression on—the more doors will open for you.

While you will meet plenty of people willing to help you out at a mixed-gender networking event, especially if you follow these useful tips on how to make the most of your experience, many women prefer female-centric networking events for several reasons.

Below are several of the advantages of female-only networking events.

They Help You Build Confidence and be More Comfortable

Female-only networking events create a community in which women can feel comfortable asking their peers for assistance. Whether by nature or nurture, men tend to be more forward in pursuing what they want, according to authors such as Suzanne Doyle-Morris, who wrote about this factor in her book Beyond the Boys’ Club: Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male Dominated Field. In contrast, some women feel less confident about shouting from the rooftops about their excellent skills and experience, thus possibly hindering their career progression—and their effectiveness at networking. Put simply, men are more likely to ask others for help or to partner to attain more success, while women prefer building relationships. The problem is that, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Female-only networking events make it easier for you to be more confident about presenting yourself, asking questions, and promoting your skills and ideas. Since you’ll be together with other business or career women who might share the same experiences and needs, you’ll be more encouraged to speak out knowing that they’ll understand and relate to what you have to say.

It Levels the Playing Field

“Women value authenticity in relationships,” according to Deborah Gillis, COO for Catalyst, a business research and advocacy group for women. According to Deborah, women can feel out of their element asking for assistance or advice from fellow businesspeople after just meeting them whereas men “seem to do it much more naturally.” A female-only networking event means that you’re not fighting for attention with men. It’s a much less intimidating space as a result, making it easier to achieve your networking objectives.

Especially for shy women new to networking, female-only networking events help you open up, training you to enhance your communication skills. Once you’re able to build confidence and acquire networking experience, you’ll be able to more effectively maximise the advantages of networking events—may it be female-only or mixed-gender.

It Expands Your Personal Network

According to this report from CNN Money, women still currently hold significantly less leadership positions compared to men. Because of this, many business and career women might have a smaller pool of talented people to create a natural network from. Female-only networking events allow women the advantage of meeting other women, allowing them to tap into a network of like-minded, ambitious people who are willing to help each other.

A female-only networking event also gives you the opportunity to meet other women with the same needs and interests as you, possibly even a similar professional or business journey—without the need to adjust being in a mixed-gender networking event entails, especially in terms of communication. As such, it not only helps expand your network, it’s also a fantastic place to find a mentor who understands you.

It’s a Time-saving Mechanism

The 2016 Australian Census reported that women still complete more household chores per week than men, on average about five to 14 hours per week compared to less than five for their male counterparts. This means that networking events specifically aimed at women help them get a step in the right direction when it comes to their careers, cutting out a lot of time trying to forge a professional network holistically at work—which can be challenging.

Also, make sure you already have your own networking goals and strategy before you attend the event. Doing so gives you an idea of what you have to do during the event allowing you to spend your networking time more efficiently and effectively.

It Will Motivate You

Seeing other successful women and hearing about their success stories really helps in terms of motivation—it basically tells us that we can have the same level of success as well! Anna Forster, an entrepreneur in the making, told The Australian that she attends women-only networking events in Sydney for motivational purposes. “When I hear about the success of the women at these meet-ups, it gives me something to benchmark to and to inspire me to work harder,” she said.

Not only are they motivational, female-only networking events, through the women who share their experiences and key advice for success, give us valuable insights for taking your career or business to the next level. So don’t just listen—ask questions and take notes as well! In the grand scheme of things, working together helps career or businesswomen create opportunities in different fields and industries. Female-only networking events help in this endeavour through the power of motivation, shared knowledge, unity, and collaboration.

Joining leading networks aimed at women such as Behind Closed Doors is a recommended first step if you want to maximise the benefits of networking. Being a member gives you access to resources, mentorship, advice, and other tools to help you develope your career or business.


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How Do I Create an Effective Personal Brand?

Creating an Effective Personal BrandBranding is all about image. Tom Peters, an American business writer and author of In Search of Excellence, first used the term in 1997 to describe the concept of self-packaging. Today, personal branding is a way to market one’s self or career as a brand and establish a specific image or impression of your business or expertise in the minds of others. It is particularly important for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who want to stand out from the crowd.

The tricky part is, how do you establish a personal brand that’s effective and will benefit your business or career? Below is a list of ways to help you make this a reality.

Include a Personal Story

Your personal story is what makes you unique. Who are you; where do you come from; what sets you apart? People learn from storytelling; the emotional and human connections involved have a powerful impact, especially to those who can relate to your story. Your first step on the road to establishing an effective personal brand is to answer all of these questions and more. You must be able to tell your story and then use what you’ve learned to represent your values and explain your expertise. Making your personal brand relatable through your experiences will make it more meaningful and memorable enough that more people will take notice.

Make it Authentic

You can’t promote yourself as someone who’s authentic unless your actions are aligned with what you preach. Authenticity isn’t something you force, but it is something you have to be conscious about in terms of building your personal brand.

For example, if you genuinely advocate helping the environment—whether it’s through educating or selling products or services—be sure that what you provide are pro-Mother Nature. This means avoiding selling or promoting things that might harm the environment. People like authenticity because it demonstrates who they can trust. If your personal brand shows authenticity, then you will certainly be more credible to more people.

Be Consistent

Consistency plays a major role in packaging your image. For example, if you have a presence on multiple social networks, each should contain core information that makes it easy to recognise you and your brand. Use the same profile picture, the same logo, and specific colour schemes. A consistent dress style or outfit can also help make you instantly recognisable.

Consistency is also an indication of integrity for many people, and it must be reflected with what you do or say as well. Constantly changing opinions or stances on different topics or having conflicting views can have a negative effect on your personal brand and lead to more people trusting you less.

Prioritise Visibility

The issue of visibility covers two areas. The first is getting your brand out there—market and promote yourself online and in person. Use social media platforms and, if possible, arrange or attend targeted events where you can connect with more people and introduce yourself. You can also use paid promotion techniques such as engage a PR specialist if you really want to jumpstart your personal brand, but if you’re already active in the community, socially-engaged, and giving interviews and presentations, it may not be necessary. The other issue of visibility is that you must always assume someone is watching. Avoid doing things that might be detrimental to your image online and offline. As they say, a personal brand or image may take years to build but a single mistake can ruin it in minutes.

Spread the Word on Your Expertise

Expertise is what makes people get and stay engaged. This is the primary reason why they’ll want to hire or work with you. Position yourself as an expert. You might create a blog or guest post on other websites and regularly post articles related to your area of expertise. Educating and public speaking are other good ways to get your messages out. Participate in discussion groups on social media channels as well and through webinars so you’ll reach more of your online audience.

Don’t Forget Respect

Sadly, in today’s world, treating other people well is not all that common. Remember, running down competitors doesn’t build you up. Being rude to a Personal Assistant means you may get stonewalled next time you want to talk to her boss. The co-worker you disrespected in your last job? He or she might be the person who decides whether or not a new company hires you today. Follow the basics with everyone: be polite, return emails and phone calls promptly, show consideration and listen carefully. Also refrain from spreading rumours and false news, especially about your competitors. Remember, it’s always better to have rivals that respect you instead of enemies in your industry. And never burn bridges!

Katie Bressack, health coach, corporate wellness consultant, and American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp ambassador, noted in an interview with Business News Daily that “It takes time, energy and focus to truly create a personal brand. Entrepreneurs must not only become experts in a particular field or subject; they must also be able to sell themselves by creating their own unique value. Rachael Ray was always a great cook, but her real success started when she took things to the next level and let her personality shine through her craft.”

Women are sometimes socialised to believe that they shouldn’t self-promote. As a professional woman, however, who and what you are is critical to your success. You are the face of your business. As Bressak says, “When you speak about things that truly matter to you, you develop a sense of authenticity with your audience that can’t be matched by any formal training.”

Once you have developed your personal brand, own it!

If you need expert advice our guidance in creating a personal brand, Behind Closed Doors has the tools to help you build one that’s both effective and authentic and will help take your business or career to the next level.


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Where do I start if I want to be on a Board?

Women on BoardsWhether you’re a business owner, self-employed, or a professional woman, the day may come when you decide you’re ready to be on a board. There are many reasons to do so—for example, to give back to the community, support a cause you feel passionate about, or wanting to work strategically with peers to steer organisations into the future.

If being a member of a board is something you’re planning for, here are some good basic strategies in terms of getting started on your goal to achieve that board role.

Look Inward

Your very first step is to examine your personal motives for joining a board. Think about just why you want to join a board, what value you can add, and what kind of board you’re interested in. It shouldn’t be to make contacts that will grow your business. The ideal board position is one with an organisation that is aligned with your personal values and in which you can make a difference. It may also present you with mentoring opportunities or even provide you with a mentor to develop you as a Board Director.

Determine Your Value

If your mission is to improve society in some way, look into profit for purpose boards. With no board experience you are likely to find a role in the non-profit/for purpose environment, where there won’t be any compensation. You should also perform a personal inventory of the value you can bring to a board, your personal characteristics, skills, and professional experience to determine where and how you’ll be a good fit.

Educate Yourself

If you’ve never served on a board, you’re in that classic position so common to aspiring directors —the board wants people with experience, but if you can’t get a board role, how do you get experience? There are opportunities available to help you learn how to be an effective board member. Don’t overlook the value of presenting to a board of directors. And don’t hesitate to ask what the board is looking for in its members. Once you’ve armed yourself with this information, you can start talking to people in your current network about your interest in joining a board and what boards would be of interest. The Australian Institute of Company Directors have many courses to educate you in the roles and responsibilities for being a board director.

Target Your Audience

Very few boards have exactly the right mix of skills and experience they need. Make sure your CV and Board Bio identifies and highlights those areas where you can add value and fill their gaps on the board. Gerri Elliott, founder of, points out that you’re selling yourself, so think about being able to say “I can help in these specific ways, in this specific industry or this specific locality.”

In addition to other aspects of skills and experience, think about the unique insights you can bring to a board. For example, if a board is composed primarily of males, how could the female perspective add value to discussions and decision making? Be prepared to present the advantages from the board’s perspective—they need to know what’s in it for them to have you as a board member.

Consider the Possible Downside

If you remember the Enron scandal, you have some idea of what can happen when a board of directors doesn’t fulfil its responsibilities. It’s a good idea to have Professional Indemnity Insurance that covers your board service. The organisation must have Directors and Officers Liability insurance so ask to sight the policy to ensure currency as part of your due diligence process.

Being an effective board member takes work and constant educating of yourself in keeping up to date with economic, social and environmental matters. It means asking tough questions, having courageous conversations and making unpopular decisions when necessary. It may also take a considerable amount of time, so be sure you have the capacity.

Board service is certainly something many aspire to gain. It can help you in your career and give you opportunities you might not otherwise have. Behind Closed Doors offers mentoring and coaching, key insights, networking, and other resources that can help you get started in your board career and boosting your business or professional career.


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Aunty Eunice AstonAs Corporate Australia work towards equality in Senior Executive and Board roles, behind closed doors (BCD) is providing a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women to join the pool of candidates ready to step into these roles.

Eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women have the opportunity to join BCD’s Executive membership for 12-months fully funded as part of a national scholarship campaign.

BCD’s scholarships seek not to provide an award to the most accomplished Executive, but rather an opportunity to an applicant that will benefit the most from the opportunity provided.

behind closed doors Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said each 12-month scholarship will be awarded to a successful Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female executive to further expand and challenge her leadership and governance practices.

“BCD Executive membership will provide Scholarship recipients with a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encourage other members to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments,” Ms Walford said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders play a vital role in our society, we are honoured to offer respected leaders this opportunity to join our Executive membership to allow them, and the women around the table with them, an opportunity for growth.”

Each Scholarship, valued at $7,500 + GST each, will provide recipients access to professional development, peer to peer mentoring, and networking opportunities with some of Australia’s most influential and leading businesswomen in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Members meet with a highly respected and accomplished BCD Facilitator and Program Director for three hours, eleven times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded businesswomen. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.

BCD awarded an Inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Executive Adelaide Scholarship to Aunty Eunice Aston, a Ngarrindjeri woman with traditional ties to all communities within the Ngarrindjeri Nation, in 2016.

In addition to being the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Chairperson, Aunty Eunice also runs Ninkowar Inc, a community led support service supporting other Ngarrindjeri women.

Aunty Eunice Aston described the membership as “an opportunity of a life time” to meet with like-minded women from diverse workforce areas.

“Being a part of BCD has provided me with confidence in decision making, clarity of purpose, mentorship and support. BCD enables and empowers women from all walks of life to meet their aspirations both personally and professionally.” Aunty Eunice Aston said.

“BCD has enabled and empowered me as a Ngarrindjeri Woman Leader and Elder to stand firm and hold clarity before making decisions in community collaboration and negotiations. After each meeting I feel empowered, strong in body and mind.”

Following the receipt of an $100,000 Australian Government Grant from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women under the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy (WLDS), BCD has expanded the Scholarships in 2017 providing the opportunity to two women each in Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

To apply for one of the Scholarships, applicants need to submit a CV and 1000-word response to the eligibility criteria. Applicants will be shortlisted to panel interviews and recipients announced at a BCD Connexions Networking event in their capital city.

To apply or nominate an Executive Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman for a 12-month fully funded BCD membership – find out more details below.

Find out more about Adelaide Scholarships here.

Find out more about Perth Scholarships here.

Find out more about Melbourne Scholarships here.

Find out more about Sydney Scholarships here.

Issued by: Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors, 0401 349 791

Attracting Capital to Fund Business Growth: Do Men and Women Raise Business Capital Differently?

Attracting Capital for BusinessMany businesses can’t get past the conception stage without outside funding from loans or venture capitalists, which means fundraising by the CEO, owners, or founders is necessary. According to studies, when it comes to return on investment (ROI), companies with women in top management positions show a 35% better ROI and 34% better shareholder return than those with no women.

Yet globally, recent data reveal that only 10-percent of venture capital dollars invested between 2010 and 2015 went to start-ups with female founders. Could it be because men and women approach raising business capital differently?

Gender Differences in Business

While not much research is available specifically on how men and women approach business fundraising, there is clear evidence that men and women approach many things related to business very differently. For example, men and women have different leadership styles, with men being usually more focused on command and discipline and women more focused on mentoring and coaching.

Men and women also differ in communication styles. While women are more likely to use communication as a way to create relationships and promote social connections, men tend to use language to exert a form of productive dominance and achieve visible, easily measured outcomes in business.

Differences in the Way Women are socialised

Women may actually be socialised to avoid talking about money. While the research on this issue revolves around discussing personal finances, the inability to discuss money directly could certainly hinder a business fundraising approach. Another socialisation issue centres on negotiation. Many women are typically not socialised to negotiate—rather they are socialised to accept what is offered. This may mean that they unconsciously expect their pitches will be judged strictly on merit, when what is necessary is the cold, hard financial data and some pushing on their part.

Tailor the Approach

At least when it comes to philanthropic requests, men are more likely to respond to the direct approach, while women prefer an indirect approach such as a letter or email. For women who are looking for capital to fund their business, the message is clear: go directly to the source.

Also, in business dealings, men tend to be more interested in power or authority, while women are more interested in affiliation—warm, close relationships with others. These factors can certainly affect a fundraising approach. Using language that reflects these different approaches may be helpful—for men, stress the “power” advantages like money, visibility, and status. For women, talk about teamwork and building relationships with the community or customers, and the benefits doing so brings to business.

Whatever approach you use, you’ll have a better chance of attaining success if you’ve planned your pitch and its execution carefully.

Networks Are Key

There’s no question that networks affect almost all business dealings. Those who have the same gender, social background, or ethnicity tend to be part of the same professional network and are more likely to work together. Unconscious bias (and conscious bias as well) can also affect decisions about funding. Some investors are only comfortable, for example, in dealing with women in certain industries such as fashion or retail rather than those in technology.

Also, there are some distinct pitfalls for women in networking. Kathryn Minshew, co-founder of The Muse, a job search and career advice site, found out that at least one potential investor she met during a networking event was more interested in her personally than investing in her company (she found her funding elsewhere). But she also notes that such behaviour is becoming much less acceptable, and an offender is more likely to be called to account by his or her peers.

Strategy Matters

When raising capital, it’s important to develop strategies to help promote success. For example, consider your fundraising efforts as you would a job interview, with the business plan as your resume. Do your research—why approach a venture capitalist who has no knowledge of or interest in funding a tech start-up when that’s what your business is?

Ask for feedback when you don’t get funded—the answers may help you adapt your pitch or choose different and better targets next time. Contact other businesswomen or colleagues who have been successful in their fundraising efforts and ask them to share both successful and unsuccessful tactics. Be prepared; you need excellent financial data, market information, and a good business plan.

Finally, don’t give up easily. You should expect that raising capital can be difficult and take more time than you expect. Networking remains critically important at all stages of the fundraising process, not only in the usual circles but also in many others—your funding may come from a completely unexpected source. Tap into your support network to keep you going. And don’t overlook the possibilities of joining business and professional networks, especially those focused on women such as Behind Closed Doors where you’ll find valuable insights, mentorship, and guidance that should prove useful for your fundraising efforts and in improving your business or career in general.


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8 Key Things to Look for in a Business Mentor

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual telling us exactly what to do? Particularly when it comes to our business and careers, simply knowing the next step we should take would be incredibly valuable. If only we had some sort of a guide!

This is where having a business mentor becomes useful. A business mentor is someone who has already navigated your future career path or one very similar to it. They have experience in the trials and triumphs that are ahead of you and are willing to give you advice on how to best make your way. This is a long-lasting relationship with someone you respect and trust.

For example, serial entrepreneur Jo Burston attributes some of her success to her own business mentor. “My mentor of the past 10 years…helped me shape myself as a successful female entrepreneur,” she says. “I am totally fascinated by globally successful entrepreneurs and know that by emulating how they created their journeys I can craft my own,” she continues.

The Difference between a Business Mentor and a Business Coach

Business mentors are often confused with business coaches. However, the two are actually separate concepts. A business coach is generally goal-specific. You have an objective in mind and the coach is helping you get from Point A to Point B. As such, the relationship is often time or project bound. With a business coach you will likely have set objectives and your work with him or her will be more formal.

A business mentor, on the other hand, is someone with whom you will likely have a long and more informal relationship. He or she will see you through many business goals and career moves. Due to the close and ongoing nature of this relationship, it is essential to find the perfect match. Below are essential tips in terms of what to look for in a business mentor.

A Similar Path

You probably wouldn’t ask medical advice from your accountant, nor would you seek travel advice from someone who has never left your city. The same goes for business advice. In finding a business mentor, you want someone who actually has experience and knowledge in the fields in which you hope to succeed.

This doesn’t mean that they have the exact same jobs or business that you plan to have. But a good business mentor will have worked in more or less the same fields and succeeded in the same ways you hope to succeed. That way, they will be able to offer you invaluable advice for your specific career or business.

Successes…and Maybe Some Failures

If someone has consistently worked towards a goal but consistently not achieved it, then perhaps that person is not the best source of business advice on that particular goal. Obviously, if you want to know how to do something, you must ask someone who has succeeded in doing it. Make sure to choose a mentor who has succeeded where you hope to succeed, not simply someone who has been in business or in your career longer.

That said, no one is perfect and we learn best from our mistakes. The ideal mentor should also have some experience at failing. A balanced mentor will not only teach you how to reach your goals but will also more accurately warn you about the pitfalls ahead and show you how to deal with risks and failures (which anyone in business will almost certainly encounter at one point or another) and get back on your feet.


We aren’t all exactly the same. No matter how closely you match your mentor in terms of experiences, career or business goals, and behavior, your path will be at least somewhat different. As such, the ideal business mentor should have a strong sense of empathy to enable them to understand your individual experiences—especially in terms of career and business—and still provide valuable advice.

A Good Interpersonal Vibe

You know that date you went on with someone who just clearly doesn’t click with you? Perhaps you just can’t pinpoint why but you are very certain there is no way you could spend a future with this person. Finding the right business mentorship is a little bit like finding the right relationship. This should ideally be a long-lasting relationship. Your business mentor will support you through years—perhaps even decades—of career highs and lows. It is essential that this person should be someone with whom you can connect and with whom you feel very comfortable. You are building a trusted relationship.

Teaching Ability

Many people are extraordinarily skillful and brilliant in their chosen careers. However, when you ask them for advice, either they can’t give you good advice or they struggle with the act of imparting their knowledge. Perhaps it comes so easily to them that they don’t know how to begin explaining, or that their way of explaining is completely alien to you.

A good business mentor should not only be knowledgeable, he or she should also know how to teach and guide you through words and actions. Because, at the end of the day, you will get nowhere if your mentor doesn’t know how to impart to you the advice and insights you need to succeed, no matter how intelligent or successful he or she may be.

A Strong Network

So, you already have someone in mind who has the aforementioned qualities. Well and good, but it would be better still if that person also has a solid network that’s relevant and can be useful for your needs. A mentor who has a strong business network has more “material” to work with and more minds to consult, strengthening his or her efforts to give you the best possible advice. Not only that; the people in your mentor’s network can, in one way or another, be useful sources of key business and career insights and opportunities for you as well.

Maybe in time your mentor’s connections will be your connections, too.


Being accommodating is all well and fine among friends. However, your business mentor is not meant to be a friend. A mentor’s goal is to help you navigate your career path, face trials, make the right decisions along the way, and grow in the process.

So, much like a parent, he or she should be someone who is comfortable with giving you feedback, no matter how positive or negative it may be. If you ask for advice on a project or proposal, the ideal mentor does not simply give you blind praise, especially when it’s inappropriate or when you don’t need it. Instead, he or she should be honest and, in the case of negative feedback, should be able to communicate it to you in such a way that, instead of ruining your confidence, you’ll actually be more inspired and motivated to do better.

So where might you find the ideal business mentor? Strong candidates can be found in many places! Don’t limit yourself to your colleagues or those in your immediate circle—your perfect match might not even be in your current network.

If you are at a loss for where to find this mentor, or are not confident to approach the ideal mentor for you, we have an answer. At Behind Closed Doors we offer women peer to peer mentoring and one to one mentorship and essential advice to help you not only improve your business or your professional career but also to help you find the right mentor that will be with you as a key piece in your quest for business and/or professional success. For males, visit


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Reflections: Jemma Buck – 2016 EA Scholarship Recipient

Jemma Buck Executive Assistant
Jemma Buck was the recipient of the BCD 2016 Executive Assistant scholarship in Adelaide. Twelve months on, we caught up with Jemma for some reflections on her time as being a BCD member.

At a recent Executive Assistant networking event Jemma spoke about her experience in the Executive Assistant Membership where she stated “BCD opened doors for me I never even knew existed, let alone that I could walk through!”.

BCD caught up with Jemma for some reflections on her membership and the Scholarship process.

BCD: How did you first find out about the BCD Executive Assistant Scholarship?

Jemma:  My boss forwarded the email to me and suggested I should apply.

BCD: Was the application process difficult?

Jemma: No, I simply submitted my resume with a detailed cover letter on why I would be an ideal candidate for the course.

BCD: What did you hope you would achieve from being a behind closed doors member?

Jemma: I hoped that it would help build my confidence, explore new processes for my role and have a place where I could openly discuss any difficulties or triumphs within my role.

BCD: What has been the number one benefit you have gained from being a part of behind closed doors professionally.

Jemma: I have moved from my previous role into a more diverse Office Management role.

BCD:  What has been the number one benefit you have gained from being a part of behind closed doors personally.

Jemma: I have made some new friends who work in similar roles. It’s very valuable to me. People that just get it.

BCD: What advice would you give women who are considering applying for a scholarship?

Jemma: Behind Closed Doors is not only an opportunity to network with other Executive Assistant’s, it’s an opportunity to explore your goals, your next career move and learn new skills which will assist in your professional development. Behind Closed Door is a great platform for women to empower themselves and reflect on the privileged position they are in as an Executive Assistant.

If you would like more information about the behind closed doors Executive Assistant membership contact us today for a confidential discussion.

behind closed doors offers Scholarships in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in the categories of Executive Assistant, Luminaries (Managers), Entrepreneurs and Executive. Visit our Scholarships page for details.

What Women Can Bring to a Board

What women bring to boardsMen and women are different. While that may seem self-evident, in the business world it affects perspective, attitude, behaviour and approach. This is particularly true in the way men and women function and approach their responsibilities as members of a board.

Yet women held only about 18% of board seats in 2015, according to the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies. Considering that women hold about half of all management positions and many are small business owners, that’s a pretty low figure. Among the broader ASX200, women now account for 25% of board positions.

The Qualities of an Efficient Director 

A board of directors has a big responsibility to the organisation, its shareholders, and the community. Sound business management helps ensure good fiscal performance. Ethical management is good for the people in the organisation, community and—in many cases—for the environment. According to Jeffery A. Sonnenfeld, Founder and President of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, important qualities for a member of a board include individual accountability, the ability to see the big picture while still paying attention to details, ethical behaviour, consistent meeting attendance and being well-prepared for meetings. One key skill is the ability to challenge a prevailing viewpoint and push for honest, thorough discussion of contentious issues.

A study of Fortune 500 companies done by Catalyst, a trusted resource for knowledge on gender, leadership, and inclusive leadership, took a look at the financial performance of boards that had women members. It found that boards with the highest percentage of women directors outperformed those without women directors by 53% in return on equity. Return on sales was 42% higher on average in those companies with more women on the board and return on invested capital was also 66% higher. The research found the “magic number” of women directors—irrespective of the actual size of the board—was three. A 2012 Credit Suisse AG report confirmed these findings.

Why Diversity is Important

Diversity matters in business for a number of reasons. Among these are diversity of thought, stakeholder representation, competitive advantage, and availability of essential skills,.

A. Diversity of thought promotes better decision-making and ensures that a board considers all available issues and options before making a decision. Otherwise, an organisation may become over-extended, take on responsibilities it can’t handle, or allow management behaviour that is bad for the organisation and its culture, or even illegal.

B. Stakeholder representation should be just what it sounds like—the board should be representative of shareholders, employees, and customers as well as community members at large. Excluding or not actively soliciting membership of those individuals means the Board loses valuable input and perspective.

C. Competitive advantage is more likely in an organisation that can handle the pace of change and current economic realities. Board members must be well-informed, able to make strategic decisions and willing to make hard decisions.

D. The availability of essential skills increases when women are recruited for board positions. Senior women executives have industry knowledge, functional expertise and operational experience. Younger women also bring a different generational perspective. All are beneficial to the board and the organisation.

Unique Qualities That Women Can Bring to a Board

Researcher Jan Grant, author of Women as Managers, notes that women bring unique characteristics to their roles as board members. They display more cooperative behaviour and are willing to hear from other Directors in discussions, ensuring that all viewpoints are heard. They have a sense of mutual attachment, which translates into mutual development and productivity rather than a win-at-all-costs mentality. Women express power through nurturing as well as strength, promoting the advancement of the entire group. Women are also more comfortable expressing vulnerability, which allows them to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses more objectively. Women’s capacity for empathy can help change an organisational environment and culture.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors. She is also on the boards of Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development, and V-Day. She is the author of Lean In, a book about the lack of women in government, business leadership and development, and feminism. Sandberg, who helped take Facebook from a position of “bleeding cash” to profitable within a three-year period, is a good example of how a smart, savvy woman can help improve the organisation when she sits on the board.

Networks and organisations such as Behind Closed Doors can help women who are aspiring for a board position by providing key insights, helpful tips, as well as useful networking, mentorship and sponsorship that will help them not only increase their chances of getting a Board position but also perform their duties outstandingly.

What is your organisation doing about promoting women into Executive roles to improve the pool of women available for Boards?


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Important Advice for Successful Networking – Relationship Building

Skills for networkingNetworking is the art of relationship building in the business world. We all know how important it is. An active approach to networking can help you connect with the right businesses and people. Being connected to these individuals—and their networks—can lead to positives, from mentorship/sponsorship opportunities and fruitful strategic business partnerships to fresh ideas and industry insights that may help you develop your own business strategies and get closer to attaining your professional goals.

Does this mean that showing up to a couple networking events a month and joining a few industry-related LinkedIn groups is going to lead to all the glowing benefits of networking?

This is where many of us don’t attain the results we’re looking for—we believe going through the motions is enough. It’s not. In fact, this approach may lead you to giving up on networking if you fail to develop quality business relationships despite putting in time and effort.

Shaking hands, exchanging business cards and social network profiles, even having a few engaging conversations may not be enough. So, in order to execute networking flawlessly and achieve the success you are after, you have to practice, learn from your mistakes, and eventually develop your own style of networking as you learn what works for you.

Ready to become a magnet for worthwhile contacts? Here are the tips that will set you up for real success in networking.

Define Your Networking Goals

What’s the first rule of goal achievement? Know what you are aiming for. The same applies to networking. Take the time to ask yourself, what do I want? Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mightybell, has put together an excellent list of the questions you should answer to help bring clarity to your goal. You can apply these questions when defining what you want out of your professional network, whether it’s a partnership, a support network, or help with a business project.

The more clearly you can define your goals, the more likely you will reach them. Failing to do this, you may miss important opportunities when you do meet the right people simply because you’re not actually sure what you are after.

Define Yourself

When you meet other professionals and when someone sees your website or social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, what impression do you cast? Are you a generic business person? Or, have you taken the time to clearly define your personal brand? Does this brand come across in everything you do, from the tone of your LinkedIn page to the topics you choose when in a conversation? Your values, objectives, perspectives, and accomplishments are all important in building an impression of yourself that will benefit your career or business.

As CEO of SmartTribes Institute, Christine Comaford says, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”

Give the people you meet a clear, cohesive impression of who you are, whether you are a tech-savvy entrepreneur who values creativity and innovation or a committed businessperson who has led his/her team to achieve year-after-year growth. Ensure that your social media profiles and/or business website align with this same identity.

Personal branding will help the people you meet have a better idea of what you have to offer. If you come off as someone who is generic or who doesn’t stand out from the other 43 people in the room—why would you be worth remembering? What makes you unique?

Invest in the People You Connect With

Britt Morgan-Saks, the head of Artist Services for Spotify, recommends putting your all into your business relationships. An expert networker herself, she’s found that giving more is where she gets the most out of her networks. “A truly connected person cares about bringing value to those around them.”

This means, when you are building your connections, pay attention to how you can help other professionals that you meet. Who can you connect them to in order to help their careers or business opportunities? What could you do to help them accomplish a goal?

By doing this, you aren’t just building trust; you’re demonstrating your worth, your value —that you are someone who your contacts want to be connected to.


Networking is about cultivating relationships, which means you have to continually nurture them. When you make a connection, follow-up with a friendly email, private message via LinkedIn or text, or even a call every now and then—even if you don’t need anything from them as of the moment.

To help you keep track of your network, make a schedule. Determine how much time a week you want to spend on networking, rate your contacts in order of importance, and map out how often you want to reach out with a thoughtful email, a helpful social media share, or to arrange for a casual meeting over coffee/tea.

Be Confident

Public speaker and network marketer Paula Pritchard points out that one of the biggest obstacles for women in business when it comes to networking is confidence. If you aren’t confident, you aren’t going to put yourself out there to meet the individuals that can help move your career forward.

In order to overcome her lack of confidence, and to transition from making $15,000 a year as a teacher to earning a six figure income as a network marketer, she visualised herself as a successful person. Not just any successful person, but the President of Chase Manhattan Bank! By focusing on the details of who she wanted to become, and putting on that persona like a cloak of confidence until she could develop her own, she was able to push through her fear and convince others of her worth.

Networking is such an essential part of your success as a businessperson. Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance to make sure you are getting the most out of your efforts. Working with behind closed doors, women can optimise their networking efforts and skills and start cultivating their own strong, supportive business networks.


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WA Country Health Service’s Erin Gandy and LGIS WA’s Candy Choo Awarded Scholarship for Aspiring Female Leaders

April 28, 2017

Perth Luminaries Scholarship Winners 2017WA Country Health Service’s, Erin Gandy and LGIS WA’s Candy Choo have been announced recipients of behind closed doors’ (BCD) coveted Luminaries Scholarship for 2017.

Announcing the winner at a networking event for women last night, BCD Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said the 12-month scholarship is awarded to a successful woman seeking access to insights, knowledge, support and high level networks in their journey to Executive and Board positions.

“I extend my congratulations to our winners, Erin Gandy and Candy Choo, as well as our worthy runners up, Luisa Wing, CEO at Community West and Sarah Fairweather, Head of HR at Virgin Australia.” Ms Walford said.

Erin has been working in the health sector for many years having significantly contributed to the growth and innovation of her organisation. Candy, who started her career as a psychologist, has developed a successful career driving change in the insurance sector.

“Both recipients will take every opportunity made available to them through the Luminaries Scholarship.” Ms Walford said.

BCD, who offers an annual Luminaries Scholarship, was this year able to provide two fully funded scholarships to aspiring female leaders. The second because of funding received under the Supporting Businesswomen to Success Scholarship provided by the Australian Government.

The Office for Women, Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy, provides funding towards promoting and supporting greater representation of Australian women in leadership and decision making roles – BCD has used this grant funding to offer a second Perth Luminaries Scholarship.

Ms Gandy, Business Services Consultant – Medical, applied for the Luminaries Scholarship to gain further insight into the skills required to take on an executive role as well as guidance to achieving a Board position.

Ms Choo, Manager WorkCare Services, LGIS WA, is looking forward to the valuable networking opportunities with other professional women that the scholarship will offer.

“Seeking constructive feedback and solutions from my peers will be invaluable,” Ms Choo said.

The BCD Luminaries Scholarship offers businesswomen aspiring to executive roles the opportunity to further expand their leadership and management skills through a year-long membership to BCD Luminaries, valued at more than $5,500.

BCD Luminaries was created in response to an identified need for motivated businesswomen to have a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encouraging each other to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments.

Members meet for three hours, ten times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded businesswomen. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.

“One of its major aims,” concluded Ms Walford, “is to increase women’s representation on Boards, committees and in executive management roles and BCD has an enviable track record in successfully supporting our members to achieve these types of roles.” 

Issued by:

Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors on 8333 4303 or 0401 349 791

Possible Reasons Why Women Don’t Nominate for Scholarships

Nominating for ScholarshipsIn the pursuit of self-development and career growth, there are many avenues open to today’s professional women. Far more than at any other time in history, businesswomen today have access to an astounding array of courses, mentors, coaches and even scholarships to build skills and expand their professional toolkits.

Yet, surprisingly, many of these resources are under-utilised. For example, oftentimes women miss out on scholarship opportunities simply because they fail to nominate each other or self-nominate.

Why is this so? We’ve come up with a list of possible reasons why women, at times, don’t nominate for scholarships.

1. We Think Someone Else Will Win

Sometimes women fail to nominate each other or themselves because they feel the winner is already a given or has been chosen—even way before the results are known. We’ve all had that colleague who seems to have or do it all. That can be really intimidating! So why bother nominating another candidate if there is little or no chance that she will win? You ask yourself, “Doesn’t that set her up for disappointment?” This kind of thinking can lead to fewer votes and a less diverse distribution of nominations.

However, we should be careful of “reading minds” when we make such assumptions. The actual goals of the judging panel are likely to be quite varied. Just because one candidate seems strong does not guarantee that the panel will choose that person, or that person fits their criteria better compared to other nominees. Perhaps they are looking for someone who could better benefit from growth. And regardless, having the added exposure and flagging your interest can only benefit any businesswoman in the long run.

2. We Assume Someone Else Will Nominate

Maybe you know of an especially strong candidate that you think should win, say, a scholarship in a prestigious business program. She works hard, has a great mind for creativity and curiosity, and exemplifies all the qualities you think the “chosen one” should have. In fact, she is so great, obviously everyone will nominate her! Right?

That may or may not be correct. Thinking that not being able to nominate is alright because others will probably nominate that person could derail a candidate’s chances. Think of it this way: What if others think the same way as you do? What a shame if this promising woman misses out on a great opportunity just because you left the responsibility to others and became assuming to a fault.

3. We Think Our Vote Doesn’t Matter

These days it has become easy for people to believe that the system is just too big to take notice of one person or nomination. That attitude can occasionally spillover into our professional development, much to the detriment of our teams and colleagues.

Getting frustrated and simply abstaining from the process doesn’t help anyone. Yes, in some cases, for example, extremely large-scale scholarships, there may be hundreds or even thousands of nominations and votes. But every vote still counts. And the real importance lies in your willingness to keep playing a role, no matter how big or small. As they say, you don’t get to 100 without getting to 10 first.

4. We Feel Competitive 

Occasionally, although we are never proud to admit it, people fail to nominate each other out of a feeling of competition. Getting ahead can be hard! A 2013 study indicated that women exhibit an indirect form of aggression toward each other which is a combination of “self-promotion…and derogation of rivals.” Many of us have developed a sense that we must fight tooth and nail to get where we are going. Sometimes we allow that to make us insecure about advancing a colleague.

Yet this kind of thinking is inaccurate. It comes from a false concept of limited supply on success. Rather than holding each other back, we should recognise that we are stronger as a team! When we lean on each other, build our networks, and see each other as valuable sources of help and guidance, everyone has a better chance of winning, one way or another.

5. We Feel Uncertainty

Women can also be plagued by excessive feelings of uncertainty. Generally speaking, females have a tendency to be fairly considerate of others. Sometimes, we are this way to a fault. This uncertainty may prevent us from nominating colleagues because we are unsure of how they will react to the nomination. Perhaps winning it could be a burden on them? Maybe they won’t like the spotlight?

There is a very simple solution to this: communication. Studies show that men tend to be more direct in their workplace communication whereas women might have a “softer style of communicating.” Occasionally we let that gentler approach slide into avoidance. Before you let uncertainty prevent you from giving a colleague a shot at advancement, talk to her. Ask her if she might be interested and clarify your concerns. Encourage her if she feels modest.

6. We Procrastinate, Forget, or simply Become too Busy 

Sometimes we forget to help each other out simply because the lives of business and professional women are incredibly busy. As we frantically try to balance our careers with our homes and our families, inevitably things get lost in the shuffle. As much as you would like to see your colleague succeed, it simply didn’t rate above preparing for your big meeting or making your deadline.

While we never want to sabotage our own success, helping each other out is part of a healthy life balance. Successful businesswomen know the value of finding the right life organisation tool to keep them on schedule and to properly divide their time. Make sure to include time to support others to promote each other’s success every now and then.

Finally, don’t forget that “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!” No one ever said that success was guaranteed from the start. A strong professional woman knows that persistence pays off. Past failures are not indicators of future results. As proof, Behind Closed Doors’ 2017 Adelaide Luminaries Scholarship was awarded to a professional who won it at her third attempt!

Think of the particularly talented young professional women in your network. You know how hard they work. You know of their achievements, goals and dreams, as well as their obstacles. How can you help them advance? How can you help them get closer to their goals?

Nominating a colleague for a potentially life-altering scholarship doesn’t take very long and doesn’t involve much effort. But you can potentially make a world of difference if you do it. Behind Closed Doors regularly has open scholarship programs. Judging is in progress for our Adelaide Executive Assistant Scholarship and the Perth Luminaries Scholarship which provides access to professional development, peer to peer mentoring and networking to businesswomen who aspire to gain executive roles.

As a leading organisation in providing professional development and support for businesswomen, behind closed doors is a source of scholarships and other ways to promote your professional colleagues. Your nomination is all it takes or, nominate yourself!


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Essential Advice on Owning a Successful Business

Owning a successful businessEstablishing and owning a new business can bring up a lot of emotions, including excitement, fear, drive, confusion, and confidence. Every new business is unique, and whether this is your first entrepreneurial endeavour or not, it’s bound to come with a few challenges.

Take a look at some successful businesswomen who have come before you. Following in their footsteps can help your business attain the same success and allows you to focus on getting through new obstacles, rather than solving the same ones that other women have already gotten through. Try reading books by or about successful women—a little inspiration might be the push you need to start gaining confidence.

We’ve put together a list of tips for running a successful business to help you kick-start your business engine.

Seize Opportunities When They Are Presented to You and Create Them When They Aren’t

When you’re starting something new, it’s important to look at every situation as an opportunity, whether it seems to be one or not. Take advantage of the resources, network, and time you have, knowing that nothing in life is permanent—they may not always be available to you.

Making your own opportunities may mean stepping out of your comfort zone. It can be intimidating at first but successful business owners learn how to do so. You then will be able to see even more opportunities that you weren’t aware of before.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Sometimes, women find it hard to ask for help from fellow entrepreneurs. This shouldn’t be the case according to Alexandra Lebenthal, President and CEO of Lebenthal & Company. She says, “Ask and she shall receive! Women often find it hard to ask for things, whether it’s a business opportunity or a salary raise. We simply expect others to recognize our value and hard work. Asking for what you want in a gracious, thoughtful way often results in getting what you want, so put your fears aside and ask for what you want. You might just get it!”

Running a business doesn’t mean you have to do everything by yourself either. When you hire a team, you should expect them to do their job. Build your team, delegate, and remember that you’re not being bossy, you’re being efficient.

Failing to ask for help when you need it can leave a business owner overwhelmed, overtired, and overstressed, which is when mistakes happen. It’s much better to have a competent team or a mentor who can offer advice or help so you can stay on top of things, than to forget to lock up at night, fail to pay your taxes, or miscalculate inventory because you’re unable to focus due to the amount of work you need to do.

Maintain Your Network

When it comes to asking for help, it’s always a good idea to have a network of helpful people whose expertise and resources you can tap into. However, a reliable network is made of relationships, and needs care and maintenance. When you meet someone new, send a note to follow up. Networking isn’t only on LinkedIn—if you own a business don’t be afraid to discuss it at every opportunity such as socially in the coffee shop, in the dog park, or at your child’s soccer game. Sometimes, the best people to add to your network are found in the most unexpected of places.

Talking about your business isn’t selfish. Forming and maintaining a network will open you up to new opportunities for growth that you may not find without it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks

Building a successful business means taking chances, and sometimes, that means failure. Use failure as a platform for learning and remember that you only need to succeed once. You can fail as many times as it takes—the experience you get as you move forward will only serve to give you the proper insights needed to improve your business.

So, don’t be afraid to take risks. Trust your instincts, and take risks on yourself, on your business, and on possible opportunities. Owning a business is, in itself, already a risk. Without having taken that risk, your business would not exist. Learning to calculate and mitigate risk is an important part of business ownership.

Learn to Accept Criticism, but Don’t Let It Define You

Being a businesswoman means you’re a potential target for criticisms from different sources such as your colleagues, fellow businesswomen, your team, clients, family, and even yourself. Learning to analyse criticisms and use it to your advantage not only makes it easier for you to improve your business, it also gives you insights on what others want—a potential tool that you can use to better your products or service.

As such, the ability to ask for an opinion, take criticism, and learn from it, is an extremely valuable tool in business ownership. Learn to tell the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Remember that destructive criticism isn’t meant to help you, and generally isn’t all that accurate anyway. Constructive criticism, however, can certainly be helpful if you listen and apply what you learn from it. Remember, it’s not personal!

For women just entering the business scene, it definitely helps to gain contacts and insights from those who have, as they say, “been there, done that.” Behind Closed Doors is an organisation of professionals and businesswomen which offers mentorship, networking, and other tools those in the business scene will find helpful, whether you’re just starting out with your business or planning to take it to the next level.



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5 Things You Should Look for in a Business Coach

5 Things to Look for in a business coachA business coach is someone who can take you from where you are now to where you want to be in the future with your business goals. They will help you to set your intentions for growth and offer guidance on how to achieve those aims.

This working relationship is incredibly valuable. The right business coach can help you become more successful and give you new insights and strategies you can use to work towards your business goals. They have probably more experience than you and they have learned a lot over the years, so you can absorb that wisdom from them. They can also help you become more driven, determined and confident in what you do.

However, not all business coaches are created equal. There are certain traits that a coach may have that will allow you to gain the most value from the experience.

What should you look for when choosing a business coach? We’ve compiled below a list of important attributes an effective business coach should have.

1. Experience

Has he or she actually built a business? Have they accomplished what you want to accomplish? You should look for someone who has been successful and can share what they have learned from their real life business experiences. One example of such a popular business coach is Marie Forleo. She has gained an incredible amount of knowledge from her experience, a fact that makes her knowledgeable and her words and advice both reliable and trustworthy.

2. Willingness to Share

A good coach should be open to walking you through their own process. If they are evasive about how they achieved their success, or they only give you vague tips rather than concrete and specific advice, their coaching will only get you so far. You will get the most out of the coaching relationship when you team up with someone who is transparent. Trust is important. Knowing that your coach trusts you will serve as encouragement and motivation for you to listen and act more and focus on the program. Otherwise, you’ll feel confused and less motivated—even suspicious—negatively affecting your working relationship which could lead to wasted effort, money and sub-par results.

3. Connections

Another sign of a good business coach is having a broad range of relationships with people in relevant or related industries and can navigate you through government. A coach with a strong network of connections will really benefit you—connections that can result to more business introductions and open doors for you. As we know it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

4. Ability and Willingness to Teach

It’s crucial that your business coach isn’t just effective at what he or she does; he or she should also be adept at explaining it to another person, especially to a new business owner. If they are not able to break down the steps towards their success and teach those steps to you, it will be difficult for you to gain traction.

Is your business coach able to explain complex concepts to you in a way that you can grasp them? Or do they confuse you with jargons and overcomplicate things? Some of the most highly knowledgeable people might know a lot, but they are not good at passing on their knowledge to others.

A business coach should also be willing to share knowledge and experiences, not just for the sake of coaching but also because he or she really wants you to achieve business success through his or her advice. Do you feel that your business coach is holding back or is reluctant in teaching and coaching you? If you’re in this situation, it may be time to look for another option or another coach.

5. Passion

Last but not the least, look for a business coach who is passionate about what they do. A small difference in attitude makes a big difference in the relationship. You want your business coach to inspire and encourage you, not to discourage or make you feel worse about your business skills. A business coach with the right kind of passion will enjoy helping you achieve success and will be a cheerleader for you as well as a mentor and coach. That same passion might also affect you, getting you more motivated to listen and apply your coach’s teachings to your business.

These are just five of the important attributes that you should look for when you are choosing a business coach, so that you can get the most out of this professional relationship, hone your skills, and improve your business. Behind Closed Doors can help guide you in your quest to look for the right business coach as well as provide you with useful insights, networking, and mentorship to help bring your business to the next level.


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Tips on Creating an Outstanding Board CV

Tips to a Great Board CV

Aiming for a senior leadership or company director role? The first thing you have to do is to put together a board CV (Board Bio) that’s relevant and compelling. Your CV should clearly outline your competencies, career summary and the capabilities you bring to the boardroom.

There has been a lot of focus in the past few years on women seeking board positions. A 2012 report published by the Australian government reveals that women hold 12.3% of senior corporate positions within the top 200 ASX directorships. Although women are still under-represented in business leadership roles, there has been a slight increase in the number of female board directors in Australia. To achieve gender equality in senior leadership positions, large organisations and the government have introduced a few initiatives.

If you have your mind set on applying for a board or director post, now is a good time to build a winning board CV.

The Difference Between a Board CV and a Career CV

Your board CV has to demonstrate that you’re capable of adding value at the highest level. It should reflect a different context and has to be pitched at a strategic level. Your board CV should also highlight your leadership competencies and knowledge of the industry in which the board you’re applying to be a part of is involved.

As an applicant, you need to do extensive research on the organisation you’re applying to. Use your board CV to demonstrate the expertise you have in different areas. Treat it like a document that you’ll use to market yourself or your brand. Remember, generic CVs aren’t useful in getting you that board level role —they’re deemed as more basic and lengthy. As such, more detail and attention goes into creating a board CV.

You need to customise your board CV and tailor it to the requirements put forth by the board or the industry and make sure it’s no longer than two pages. If you want more specific tips, read on for our list of guidelines that will help you draft an outstanding board CV.

Tips for Creating an Effective Board CV

Create a clear value proposition

Study the company you’re applying to. Identify gaps in their board’s capabilities and clearly demonstrate how you can fill these gaps. You must also understand the value you’re going to bring to the industry or the organisation and present your brand consistently. Highlight your top three core values and make sure they’re in line with the board’s requirements. You may also wish to prepare your personal values and align with the organisations corporate and brand values ready for interview.

Work on your profile

Your profile should list your career experience, competencies and achievements. Build one that will showcase your board and committee experience both current and past roles. Create a separate heading for your list of achievements. Also, don’t forget to link to and work on your LinkedIn profile. Remember, your aim is to build a profile that will stand out from your competitors. Match your top three core values to your top three achievements.

List professional memberships

List any professional organisations you belong to. Organisations keep you up-to-date on technical information, and it makes a good impression when you list your participation in them on your CV. Also, having professional memberships gives of the idea that you’ve acquired lessons as well as experience in leadership.

Keep it clean and clear

When you’re creating a board CV, keep the tone clear and professional. It should be factual, straightforward and informative. Your board CV will act as your “representative” outside of the interview room, so it should give a good impression of your professional character.

Pay attention to your professional experience

Give an overview of your employment history over the last ten years and highlight your expertise if it’s relevant to the board you’re interested in being a part of.

Add tertiary qualifications

Reserve a section of your board CV for highlighting your tertiary qualifications, professional awards, and recognitions. Directors are known to give a lot of thought to an applicant’s professional development and credentials. If you’re serious about securing a board position, you need to complete the Australian Institute of Company Director’s Course.

Review your board CV

Review your board CV as if reading it for the first time. Then, when satisfied, ask Board Chairs of Directors to give you their honest feedback.

Ask yourself the following questions

Is your board CV succinct and informative? Does the first page show a good fit? Are competencies and professional experience clearly documented? Do my competencies and value I add to an organisation demonstrate that I’m the best candidate for the position? Asking these important questions will guide you in making sure the right kind of content and information is on your board CV.

Writing a compelling board CV is no easy task. But with preparation and constructive feedback from other professionals, you’ll be able to create one that can increase your chances of getting the board position you seek. If you’re looking for additional help, organisations and networks such as Behind Closed Doors will be able to provide the mentorship you need for creating a board CV and other career growth essentials that will help you take your career to the next level. Contact us for a copy of our Board CV Template.


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Keeping Away from the Shiny New Toy: How to Keep Your Focus Goal-Oriented

How to keep yourself goal orientatedWe all want to make money from our businesses. However, it’s all too easy to become too focused on personal financial goals. Setting your sights on a new home, car, or gadget as well as other kinds of distractions can actually detract from your business and harm your chances of long-term financial success.

Here we take a look at some common mistakes made by entrepreneurs in terms of focus, and what you can do to fix them.

It’s Not All About The Money

For those in business, it’s tempting to want to prove your success with the traditional trappings of wealth, so you become over-focused on material gain. However, as successful entrepreneur and CEO of LA Wolfe Marketing Lahle A. Wolfe points out, focusing solely on financial goals can actually harm your business. She says, “Being too full of your own successes can lead you to a path of too rapid expansion that is not sustainable in the long run. Bad marketing and vocal investors can have a negative impact on your brand and once your brand is tarnished, it can be hard to get back on track.”

As an antidote to this, she suggests drawing up a written mission statement for your business, clearly defining its purpose and core values. This will serve as a reminder of why you are actually doing what you’re doing, and help you to focus on goals that are compatible with this purpose.

Stop Doing Too Much

Women are culturally expected to be able to multitask, so many of us spend our working lives attempting to prove to ourselves and others just how well we can do this. However, you may actually be harming your business by doing so. David Rock, co-founder of the NeuroLeadership Institute, warns of the dangers of trying to do too many things at once. “We make mistakes, miss subtle cues, fly off the handle when we shouldn’t, or spell things wrong.”

Rock suggests keeping certain times of the day free from all distractions, and prioritising your workload according to when your energy levels are at their peak. Starting the day with simple, boring tasks can actually reduce your focus by draining your energy. Instead, if possible, begin with the tasks that need the most creativity and concentration so you can approach them fresh and energised.

In addition, if you do your best thinking outside of office hours, make sure you capitalise on that. If an idea hits you late at night, write it down so you don’t lose it. If you know you’re in the mood for doing some work at home at the end of the day, do it as long as no aspect of your life, especially personal, suffers. This will help keep your focus on your business goals.

Focus on the Task at Hand

Some women tend to be naturally critical of themselves, but you’re not doing your business any favours by focusing on failures or mistakes. The hugely successful business leader Sir Richard Branson believes that “You have to get into the right frame of mind to perform your best, and need to be able to put setbacks behind you instantly.” This way you can free your mind to focus on the next task.

Don’t Be Afraid to Reach Out

It’s hard to stay focused on your business goals without input from others. Mentoring and networking is a vital part of growing your business, as it can put you in touch with people who have the skills and experience to help drive your business forward. However, while men view networking as an integral part of their careers, women often see it as something they don’t really have time for, as they often have to juggle a heavy workload with the responsibilities of family life. Women must invest time in establishing networks. It should be a KPI in every job description.

Top businesswomen stress that this attitude needs to change. In order to grow their businesses it’s vital that women begin to prioritise networking and integrate it into their business schedules and activities. Keeping your business goals in mind will allow you to focus on reaching out to the right people and make the right connections, which in turn will help you achieve what you’re aiming for.

Be Confident

As we’ve pointed out, networking is an important step for entrepreneurs to get their business to the next level. As such, gaining the confidence needed to meet people and make professional connections is a must. Connecting with the people you meet on social networks, such as LinkedIn, or following and attending networking events can be a great way of building relationships with potential partners, clients, and even mentors—people who can provide invaluable support when it comes to keeping your focus on what’s important for your business and attaining your goals. The most important thing is to approach your possible new connections with confidence, and being prepared, such as by having a ready elevator speech, will certainly help you out.

If you’re looking for advice, consider getting in touch with an organisation which emphasises the value of mentoring and networking for female entrepreneurs. Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of mentorship that helps you maximise networking and keep your focus goal-oriented for the success of your business.


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Same Gender vs Mixed Gender Networking: the Pros and Cons

Same Gender V Mixed Gender Networking

It seems unbelievable that in today’s society only 14.6 percent of executive-level jobs are held by women. Research suggests that the reasons for this are not due to lack of education or experience, but because women network less than men. Traditionally, this has been because women have had less time for networking as they often had to balance home and family commitments with their working lives, or they don’t see the value in establishing networks.

However, a lot of women are simply intimidated by the idea of networking, especially with men. This is why women-only networking groups are becoming more and more popular. But do they actually help women in their careers?

Women Network Differently to Men

Many women feel more comfortable networking with other women due to their less aggressive, more nurturing networking style. Sue Weighell is a successful finance director and great advocate of women’s networking groups; she chairs two herself. She explains that “Women network very differently to men and tend to spend more time finding out about a person… They naturally want to support each other and this is a great benefit to those who work alone in their businesses.”

Mary-Jane Kingsland, chair of the Norwich Business Women’s Network in the UK, agrees, believing that men’s networking styles can be intimidating for women. “I think men are generally more aggressive about networking,” she says. “Very quickly in a conversation they’ll suss whether you’re interesting or not, and if you get stuck next to somebody who doesn’t think you’re interesting, that can be a blow to your confidence.” Women-only networking groups can help to combat this, by giving women opportunities within more nurturing environments.

Amina Malik, writing for Wolfestone, also points out that women-only networks can also help “women from certain ethnic backgrounds where they were not raised to mix with the opposite sex” to feel more confident about making contacts and progressing their careers.

Do Women-Only Groups Really Address the Issues?

Not all women in business agree that all women-only networks are productive. Women’s leadership coach Eleanor Beaton believes that too many women’s networking groups focus on the problems faced by women in business without offering solutions. Emphasis, she believes, should be placed on women being encouraged to make specific goals for each meeting rather than simply talking to one another.

“We’re in networking groups to network,” she points out. “If you haven’t left a meeting with a plan to make and receive at least one introduction or follow-up meeting for one of your fellow attendees, you’re not using your time strategically.”

Is It Discrimination?

Some businesswomen see women-only groups as a form of discrimination. One of these is lawyer Ruth Tibbett. “Imagine the outcry if men insisted on men only networking, we would all be picketing with placards!” she says. “I am surprised that we don’t have men objecting to women only networking and demanding to be involved.”

In fact, some women-only networking groups, such as Fabulous Women in the UK, have become so popular that they have now started admitting men as a result of the demand. However, male participants have to adhere to an inclusive approach with an emphasis on relationship-building rather than a hard sell.

Do They Offer Real Career Opportunities?

Arguments have been made that because men hold more high-level executive positions, women are restricting the opportunities available to them if they limit themselves to women-only networking. Lisa Torres, a sociology professor at George Washington University, explains, “Men tend to be in the top positions in organisations so, structurally, they’re in a position to hear about job opportunities or openings when they arrive, and circulate them to their networks.”

However, many women who belong to women-only business networks argue that they offer the opportunity to meet and be inspired by successful businesswomen who can act as role models, helping women to improve their networking skills and advance their business careers. Women regularly report meeting interesting and useful business contacts at all-female events. In some cases, women-only networks can give young women the confidence boost they need to start their own businesses.

The Importance of Both Perspectives

It’s true that both kinds of networking have their own strengths in terms of helping attendees achieve their goals. As such, one can argue that your motivation for attending each might depend on your objectives. For example, if you’re simply out to gain more confidence so that, in the future, you won’t be intimidated during a networking event, all-female networking might be better for you. If you want to take a more aggressive approach though on making connections or gain insights from both businessmen and businesswomen, mixed-gender networking might be more favourable.

One thing is clear though: Both kinds of networking yield results; it’s up to you to make the most of each. You have to have a clear set of goals and objectives before entering a networking event, whether it’s same gender or mixed gender, for you to maximise your time and opportunities.

At Behind Closed Doors, we understand the importance of both kinds of networking and help businesswomen gain access to a large network of business people that includes both men and women. If you’re looking for advice on forming professional networks and career growth, we’re always willing to help you out.

Why not subscribe to our event notifications database and join a behind closed doors networking event in your city.


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Is Your Great Idea Great for Business Too?

Is your idea great for business?Let’s say you come up with a wonderful new idea for a product or a service. You take some time to flesh out this idea and really think you may have something. For all you know, this could be the next great business idea that leads to your business success.

Here’s the million-dollar question: how can you know whether your great idea can actually become a great business opportunity?

This is an important question to answer. The last thing any entrepreneur wants is to venture into a seemingly worthwhile idea that is doomed from the start.

According to a 2012 analysis from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, up to 44% of Australian businesses reported trouble with their management. These problems led to 40% of these businesses reporting problems with their cash flow and 33% encountering trading losses. And with women already under-represented in business leadership, you already have a tough enough challenge as it is!

To further the issue, financial professional Greg Hayes of Hayes Knight Accountants & Advisers discussed these findings in a recent article in the Huffington Post. As he noted, “One of the key reasons is that many small businesses start with a bad idea—an idea that was never going to work…”

So how can you know whether your great idea is also great for business? Here are a few essential questions to ask yourself to better understand if you should move forward with your prospective business idea or not.

Are You Truly Passionate About This Idea?

First and foremost, you have to understand how you really feel about your idea. You need to have a true passion for this idea that will translate your hard work into a successful business. You’ll be putting your blood, sweat, and tears into this venture. That’s why you absolutely must bring a passionate spirit to this pursuit.

While you certainly have challenges in front of you as a female entrepreneur, there’s also some good news. Today more than ever before, women entrepreneurs have continued to take centre stage. When you connect your passion with a solid business plan, you’ll be amazed at the enthusiastic response and support you’ll receive.

Can Your Idea Grow with You?

All sorts of great business ideas start small. But your business also needs to be able to grow and shift once it’s actually competing in the market. If you won’t be able to scale your business upward as you grow, you’re already limiting your potential. And if you can’t shift your idea once you’re in the market, that static nature could quickly put a cork in your success.

For instance, say you want to release a fitness app into the market. This app needs to be able to grow to accommodate your user base. Problems with overcrowded servers or inadequate functionality will eventually damage your growth potential if you’re not ready for it. Additionally, you may need to adjust what your app offers in order to better connect with your audience. If you can’t make these “lateral” shifts within your industry, you will also negatively impact your success potential.

Is There a Demand or Market for Your Idea?

Does all of your personal enthusiasm translate into a tangible market and demand for what you’ll be offering? Do research to determine the viability of your niche in the market. You can assess market viability through all the following resources:

  • Government Demographic Data
  • Industry Reports
  • Growth or Shrinkage Trends
  • Current Similar Products on the Market

Have You Tested the Market Yet with Ads and Marketing?

One of the most effective ways to truly confirm your success potential is by running some test ads. These ads and marketing efforts will help in all the following ways:

  • They will show you the actual interest in your idea
  • They will help you better identify your market
  • They will reveal the real-world demand for your idea

You can run a few ads through sources such as Google AdWords or even Facebook to assess the social media success potential. If the results seem promising, then it’s time to go “full steam ahead” on the idea. If not, then you’ve saved yourself a lot of stress down the road towards a failed business idea.

Did You Speak with Your Potential Customers?

Advertising to your customers is definitely a great way to gauge prospective interest in your business idea. But what about just asking your potential customers about what you’re offering?

Taking the time to ask prospective customers what they think about your idea can yield all sorts of valuable insight. This type of honest, unfiltered feedback can show you exactly how real people feel about your idea. This can help you see how enthusiastic people feel about what you have—and maybe even give you some feedback on how to tweak your idea to make it even better or more attractive.

Taking the Plunge

Moving forward from an idea into a real-world business plan can definitely be daunting and sometimes terrifying. But successful businesses often begin right at that point of fear. Working with BCD, you can assess your idea ahead of time with the help of experienced professionals and businesswomen. They will help you to get a better sense of your own success potential. And that will give you all the confidence you need to move your great idea into a great business venture.


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The Importance of Networking for Home-based Businesses

Networking Home Based BusinessFreedom. That is the first feeling that many small business owners get when they strike out on their own to create a home-based business. This new life is going to be great! Finally, a combination of family and work life that works for you. Setting your own work hours; deciding how many projects to take on; maybe in a couple of years, even hiring people to work for you.

You are now a businesswoman. This is heady stuff.

Then, about six months later, reality sets in—and it is harsh. For individuals who have always worked for others—especially in the corporate world—additional work and customers were always available. Managing prospects and sending out proposals was probably someone else’s job. Now it’s yours. Where do the customers/clients come from? How do you get the word out about your business? It’s enough to give you sleepless nights.

Ignore Networking at Your Peril

Working from home definitely has its perks but it also has its challenges and more than its fair share of perils for the unwary. You do not want to become isolated from your peers—even from the competition—and your potential client base needs to be able to reach you at all times. What’s more, you can rest assured that your competitors (and we all have them) are taking advantage of networking to grow their businesses.

You need to connect with the outside world to sell your products and services. Insulating yourself is only going to lead to frustration and poor business results. Networking can lead to income generation, lead generation, and continuing education in your field. It can also bring better marketing and advertising results for your product and services as well as other business opportunities, from referrals to finding more business.

Finally, networking can result in you having the right partnership—this is an important point especially for home-based businesses because forming a partnership is one of the tried-and-tested ways to grow a business and take it to the next level. At the very least, networking can lead you to the people you want to work with or who share the same professional passion with you, whether as a potential investor or as a future employee that will make things easier for you and your business.

Getting Started With Networking

As such, networking is important to your home-based business, and ignoring it could prove detrimental to your business goals. Whether networking face-to-face, participating in online groups or sending messages on social media sites, you need to make sure that you have more than one network that you can tap into to support your business strategy.

You need to let people know you are open for business. Here is a list of suggested networking options you can try out:

Build Your Own Website

Almost every successful business today has a website where clients can connect with their goods and services. In effect, this is a form of networking.

At a minimum, your website should collect visitor email addresses and provide an interface where customers can pose questions and receive answers about your products or services. It doesn’t have to cost a lot in the beginning especially if you use free web-hosting services like Freehostia and Zymic.

Of course, these network opportunities are not limited only to potential clients and customers; you can also build a network of working professionals who can introduce you to other businesswomen who may become partners in your evolving marketing strategy.

Give Presentations and/or Workshops

Think of this as network-building and marketing combined. Public speaking and hosting workshops can introduce you to your customers of tomorrow. It will increase your income (if it’s a paid position) and at the same time build up interest in your product or service. People like to purchase from someone they trust and know. Depending on the type of class you teach, you may even find yourself recruiting and networking with other professionals in your field.

Beef up Your Social Media Presence

The reach of the internet is a boon for home-based businesses. Social media sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram are perfect networking communities for entrepreneurs. Create shareable content on these sites and you will soon grow your network beyond your local geographic area. Showcase your work and build up online buzz on your products and services and you’ll soon realise the potential social media has especially for marketing.

Connect with other home-based business people, make new contacts, and learn from their experiences. Following professionals on these social networks allows you to stay up-to-date in the latest changes in your industry and on business practices. Think of them as free, continuing educational feeds.

And since you’re doing these from the comfort of your own home, you won’t have to worry about huge overhead costs.

Join Organisations That Can Help You Successfully Network

There’s a reason why there are organisations and groups today that help their members connect with like-minded people for the purpose of business and career enhancement. Whether you’re a small business owner starting out at home or the owner of an established firm, networking is important for business growth, a common goal for both novice and experienced entrepreneurs.

You can start your networking efforts by joining Behind Closed Doors (BCD), an organisation of businesswomen who can answer your questions about developing your business skills and your client base. BCD has a mentoring program for those interested in expanding their networking into a more structured program as well as other services that can help and guide you into making better business decisions.


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How to be confident at a networking event

Confident NetworkerSo, you’ve been invited to a networking event…what now?

Networking can seem intimidating if you’re new to it, but it’s an important part of any woman’s career, at any stage of her career. A young professional might need help as she climbs the corporate ladder. The same goes for an entrepreneur trying to establish clients and resources. Anyone looking to change positions or careers can use a network of assistance.

Women and men can both benefit from networking, but they tend to have different networking styles. Once you’ve decided that attending a networking event is worth it (it is!) and you’ve added it to your calendar, it’s time to prepare.

Keep these helpful tips in mind in and around a networking event.

Determine what your objective is

What do you want to achieve from attending the event? e.g business opportunity, meet someone to follow up at a later stage, grow your network. Whatever the reason, ensure you have a clear objective.

Arrive early or on time

While it may seem counterintuitive to be the first one at a networking event, the room is likely calmer and less crowded early on. People won’t have divided into groups yet. This can make it easier to have the confidence to approach other attendees. You’ll be able to initiate conversations with a wide range of people and you’ll get a chance to talk to more attendees than if you had arrived “fashionably late.”

Women tend to listen more and speak less—don’t forget to be heard!

Networking is about building mutually beneficial relationships, not just about helping others. Don’t forget to talk about yourself, your career, and your aspirations as much as you are listening to other people’s careers, aspirations, and needs. You may find people approaching you and wanting help from you even if they know little about you. This is a great way to start helpful working relationships for yourself and others!

Ask simple questions to initiate conversations, but don’t hijack the conversation

Rather than trying to sell yourself immediately, try getting to know people as people. Ask simple questions, and remember that everyone likes to talk about themselves. You’ll feel more confident when you get the other person smiling and responding to your questions.

Find common ground

Women at networking events tend to value relationships while men tend to value professional experience more, so consider who you’re talking to. Networking is all about building relationships with people who can help you now and in the future. Don’t be afraid to politely introduce yourself to new people, Remember, waiting for someone to approach you is a waste of time.

Discuss your passions

Don’t be afraid to approach people, introduce yourself, and discuss your passions. Sometimes professional relationships are built on more than careers and professional experience; they can be built on personal experiences and interests as well.

Bonding over things that don’t necessarily revolve around work can help boost your confidence so that when it’s time to discuss work, you are comfortable with the person you’re talking to. This is often a great stepping stone for staying in touch after the event, especially if you connect online.

Connect on social networks like LinkedIn, and follow up

LinkedIn isn’t just for online connections. It can be a handy tool for staying in touch with your professional network which can give you the courage to ask for a favour when you need one.

Rather than just exchanging email addresses or cards, connect with your in-person network on the most prominent social network that is meant for professional networking. This is also a great way to follow up with people after a networking event, which is one of the best ways to truly grow a reliable professional network.

If LinkedIn is too broad or general for your preferences, consider helpful professional networks, like Behind Closed Doors. You’ll find that like-minded people are more committed and reliable.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to acquaintances

Women tend to have smaller networks, but they’re closer to the people in their networks than men tend to be. While it is important to maintain relationships even after the event, don’t be afraid to reach out. Men are more likely to help out an acquaintance when they see it as a reciprocal relationship. Conversely, women are more likely to ask for assistance from someone who they have helped in the past.

Networking doesn’t begin and end at a networking event

A great networker knows that while the best strategy includes connecting with the people attending an event, it also involves people you meet socially, the parents of your children’s friends, or even your fitness class teacher. Networking doesn’t require an event. Rather, it is a behaviour that needs to be practised all the time.

The more you practise, the more confident you’ll feel at making these types of direct and meaningful connections with other people. And all that practice will make a big difference whenever you’re attending a networking event!


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Why You Need a Personal Elevator Pitch

Elevator PitchIn a perfect world, you’ll always have all the time you need to explain your perfect business idea to a potential partner or investor. In the real world, however, opportunities don’t always come, and if they do, they often happen quickly. To successfully connect with the power brokers in the business arena, including when networking, you need to have an elevator pitch prepared and ready to go.

What Is an Elevator Pitch? Why Do I Need One?

CEO and co-founder Tom Deierlein of Thundercat Technology describes an elevator pitch as a 30- to 60-second explanation of what your business is and how it provides value. The concept of an elevator pitch arose from an old story about a sales rep getting into an elevator, and having a CEO step in next to him. In a contained environment, with 60 seconds before the elevator hit the top floor, how would that sales rep explain his company?

Coming up with an elevator pitch can feel frustrating. After you have put weeks and months of work into your business plan, describing every detail, turning around and reducing your business to its simplest explanation can feel reductive and incomplete. Knowing that women experience a more difficult time accessing venture capital or interesting banks in traditional funding, having a polished pitch helps you get your message across succinctly and successfully.

Your elevator pitch is not the be-all and end-all of your business description or proposal. The goal of an elevator pitch is to pique the other party’s interest. You want to intrigue them so that they want to know more about your product or service. That will be your chance to lay out all the details about what makes your business enticing.

What Do I Mention in My Elevator Pitch?

Your 60-second pitch needs to involve some key details. Explain:

  • What problem your business product or service solves
  • What value you provide
  • How you provide it
  • What your experience is
  • What you want from your listener

Many of these concepts will come straight out of your business plan but need to be much more condensed. Think of distilling your business down to its most basic elements, and remember that you will (hopefully!) have the chance to share more details in the next few minutes.

What Does My Elevator Pitch Need to Do?

The goal of your elevator pitch is to catch the attention of a buyer, an investor, potential partner, or professional mentor. These people are busy and often have many people trying to catch their attention, so your quick pitch is respectful of their time and commitments.

Your elevator pitch needs to sound polished without sounding rehearsed. It is a good idea not to memorise an exact speech that you will repeat every time you have the opportunity; even though everyone knows that elevator pitches are a must in business, you want the person you are speaking with to feel that you have taken the time to research and pitch to him or her in particular. One way to accomplish this is to add in a fact or figure that specifically references their company. You might say, “I know Angel Investors has looked at companies that focus on social media for women, but it doesn’t appear you’ve found the right partner yet,” for example. This tells the listener that you want to work with them in particular.

Embrace the Power of the Elevator Pitch

When you have a well-crafted elevator pitch, which you deliver smoothly and with confidence, you are not just sharing information about your business. You are saying that you have done your research, that you are ready for the next level in the business world, and that you want to see your business evolve. You set yourself up as an equal partner in the conversation, which makes your listener take you more seriously.

Practice your elevator pitch with those who know your industry, and those who do not. See if you can interest people who are not experts. Consider contacting a professional mentoring organisation such as Behind Closed Doors to get some help from business women who understand the nuances of how to sell yourself and your ideas within the business world. And, then try out your elevator pitch on the power players in your world and see what great things come next.


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Why You Should Consider Asset Protection


Asset ProtectionVery few of us truly stop to think about how to protect ourselves financially. It might be a completely foreign topic for some but there are mentors and professionals who can help guide you through this process.

We spend a large part of our time and effort in creating assets and growing our personal wealth. But are we equally diligent in protecting them? Asset protection should be an essential feature of your financial planning as it protects our precious assets like the family home, rental properties, and investment portfolio from personal and financial setbacks.

Asset protection is also important to protect you against bankruptcy, or even a divorce which can lead to the loss of your personal assets.

Protecting Your Personal Assets from Litigation or Bankruptcy

Litigation with your creditors, or a bankruptcy, can cost you your personal property if you are unable to settle your debt. To prevent this from happening, many business owners establish a trust to manage the business and the laws regarding this vary between states.

In the event of litigation, the assets listed under the trust are alone used to settle the case, keeping the personal property of the business owner safe. However, in the case of a loan default, even the personal assets of the Director of the trust can be used to reclaim the loan. Board Directors of NFP, public and private companies need to also heed this advice as you are responsible for various fiduciary duties to the organisation and if breached, may lead to personal liability of the Director.

A good way to avoid this is to keep your important personal assets like your family home in the name of an unexposed spouse so that the property is safe from the outcome of litigation. You can also consider gradually moving your profits and investment portfolio to a self-managed super fund (SMSF) as assets managed under an SMSF are legally protected from creditors.

Both the above ways provide a legal structure to separate you from your assets while still giving you a degree of control over them. This will in turn help to protect your family from any business or Directorship issues that arise.

Protecting Your Assets from Divorce

Family courts will order an equitable division of marital assets in the event of a divorce. In order to safeguard your property for you and your children, you can consider establishing a trust where you can bequeath important assets to your children. Since such trust assets are a financial resource for the children, they are not under any threat during a divorce.

You can even arrange for regular income to be paid to your children from the trust. A prenuptial agreement can also be very useful in preserving your assets for your children, especially if you retain custody of your children.

Preserving Your Assets for Your Children After Your Death

You need to preserve your assets for your children so that they can benefit from them after your death or in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself. The most common way is through estate planning in which you make a will that clearly lists and divides your assets amongst your spouse and children.

It is normal to make the spouse the sole beneficiary and the children inherit it after his or her death. Leaving a will behind prevents differences regarding who gets what and ensures an equitable division of your wealth.

Recent legal reforms have led to Family and Bankruptcy laws being much stricter than they were before. For example, the Bankruptcy Act has a four-year claw back period during which asset protection steps may get nullified, allowing them to be used for legal settlement.

It is clearly imperative to protect your assets financially. Setting up trusts, have a will and possibly a prenuptial agreement can all help you to protect you and your family from unfortunate situations. There are a number of mentors and professional contacts at BCD who can advise you on how to best protect your assets for the future.


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Am I ready to start my own business?

Am I ready to start my own businessIf you’re reading this, the entrepreneurial bug has probably bitten you and yet you’re not sure if you’re ready to take the risk. Being unsure is normal; after all it’s a big decision to leave the comfort zone of a regular income and dive into something you aren’t even sure will work. Here’s a quick checklist for aspiring entrepreneurs that will help put things into perspective and help you make the right decision.

You have an idea you just can’t stop thinking about

If you’re thinking about starting your own business, chances are, you already have an idea that’s been occupying your every waking minute. You need to have an idea that you’re extremely passionate about, even if you haven’t worked out all the details yet. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who fuelled their big ideas on pure and simple passion.

You have a plan

You have your product or service idea and you’re sure that there’s a market for it. Before you decide to leave your day job to experience the life of an entrepreneur, make sure you have a plan, or at least an outline of your new business venture. This plan should include defining and testing your idea, setting milestones to achieve and understanding what resources are going to be necessary, for example how to obtain small business grants or gain access to capital.

You have a great support system

While your start-up may just require your effort alone, you are certainly going to need family, friends and mentors to help you. Your spouse, children and friends need to support you through this period, even if it means reducing expenses, picking up extra chores or mentally preparing themselves that they’re going to potentially see a lot less of you.

You’re not afraid of taking risks

A good entrepreneur knows how to embrace uncertainties and all the risks that come along with it. You have to be willing to acknowledge that security doesn’t necessarily add up to success and before embarking on your new venture, write down the major risks you think you might encounter and create back-up plans for every one of them. Doing this helps you to understand what might and could go wrong and should provide you with the peace of mind that you have a plan. It is also a good habit for all business owners to understand what risks there are at every level and size of business.

You are organised

Benjamin Franklin once said, “For every minute organising, an hour is earned.” If you’re not already organised, learn to be. Every day, aim to do one task that will help move your business forward and avoid cluttering your day with too many tasks. Instead choose a few important things each day and get them out of the way. These major things that are high on the priority list are called ‘big rocks’. Having said that, don’t forget the little, detailed rocks either as these can become critical down the track. Deal with them when you can and when you get the ‘big rocks’ out of the way to maximise your time and efforts.

You are ready for failure… and success

You have to be able to face the fear of failure and, as strange as it sounds, success. The trappings of success bring along with it more work, a need to expand and higher expectations. You need to be able to grow your business in real time, to keep up with or ahead of the changing demands. Having a business mentor and a great accountant can make all the difference when faced with failure and success as they have seen it all before and can guide you through most situations.

You are good at business development

You need to be 8-10 out of 10 in rating yourself at being and effective business developer. You need to toughen up to rejection, be able to present and pitch well to win business and continually market your product and/or services, face to face and on social media. Even if you are 100% delivering or manufacturing, keep up your marketing and networking for new business opportunities.

Focus, focus, focus

Be disciplined. Don’t get distracted by the next ‘shiny thing’. Stay focused on your core business and leverage those opportunities.

You recognise opportunities easily

Opportunities aren’t always going to be in plain sight. It’s up to you to be able to seize the day and recognise how to turn a situation to your advantage. People who are sensitive to opportunities are more likely to act on them. Also, don’t forget to network, networking is one of the best ways to seek out new opportunities and drum up business.

Now you may thumb through a dozen articles, checklists and maybe even online quizzes to deem yourself ready. However, it’s simply impossible to pinpoint the perfect time to start up and run a business. It doesn’t matter how long you wait or how much you prepare – you’ll never be able to gather enough business acumen, or enter a state of zero risk. So as long as you’re passionate, have prepared as much as you can to the best of your ability and believe in yourself and your big idea, now is the time to get out there!

I encourage women entrepreneurs to join a behind closed doors Entrepreneurs group to be mentored by successful business operators and supported by other like minded business owners and entrepreneurs.


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Why Women Don’t Network Enough

Why Women Don't Network Enough“Networking—creating a fabric of personal contacts who will provide support, feedback, insight, resources, and information—is simultaneously one of the most self-evident and one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that aspiring leaders must address,” says an article on Harvard Business Review entitled How Leaders Create and Use Networks. This is a well-rounded summation to the benefit of networking and also the challenge that many face. Women, however, are lagging behind on this important aspect of business and professional growth.

Men are succeeding at networking

Many men are great networkers. Be it at the golf course, or over a beer watching the footy, men are much more open to using such meetings as opportunities to establish their professional network. Passing around their business cards and talking about their business seemingly comes naturally to them; and this is a huge advantage when it comes to building relationships that progress into business opportunities. The value networking brings also extends to helping stimulate the interest of potential investors without having to ask for their money, and spreading the word on business without reserve.

And women are lagging behind

When it comes to women, they are still trailing far behind in capitalising on networking for their professional growth. One study showed that women are five times more likely than men to agree that they find it hard to network with senior managers and executives. Unsurprisingly, 41% of women find that their exclusion from informal networks is a barrier to their professional advancement. There are many reasons for this, some practical and some psychological, some of which are listed below.

Time is spent on working instead of networking

When you combine household chores and childcare into the number of hours of paid employment, women work 60-70 hours a week, according to a 2011 Pew Survey. This leaves precious little time to network, which is why it usually goes on the backburner. Women are spending time on working at their desks, achieving results and accomplishing tasks, rather than networking and top leaders in the industry recognise this as a mistake. Carol Bartz, former Yahoo CEO, and Lisa Lambert, founder of Upward, both agree that women should do less and network more given that leadership today is defined not just by how much you achieve, but your ability to connect to others.

Not making the best use of social media networks

Women shy away from using their social networks to advance their professional careers; usually because they feel it will portray them as being overly ambitious. This attitude is underlined by a study on use of social networking sites by gender. Though more women use social media sites like Facebook, Tumbler, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, more men use LinkedIn than women, which is the most important social media platform to build your professional network. So even though women are active on social networks, they hold back from capitalising on them for their professional growth.

Shying away from male networks

Women often stick together, united in doing things, and the same goes for networking. Although this is excellent in terms of gaining support, efforts should also be made to extend networking to include men, more so since there are more men in top executive level positions across industries. Take Venture Capitalism for example, it is predominately male, which means that more likely than not, women will have to pitch to male investors. By confining themselves to female-only networks, women end up restricting their access to senior-level sponsorship and relationships, which also means that women’s presence in those industries continues to be undervalued and under represented.

In a study on Women in the Workplace by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Company, which included almost 30,000 employees across 118 companies, it was found that women’s odds of advancement are 15% lower than that of men. The study showed that “Women and men agree that sponsorship is vital to success and advancement, with two-thirds describing it as “very” or “extremely” important. Yet they do not have the same type of professional networks, which may result in different levels of support.” A factor that contributes to this is that these male networks sometimes tend to have the mentality of a boy’s only club. This boy’s only club need not deter women from building professional connections with men; by learning from women who have found a way to break into the boy’s only club other women will see how it can be done and forge ahead as well. Share insider tips with your female networks and be open to connecting each other to the right networks that include men.

Networking certainly takes time and effort, and it will definitely require women to be more aware of where they are lacking in their networking efforts to be better at establishing connections. At Behind Closed Doors, we understand the value networking brings and we help women gain easier access to a large network of professional men and women. Women who have worked hard to overcome obstacles in networking are open to sharing experiences and advice in career building. If you’re looking to start improving your networking skills and establishing valuable relationships, behind closed doors is a good place to start.


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The waiting room. Why do women wait?

Why do women wait?“I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organised. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin.  And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin.”

This excerpt from Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life sums up how many women feel. Women tend to be in the waiting room – waiting for something to happen that will give us a boost and a new direction. In this blog, we look at the problem more closely and why women are stuck in the waiting room.

Waiting for that promotion, a board role or a salary increase

A study by Linda Babcock, a James M. Walton Professor of Economics at Carnegie Mellon’s School of Public Policy and Management, showed that the starting salaries of male MBA graduates were 7.4% (or just over $4,000) higher than those of women. How this happened presents a very interesting insight into a woman’s mindset in the context of this issue. Of the women, only 7% had attempted to negotiate on the starting salary offered by the employer. This is in stark contrast to men, 57% of whom (i.e. 8 times as many as women) had asked for higher commencement pay. Just by asking, and not waiting for a pay increase to happen, men had upped their salaries by 7.4%!

Furthermore, women want to avoid being labelled as pushy, which consequently dissuades them from asking for more, instead waiting on a time until their efforts are recognised by those higher up. This reluctance to speak up and ask for what is rightfully ours is a major problem among women and it needs to be addressed.

There are several reasons for this “waiting-room” attitude displayed by women, the foremost being the unconscious bias that teaches women to be content with their lot and to put others’ interests ahead of their own. Though some think this is a good quality to develop, it often works as a barrier to a woman’s professional progress. When women start internalising this bias and feel that they must not ask for more money, is when they start disadvantaging themselves financially.

Women wait to be tapped on the shoulder for promotions and Board roles too. It is rare that you get asked to apply or tapped, therefore you need to have the confidence to position yourself for what you want. I know you suffer from the “cringe factor” yet if you “don’t ask, you wont get”. In many cases, men wont even realise you would be interested in a promotion or board role unless you tell them. Mentors and coaches can help you articulate the best way to profile and market yourself, sponsors can definitely help open doors for you and speak on your behalf.

Waiting for someone else to speak up

Although not unique to just women, women are usually the ones who will think twice before speaking up in meetings. Men, on the other hand, are more likely than women to project confidence when they’re uncertain, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. It isn’t that women don’t have anything to say, it’s that they would rather wait for someone else to take the risk of speaking up than put themselves in the spotlight. However, mitigating such risks also means loss of opportunities. The uncertainty that holds women back from speaking up and brainstorming ideas will only severely limit their professional growth and cause a loss of opportunity for both the business and themselves.

Waiting for a position to become vacant before applying

The insightful article entitled Why Women Don’t Apply for Jobs Unless They’re 100% Qualified gleans interesting findings from a Hewlett Packard internal report and sheds light on what women are thinking when applying for jobs. The top reason for not applying for a vacant position is, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications and I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail.” If the reservations felt by women in applying for positions that are vacant illicit such responses, then the inclination to apply for jobs that are not yet vacant are going to occur even less for women. The fear that they may be stepping on someone’s toes by applying for a non-vacant job will only cause a major pullback on any women’s desire for career progression.

These are just three ways in which women are letting great opportunities pass them by, waiting for someone to tap them on the shoulder! At the cost of sounding cliché, time and opportunity really does not wait for anyone! The time is now to shed women based biases, gain confidence, create opportunities for ourselves, speak up and ask for more ….because we deserve it. It is time to get out of the waiting room.


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5 Steps To Make Business Planning Easy

Make Business Planning EasyCongratulations! You’ve decided to start your own business. In today’s modern age more and more people, particularly women, are turning to entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses rather than working for traditional employers. So how do you go about starting to plan your own business? We’ll break it down for you in five easy steps:

Begin with a General Outline

The first step is to come up with a concept for your business. Think about what product or service your business will provide and what problem, or need, will be addressed for your customers. Decide who your target market will be and what competitors you will have. Your outline does not need to be remarkably detailed just yet, but you need to at least have a general idea of what the purpose and goals will be for your business. You can develop a formal business plan later.

Evaluate Your Proposition

Next you’ll need to do some research. Begin by determining if there actually is a market for your product or service. Ask your friends, family and colleagues, but make sure that they will be brutally honest with you. You can also ask potential customers or strangers to give you feedback about your product or service. Social media can be another great way to test the market’s response to your idea. If the response isn’t as positive as you would have liked, go back to your original outline and make changes accordingly. Once you think you have a viable business, it is time to crunch some numbers. Don’t just make up numbers out of thin air; try to be realistic in estimating your costs, selling price and volume of sales. Put together a basic budget, sales forecast, and cash flow forecast. Don’t worry if the numbers aren’t exact. You can always update them later as you gather more information.

Create An Advisory Board

Even if you intend to be the sole employee of your new business, no one expects you to have all the answers, particularly at the beginning. It is a good idea to build up an informal team of advisors who can help coach you through the difficult decisions to come. This could include someone who has a sales background, your former colleague who is a whiz at social media, your accountant and anyone else who has expertise in areas you aren’t familiar with. You could even enlist the help of a mentor, like those in the Behind Closed Doors network. Make sure, though, that you don’t rely too heavily on your advisors. Remember, they are there to offer suggestions and advice and are not actual employees of your business.

Start Planning

Now is the time to start planning for the business itself. It is helpful to start from the end goal and work your way backwards. What is your ultimate goal and what steps are necessary in order to get there? Be as detailed as possible, breaking down complex tasks into smaller action items. Assign a due date to each action and hold yourself accountable for meeting them. Once you get your business up and running, don’t forget to keep a running list of actions to keep you on track towards achieving your business objectives. Make sure that your goals are measurable so that you can track your progress and determine whether or not you have met them.

Review Your Plan Regularly

Include time in your schedule to review your progress at regular intervals. In the early stages, you may wish to check in every week to keep yourself on target, but this can be extended to once a month as soon as you get your business going. Evaluate your progress towards your goals, and determine which of your efforts are working and which aren’t. This is where having measurable goals is critical. If something isn’t working, determine why not and make changes accordingly. Refer back to the original plan you made in the first step. Keep making necessary changes, get focused on your core product or service and you’ll achieve success as an entrepreneur.

At behind closed doors, we understand how challenging starting a business can be. For many, this stage can be extremely daunting and can result in someone giving up on their entrepreneurial ambitions. By following these five steps, you can focus on establishing your business and achieve success. Take some risks, take charge and conquer your challenges.


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Transcript: Rooster Radio Podcast with Donny Walford

Donny Walford, Managing Director, behind closed doorsWelcome to Rooster Radio. I’m Andrew Montesi with James Begley and today we’ve got another top performer sharing her insights from decades in business leadership. Donny Walford is the founder of Behind Closed Doors, a members-only organisation supporting women in business.

For Donny, this is a personal passion. She climbed the ranks in banking, despite a corporate culture that, at the time, openly blocked career progression for women. Such attitudes only made Donny more determined and resilient. She became more of a pain in the ass for those who were trying to stop her, and paved the way for many other women who were also dreaming big.

She’s a sought after advisor and sits on numerous boards, including a high profile position at the ABC, Key Invest, the Australian Associated Advisors, Heart Foundation and many more. But still she doesn’t believe in quotas for female appointments.

We talk about the evolution for women in business and the barriers that still exist today. We also talk about the board of directors from all angles, lessons learned in business, and much more.

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Doing some research, words like director, managing director, founder, chairman C.E.O, general manager, senior manager, executive all ring through your career to this point. I want to start, though, when you were at the bottom. When you were just starting out. When you were just scratching out your career.  What was your first job?

First job, State Bank. Well, Savings Bank it was called, so I think almost every South Australian somewhere within their life had a start in a bank. But we had 4000 people in State Bank. It was the largest employer outside of Government, so that was that was the start of my career, and, seriously, it was at the bottom. Licking stamps. There were the days that you had to lick stamps.

They weren’t self-adhesive at that point?

No, no.

So where, and which branch?

Glenelg. First branch.

What were some of your other duties in that role?

Customer service, which really wasn’t customer service at the time, but it was serving at the counter and the really weird thing is that you were the most junior and you were customer facing, but you didn’t know anything. It was really weird and then the more senior you got, the more you went into the back office and away from customers. Sort of all around the wrong way.

And now, today, customer service is having your best people face you customers.

Finance and money has been, I guess, a theme through your career in terms of, you know, the early days, the banking side of things.

Well, twenty years in banking, it was my trade. Yeah.

Did you always have a passion for banking, you came out of high school and?

No, you did hairdressing, nursing or banking. That was what you did back then, and, as I said, they were the largest employers. So, more about get a job and then work the rest out. In fact, I wanted to be – I don’t know why – but I wanted to be a dental nurse.

Not a dentist? But a dental nurse?

Well, this is it.

Because when I was growing up girls were going to get married and have kids and look after the house. So, you would never be encouraged in a career. So that’s why hairdressing, nursing and banking were – acceptable? Weeeelll… believe me. I joined- and this is going to sound really old, but I joined banking in the late 70’s, where only two years earlier if you got married you had to leave the bank, only two years before I joined. But when you did get pregnant you had to leave. So I was in that era. It wasn’t career stuff – women never got to branch manager of a bank.

So what were your aspirations then when you arrived at State Bank? What were you thinking about your future?

To have a good time. And this is what we talked about earlier. I then went overseas when I was 21 and lived in the UK for two and a half years – no friends, no family and no support and you had to make it and you had to go out and look for work.

It was all exciting, but it was also hard. You had to sort out your own problems, it was a long way to come home. And after two and a half years, returning to Adelaide and it was really only to come home, see my family and go back again. And, I just thought, oh my god, look at what we’ve got here in Adelaide and look how hard it was.

I mean, the most amount of money I earned in the UK was 45 thousand pounds.

45 thousand? That’s not bad.

Yeah, 45 thousand, but I started at 33 thousand. But I came off making a lot more than that. Double. So I went over to the UK when everything was double the price, but only had half that amount of money, so I was living day to day and I’d never lived day to day for my first 21 years. Yes. So that was really hard and I came back to Adelaide and interestingly enough all of my friends hadn’t changed, and yet, I changed dramatically.

And it was then that the bank had lost a lot of five-to-ten year people. So that was about it. When people joined from school, they went either back into university and full time work or they went on to other careers. Other industry sectors. So the Banks were losing all of their IP at five-to-ten years.

So I heard they were recalling any male that had left the bank between five-and-ten years of service. But they weren’t ringing females. So I rang up and I said you can’t discriminate between male and female coming back into the bank.

And did they say ‘yes we can?

You have to bring me back and the reason being is.

Unfortunately – my father was electrocuted and I didn’t go back overseas and I stayed with mum.

So that’s when, within that couple of months that I was home, I decided to stay and rejoin the bank. Because I’d had four years and that was party time really for four years and then I was bored because all I was allowed to do was lick stamps and serve customers.

We were only allowed to go on the cash, which was being a teller, after two years of being in the bank. I mean, seriously? You know it was mind-numbing stuff. So anyway, I went back into the bank, rejoined at Parkside branch and I just worked like a woman possessed, and I learned as much as possible. I just wanted to climb the ladder.

But there were no mentors, no sponsors, no coaches, back in those days. Those words weren’t even talked about. And there were no role models for me either. I just knew that I could do what the guys could do and wanted all the opportunities that they had.

Can you describe the feeling when you say you just knew what you wanted to achieve?

I can. So, I grew up a tomboy. And my brother was one year older than me, but six foot three and quite a big bloke and all of his friends were big blokes and I wasn’t. But I played football and cricket. I didn’t do the girl thing, I did the boy thing. And so I could do anything that they could do and it was only when I was in high school that I realized there was a difference between boys and girls, because the girls at 13, 14, 15 didn’t want you playing footy or cricket with their boyfriends.

So I got ostracised by both sides. The women didn’t want to know me because I wasn’t like them and the men weren’t allowed to know me.

So that’s when I realised there was a difference. So when I went into the workforce, I’m still thinking I’m the tomboy that I could do anything a man can do. If they’re allowed to go into residential lending and commercial lending, well why can’t I? I can learn what they can learn, so why can’t I get the same opportunities?

So it wasn’t sort of a planned goal structure at that time. It was more about ‘well, I can do what they can do’.

On a practical level, what was that like, trying to fight and scrap your way up that ladder?

So what I did was I never got the opportunity. I never got the promotions. I never got promoted. In actual fact, I have to really take you back to the history of the bank. You only ever got promoted on how many years you were in the bank. So, basically, the older you were, you got promoted. And if you got a degree you jumped a year. If you were 25 and you got a degree you could jump to 26. Even though you were still 25. Bizarre, isn’t it?

But that’s the only way you got promoted. So as a young person, you’re not going to get promoted any time quickly. So, what I used to do was play. I wasn’t allowed on the cash because I was a female, so I used to play on the cash. So I’ll do all the work but not get paid for it in whatever bit, but I’d be faster, better than anyone else and that’s the competitive nature of Donny Walford.

And then with lending, you as a female couldn’t go into even doing personal lending for a car or whatever. So I used to play at that as well. So I learned it all by doing rather than by being put on a course.

Anyway, the world did change. A guy called Tim Marcus Clarke came into the bank in 1984 and we merged what was State Bank, but it was a regional bank with the savings bank, became State Bank.

And his first question of the exec team and then in one of the exec HR director meetings, he asked – “where are all the women in management and where are all the young people,” and back then – 84 – I ticked both boxes and so he said – “you need to develop a fast-tracking program to get talented bankers on to these two year accelerated development program. We want more into management, more into senior management and exec.” Women and young people, and, at the same time, it was the first time outsiders could come into the bank.

So we were recruiting at different levels for the first time. And we could also bring in graduates, which we’ve never done. Never.

So beyond just the specific sort of fast-tracking was there also an exciting time within the bank? Were there other things happening? Was there a vibrancy, or was it sort of sidelined to just this kind of strategy?

That was exciting. That fast tracking program was exciting for me because, every six months I could move around the bank in any area that I wanted, do a project, which had to be a written report as well as facing up to the executive to present it, and at the same time you work in this particular area for six months and at the end of the two year period you might want to go back to where you were.

I only did one stint and just happened to say the right thing at the right time to go on to what we called the branch evolution team, which meant we turned the bank on its head and it was a team of three, a PA, a manager and me. And I was just a part – all of the things that I thought were boring in the bank in which we were duplicating or doing too much manual or whatever.

So it was a real evolution and I think they probably call it process re-engineering in today’s terms. And so I just led this, I piloted with five branches in the southern area, that ended up being fifty branches until the whole bank took it on and we saved a million dollars in its first year of operation ongoing. I guess people noticed what I was doing, and then long story short, I got six promotions in a couple of years and ended up- like – whilst I never got any promotions in the first ten years of my career, I got multiple promotions, but that’s when I realised there was a different game.

Every time I got promoted – won the gig – I got appealed. This is in the days you could get appealed. I got appealed by the men in the bank. And that wasn’t fair. And it was weird, and it was – ‘well how did she jump so many levels?’ in some ways, I guess.

The really weird thing was when they asked if I actually went for the job, they were appealing my promotion because they just didn’t want me to have it. Even though every one of those same sort of people would say, ‘you know it’s not fair you’re not getting paid, it’s not fair you don’t have the title, it’s not fair, it’s not fair’. They were the ones who appealed against me when I finally went for the position. But I went too fast at it for them.

As you were doing this fast growth in this period, what was happening to the other women at the bank? Were they talking to you and asking you what you were doing? Were you inspiring other people?

I was certainly inspiring some, but not all and a lot of people called me a bulldozer because I was bulldozing a way for them, because there were no real promotions going for women. But in that time that I was getting promoted there was the first branch manager appointed, a manager of another area was appointed, some senior managers were being brought in for specific areas of treasury, or we had females being appointed to the board for the first time.

So there were other areas, but as someone from a retail banking perspective, there were very few. So yeah. It was trailblazing, but the interesting thing is – once I finally got into a senior management role, that’s when I realised that some females didn’t want you there either, and in some cases I’d say they were worse than men as far as how they treated you.


I don’t know, I don’t know. But, people tell me now – so in hindsight – people tell me now, ‘you know that some women are called queen bees that like being the only ones there and don’t want the competition?’

A lot of men have said to me that women are more competitive with each other than they are with competing with men. And now, because I run Behind Closed Doors, which is all about business women, I hear it. I hear it all the time, but this is the first time I’d experienced it.

So asking the question, why? I think maybe there is some truth in the competitive side. I don’t know. A lot of women have said, and I’ve seen evidence that, you know, it was hard for me, so it should be hard for you and I’m not going to help and support you.

Now I don’t get that, because Behind Closed Doors is all about women supporting other women and encouraging them, but there are women who don’t support – and Madeline Albright has that beautiful quote – “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women”.

And that’s from America, so it obviously happens, not just here in Australia.

How do you reflect now on the situation where, very possibly, we will have a female president of the United States – let’s hope so anyway, and a female prime minister in the UK. We’ve got a deputy prime minister, well, Julie Bishop here in Australia who was playing the role of deputy prime minister. I think, is it Christine Lagarde that is president of the IMF?


So you’ve got the chancellor in Germany- and Angela Merkel in Germany. When you’re in the middle of something, does it feel like it’s never changing, but it’s not until you look back and you realize ‘wow the things have changed a little bit?”

I think they’re changing, but just not fast enough for women I mean, have a look at women on boards – it’s still low. They’ve got a target now. There’s some men around Australia who are in the 30 Club and they’re chairs of boards and they’ve signed up to get 30% of women onto their boards within the next few years.

Carolyn Hewson is trying to get 40%, so what, why 30? Let’s make 40, still not 50, but. So, the change has been there, but it’s slow. And then these boards and organisations that have had women on their boards and had women in their executive teams – they’ve gone back to none.

And that’s why you need not just one or two, you need more. On merit, of course, but there are women with merit who are just not on the radar. I was still here, still today, and I read even yesterday that a lot of men are still saying that there are no women with the qualifications to put on my board.

There are.

So there’s a two prong here. More women have to get on the radar, let people know they exist, and, on the other side, men have to start realising that there are women, and they just have to try harder to get them on a shortlist.

So that’s what I was going to ask. You’ve lived this evolution for women in business. That’s obviously a major barrier. What other barriers still exist today?

There’s so many ways you can answer this. That’s a great question. I’m going to take it on as women- we put our- I don’t believe in a glass ceiling. You know I don’t believe in quotas, we talked about that. First of all I think we limit ourselves. Like you’ve probably heard this a dozen times, if not more, that a woman thinks she needs ten out of ten ticking all the boxes before they go for a gig. Even if they are tapped on the shoulder. They’ll say, no I’m not ready.

Now a male might only tick six out of ten of those boxes and say ‘I’m going to give it a crack’, and they’ll learn on the job, where as the woman thinks she has to know it all and be able to perform the task before they go for the gig and I don’t get that.

So to me that’s a barrier that they put on themselves. So, on the other side, I think there’s still a lot of unconscious bias. There’s a conscious bias, but you know what? Let’s not even go there because that you can’t change. But on the unconscious bias, I think it’s men picking each other up on – “do you realise what you just said? Do you realise how you’re behaving?”

I’ll give you a really good example. Young women who are really bright, really well-educated, doing really well decide to have a family, they might come back to work beginning at three days a week or a four day a week, or whatever. When they have their day away from work and they’re usually looking after one or two more children, the male always said – “did you enjoy a day off yesterday?”

I can tell you most women who are juggling a career and young children will say ‘I’d rather be at work. Looking after these young kids and trying to throw everything into that one or two days.

My wife says that to me every evening when I get home from work – ‘I wish I was at work’.

We were on another podcast and we got onto this topic. It was one of the members of the other podcast who was a bit of an expert in the way that parents treat boys and girls differently at incredibly young ages, and he boiled it down to even the fact the average distance the parents let a boy travel from them.

In the early stages of life, like something double what they would let their daughter travel. And it’s kind of incredible to think that unconscious bias might begin with, not bad intentions, but right from the beginning.

Yeah I agree. And particularly fathers are going to be a lot more protective of their daughters, even when they’re in their teens, they’re a lot more protective.

I think of it in my context. I’ve got a two-year-old daughter and a boy almost four and I already start thinking differently about my daughter, you know, it happens.

Even though now there’s so much evidence seen in this crazy world where young boys are at risk just like young girls anywhere in the world.

Donny, who would pin up as some women who you really respect doing some great things in Australia that have messages that really resonate?

Carolyn Hewson is my role model and I’ve told her a number of times. She is outstanding. She gives a lot – and I’ve told her this recently, but when you’re speaking to Carolyn, you think you’re the only woman, or person – men say this too about her – the only person in her life and in that moment she gives you her full attention and she’s so gracious with her time.

She’s so into what you’re doing. But she’s also into the greater good of what’s happening in business and happening with women and she, I don’t know. She’s just a very special person.

And what about in business itself? Broaden it out. I mean, men and women. Who do you believe are sort of doing some really cool things in the country at this point in time?

I think Julie Bishop is – absolutely. Michaelia Cash, women like that. Tanya Pilbersek, Penny Wong I think is amazing. So they’re the political women. Michelle Guthrie who has just taken over as managing director of ABC – She is just a pocket rocket, amazing. Watch this space with Michelle at the helm.

Women leading major organisations, women who have set up their own businesses here in South Australia, the Sheree Sullivans of the world, Kylie Bishop. You caught me on the spot, I wish I had a list.

Yes we’ve had plenty of guests who don’t come up with anyone so. On boards, you’re on a whole heap. Is that a technical term, Andrew? We’ve got ABC, Key Invest, Australian Associate Advisors, there’s many. But you don’t believe in quotas.


Can you tell us a bit more about that?

It’s as simple as, if you are quota appointed to a board, other people around the board would think you only got there because of the quota, not because it was on merit. So targets I believe in. Targets are different. If you want to have 40 percent of women on your boards and 40 percent of women in your executive team, and you work towards a target – it’s a goal. It’s a target.

Fine with that, but if you set it that you have to, it’s regulated and – like the government has in this state. A lot of governments around the country have taken example from the South Australian Government – 50 percent of women on boards. So, if a woman leaves a board, another women has to be appointed in their place.

So that’s fine, but if you weren’t the right person for the job, and either of you two were, you couldn’t go on that board because it has to be a woman. I don’t think that’s good for women and I don’t think it’s good for the board. I still think it needs to be on merit.

But merit based appointments haven’t worked either. That’s why I think targets need to be there. But it’s purely because you will be tarnished, even though you would be a ‘maybe’ the right person for the board.

I think everyone around the table would go “the only reason she is on the board is because we have to have her, because she’s a female”. But I think this creates some of those false perceptions, because when a woman is appointed you know it’s because she’s a woman, sort of thing.

I’ve noticed with your appointment to the ABC board that gender is referenced.


How does that make you feel? Do you feel that it takes a bit of that merit off of it, I guess?

No, it didn’t because I know how hard I’ve worked to get to where I got and I also can tell you – after the appointment, I had a number of people tell me that they -other men, all men spoke on my behalf and so they were my sponsors and I believe mentors and sponsors are the reason for career success, particularly now.

And if you just look around, you know athletes, footy teams. They all have coaches. So why do we think we don’t need a coach to be successful? You know, and achieve the most we can achieve. So I think I’ve just lost my train of thought. Yeah that’s right. It was more of a comment on the fact that in the article it just references gender.

So I’ve worked really hard to be there and I’ve done my yards in the boards to be there, but from a national perspective, how do they know that?

Donny Walford existed in South Australia and I had a number of male sponsors speak on my behalf and every time they asked about who from South Australia with these sorts of qualifications blah blah blah blah blah and my name kept coming up, so then when it went to minister, there were people even, in politics who spoke on my behalf. So my name was mentioned a number of times. So when other people had a problem with that, I didn’t care because that’s their problem not mine.

I thought that was a great appointment and then a woman in Queensland was also appointed at the same time and she’s amazing. But we all bring some real strengths to the board who have been appointed recently and in the past, but I just think it’s fantastic for South Australia because we haven’t had a South Australian representative on this board since Peter Hurley.

So it’s great to have someone represent South Australia. And look, I’m really keen to go into this world of boards because it’s kind of this mysterious layer I think that a lot of people see and hear in movies and on T.V.

So I’m keen to get some reality in a second, but also I would like to know just the mechanics of Behind Closed Doors and how you formed that and in practice, and what does it do, I guess, champion all the work that we’ve been talking about.

So, I told you a little bit about the banking career, so being the only female out of 150 males in the last three of my banking career was tough and I didn’t realize how tough it was and why I left in some ways because I just didn’t know why I was hitting my head against a brick wall.

And when you say tough?

Because, I mean, I was pretty quick on my feet as far as thinking, you had to be because if I didn’t get out quickly what I wanted to say, or ideas, I’d never be heard. There were 150 men.

Were there days where you’d leave work just completely flat going why do I bother?

Never never never. No I had this mantra that I was with this time. I had this mantra and never let the bastards beat me, you know it’s that competitive stuff. But I was never going to let them beat me.

It almost seems to me from the way you’re talking like it energises you.

It was a negative motivator. Yeah it was big because it was tough but, god, I learned a lot. I mean, resilience. How my mouth got me into trouble. I remember my mum saying, “do you – did you ever think that no one wants to hear your honesty?” And I went, “no, I didn’t. Don’t they?”

She told me, “well I don’t actually want your honesty.” And so by hitting against a brick wall, often enough you think that’s not how you win and as someone who likes to win, particularly as a woman who just loves sport and competing, I was coming second all the time and I knew I had talent I knew I could do whatever I thought I could do.

But I was coming second and I wasn’t winning awards, I wasn’t being nominated, I wasn’t winning and I kept thinking “what am I doing wrong?”

It was my mouth. But because you have coaches or sponsors or mentors to slap me across the face and say – ‘If you just said this here, smartened up here and watched your behaviuor here’. I wore my heart on my sleeve. If I thought you were a dickhead I’d show you through my face, my eyes and my body.

And so then when I started a new career I thought, well you know this I can change. I mean I was always changing in the bank, but, unfortunately, I’ve been in the bank for you know 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 years. They always saw me as the woman I was, not the woman I’ve become, I am, and who I was learning you know that- of course I was growing up as well as maturing so what you could get away with as a young woman, you certainly didn’t get away with – but that also taught me about small politics, big politics.

When you get into senior management it’s a different game. It’s no longer about your technical ability, it’s is no longer about qualifications, you know that – it’s about you working in this team. Now you’re working in a different team. And you should be spending more time in that vein that you’re in and the team that you’re reporting to and not the team that you’re leading.

So Behind Closed Doors was all about my idea of giving back to women – don’t do my mistakes, it’s too hard. There’s already a cost to success. When you work around the clock and you don’t see friends and family to squeeze everything in, it’s your job. You’re juggling this all of the time. So I want to be as easy of a path as possible. So I wanted to give back to women all the things that I made mistakes in and could help them.

I also wanted – I had worked my whole career in male dominated industry sectors and watched men and saw why they were successful and thought well how could women and men do business differently, we networked differently. How could I take a leaf out of their book about why they were successful in building their networks, maintaining their networks, positioning themselves, profiling themselves, asking for promotions, asking for board gigs, asking for pay rises. How could I do it, but in our way?

And then Behind Closed Doors just morphed into a giving back program really. And then I looked at the models that were in male dominated giving back CO, tech type circles. And though, well I don’t like the model where you recruit someone into your group and that’s the group you’re in, even if you don’t fit into that group and I thought this has to be just like going into any organisation and getting the culture right.

Putting the people in the right – where they’re going to get the right amount of development and with the right amount of challenges, with the right facilitator and having a program director who was also a high profile business woman. So all these women with rich pasts and experiences giving back to each other.

We’re 8 years old this month.


Thank you. It’s just growing and growing and you know I get my – I’ve got lots of measures of success about how many get promoted, how many get awards. You know the biggest buzz I get is when a woman, who may be in their 50’s, says to the rest of the group: “This is the most comfortable I have ever felt in my own skin”, and I get goose bumps.

And the support that women give it. You know when the GFC hit and some businesses were doing as tough as almost closing the doors and people were coming in. The support with cash, sometimes but with the outside of those normal forms in helping and assisting in offering their own expertise because they couldn’t afford to put on any- it was just mind blowingly amazing the support women can give other women.

Yes you’re addressing that earlier point. The queen bee issue as well.

Queen Bees wouldn’t be attracted to Behind Closed Doors and we wouldn’t invite a queen bee because this is a supportive encouraging network and you’re really opening up your soul sometimes about things that you are not doing well, and you’re putting your business out there in a confidential setting and you’re putting how you’re feeling in a confidential setting and what’s holding you back and you know there’s a whole lot of tough love conversations that happen around that room.

Hence why women only will probably only when- never open up if there’s a male in the room because you feel like you’re being judged, you know there’s a different agenda. So when it’s this supportive, safe environment to open up and be really honest, you’re going to get the best out of the conversation and the discussion, and because you’re opening yourself up then you’re also opening yourself up to the women giving the tough love.

‘Do you think you just being a bit precious about this?’ ‘I think ,you know, you’re making up stories now.’ Or ‘I don’t think that’s actually the scenario at all and maybe you’re just overplaying this or you’re being precious or you’re being too sensitive’.

Now some of those conversations you might not at all go into when there is a male in the room. So, it’s only three hours once a month where you can think on the business, not in it and where you can also receive really candid open feedback on what you’re putting onto the table and the issue and the challenges.

Sometimes, it’s all about strategy, so you don’t want to share that when there’s a competitor or a supplier in the room so that matching process is really important to me and I think the reason for the success of Behind Closed Doors.

Now boards. ABC, one of the most important things in my life, the ABC, with the app or everything that’s on for a day. Can you explain, I guess, the mechanics of what being on the ABC board means?

To me or?

Yeah, to you.

Look, I’m still pinching myself. I’ve been on the board since November last year and it’s exciting, it’s complex, it’s leading edge. It’s, you know, five thousand employees and it’s still like going into a major family.

They are so passionate about what they do and believe in what they do. And it’s for Australians, it’s for us. So they’re really careful about their content and what they put on – I mean, we get a lot of comments – you probably read it and hear yourself about it being lefty. But I haven’t found it that way. I mean some of the announcers, reporters, maybe. But then I can tell you a number of announcers and reporters that aren’t, so…

So In terms of being on the board, do you have portfolios?

No,no you know, and that’s probably the hardest thing you’ve got to get your head around the whole organisation.

Okay, so it’s such a challenging time in media generally and probably even more so for the ABC, given funding and all of that. Some would argue that, well, some people have said the ABC gets a head start because of the funding. Either way, it’s a critical issue, so what are some of the challenges and main issues that are discussed at board level?

I can’t tell you that!

You’re having business discussion. I mean a lot of the time is just I mean it’s just such a large organisation, you are doing the numbers. I just spent an hour with our CFO, who’s visiting Adelaide today, David Pendleton on the numbers.

Like he gave me this amazing two-hour induction back in December.

Why was it amazing?

Because they give you so much time, and it’s better for me, I guess and for them, to understand it. You know, he does it so patiently and goes over these numbers, and I’m a finance chick, as you know. But it’s so complex, the different areas rolling up, and it is about funding cuts too, I mean how that rolls out in and how fast you have to find efficiencies to keep, because you wanted to keep on investing back into digital and technology.

Today’s technology is out of date tomorrow. The technology they invested millions in five years ago is out of date. We have to invest, we’re investing again. There’s content. There’s people. There’s 5000 people, you can imagine what that’s like to manage and lead.

For those out there, again just trying to break down this idea of what boards are, how do you describe what a board is and why they’re important?

So a board is a group of people who are directing the company for growth, for sustainability. It’s a board of people who are responsible mainly for that strategic direction, the viability of the organisation and to hire and fire the CEO. They are the main three functions of a board.

But then as you would know through just GFC and post-GFC and now we’re in in the new norm, anything – disruptors. Have a look at what’s disrupting every single industry sector now. You almost have to be a futurist and a trend expert on a board.

Because, as a board member, the first thing you tend to get is board papers that take you back a month, so you’re looking in hindsight, but what you really need to be doing is not know the next month, but what’s happening in the next six months or…

So the AICD, a couple of years ago at a conference – their annual conference, said, “we can no longer look at three and five year horizons, we now need to look six in six. So six months out and six years out. So far enough out to think ‘what will we look like in six years and what do we have to do to track it back to now’. But in six months, so much can change and what does that look like?

So, really, your board agenda is more set in the beginning of your agenda, and is all about strategy and decision-making, and the smaller part of your agenda is to be on the operations and looking back.

And so you will receive a pack how far out from the board meeting… within a week, so generally four days to five days. And I knew, back in my Perth days, that one of the mining companies, they literally had iPads with all the content on them and the ipad would be, you know, given or they had an app which was specifically just for those board papers.

How do you receive the information?

So different boards do things differently. The ABC, we’ve got a board app and it’s fabulous. Because the board papers are this thick, so you can take it around anywhere on your iPad or whatever. My Heart Foundation Board is on an app. My Key Invest, my financials are paper and I’m the only one besides an executive member who are banging on about “let’s get this on an app”, and we’re trying to make it happen.

I tell you, so you save the board paper, so you can be really honest. Realistically, how much of that would you digest and pick through in a fair bit of data?

Everything. Every word. Everything because, if you do AICD company directors, and this is what scares probably 50 % of every course participant – you’re liable for -and, you know, I’m on a couple of not-for-profits, but I’m just as liable on the Heart Foundation and the S. Y.C. board as I am on the ABC and the Key Invest boards.

So don’t think this is a sexy thing to do just to have it on your C.V. I could lose my house. I could lose everything I’ve worked so hard for and when you realize that, you take those papers seriously. I’ve walked off of a couple of not-for-profit boards because I couldn’t sign off on the financials. I did not have a level of comfort of the governance of the organisation.

So if you’re – if anyone’s on a board and don’t think this is serious, they should get off that board. So that’s my next point is for people weighing up board positions.

OK, let’s use an example, want to offer you a board position on Rooster Radio. Congratulations. Thank you. What are you going to be looking for at Rooster Radio in terms of weighing up the offer?

I do a due diligence. So I’d want to see the financials. So you’ve got a board already are you looking at a start board? Because I’d want to see past minutes, past agendas. I’d want to see what decisions you’ve been making, I want to know where you’re going, I want to see where your board chatter is, I want to see what your constitution is if you’ve got one. If you haven’t got one, let’s get one.

I want to see what the rules and regulations are about your business. And I want to know about the people who are running it. What are your credentials to run it. So it’s much about people in the due diligence process as it is looking at the documentation.

I could flip that around. What would, what should I be looking for in a board member?

That’s good. Probably the reverse of all of that. How much experience have they had in business? How much experience have they had in doable metrics, you need someone who understands finance. Someone who understands marketing, business development, someone who understands marketing, meaning all the social side of marketing now, you know, the distribution channels to a customer basically.

You need someone who understood governance, you need someone. You don’t necessarily have to have a high level accountant, a high level lawyer because you can outsource that information to someone who understood broad governance definitely and better that it’s not just one person.

Understand that- you know, general managers are good board directors because they understand and you know they are a little bit about the sales and marketing and a little bit about operations and, you know, finance and whatever. So someone who’s broad is always good on the board – HR, you know, understands the people in industrialisations- you know those sort.

So general managers – general management schools are always good to have on the board, but the diversity around having young people on the board as well as the experienced head around the board, I think is so important. So we can talk about lack of women on boards, today we’ve got a lack of young people on boards and we certainly have a lack of people with technology understanding.

I don’t mean geek. I mean really understanding how technology plays out in the strategic direction of an organisation. And we’ve seen that in media over the past fifteen years. To a degree, you know some of the other larger organisations were slower to react to the technologies to organise.

They’re still slow. Why do we have 10 % of businesses in Australia doing business in China or in India, and not one Asian or Indian on their board? I don’t get it. And yet they’re dealing with a culture that they don’t know. They’re doing business very differently to us here in Australia, why wouldn’t you have – and that’s why you hear women, Chinese women say there’s a bamboo ceiling.

So not only can they not get on a board because they’re a woman, they can’t get on because they’re Asian. They’ve got a double whammy and they reckon we’ve got it easier.

I guess one of the things which stands out to me here is you talk very strongly about a board needs to have a representative skillset and you need to have a mixture on your board and you need to have high level operators.

 There is a strong perception that there is a very closed club of board members in the country who get some premium positions and it becomes their career and they sit on boards and yes they take it seriously but it’s a fairly small world. Is that a fair comment, that there’s this little club that governs a lot of Australia’s biggest country companies?

Look, it’s only because they are on the radar. So there are just as many women now on eight or ten boards as men, so we’re doing the same thing with females.

But why?

Because they’ve got their credentials now being on these exec boards. What I’m saying is – there are women who are board ready, board experienced, who can go on these boards and they just have to get on your radar.

So how do you get on the radar?

I mean, look, there’s a number of ways. Where do the chairs and the directors who are choosing the next director – where do they hang out? Yeah, you know. Find out and make sure you hang out with them. Sponsors, like I said, with the ABC board. Who influences them? Try to get on their radar. So you’ve got to do a lot of networking and relationship building and don’t think that you’re going to get on the board today because you want to be on, and you know because you planned it yesterday.

You could be two and five years away from getting on your ideal board. My ideal board, I want to be on the Crows board. Oh, I am an absolute footy tragic. I love my Crows and anything I can do to help that club –

You’ve come to the right podcast because James was maybe a mediocre player and I was a shit kicker of the club. In all seriousness, what would be one of the things you’d love to take up if you were on the Crows board, what would you love to push if you were there?

Look, I’ve got the women’s network. This is a cruel twist of nature, isn’t it? I wanted to be Graham Cornes – the female, right – because I was a bay supporter and I could not believe I couldn’t play footy, I just couldn’t play because I knew I’d be as good as him. I could fly like he could fly, get those marks, kick those goals and now they’ve come out with this women’s team, now what couldn’t I do for that women’s team? I could be a great coach.

No, but anything for them. I mean I want to put them through Behind Closed Doors and I want to help them with leadership skills. They’ve got to assimilate into Adelaide, they won’t know anyone, I’ve got a network that I can get them introduced to, they’ve got to have a career after footy and I don’t think they last as long as men are going to last out there on the footy field so they’ve got to have a career, anything I could do to help them with their professional development life after footy or even have something while there because I don’t know if they’re going to earn the sort of money that men are going to earn, so anything to help in that way.

But, you know 50% of women watch footy or are members of footy clubs, wouldn’t I have the ideal network around the country for growing membership among women?

I think we can broker a bit of a deal here as long as there’s a bit of a clip for Rooster Radio, and I have got to say I did a couple of crows gigs in school. So I got talking to Donny, and she wants a spot on the board and done.

Donny, we talked to one of our guests and recently they talked about having a board of advisors or some sponsors or you know, who would be in your inner sanctum that you open up and be vulnerable to?

So my foundation group, so my very first group that I started in Adelaide.

I would love some names.

Terry Sheer, Kate Costello. They would be my – so those two, and the boys – Tim Sarah from Sarah Group. And Kishen, who is one of the equity partners in BDO.

And how much- how vulnerable are you with those guys and in terms of when you when you’re struggling or when you’re flat?

I trust them. You know, with boards, when we talk about whether you want to be on a board or not, you can plan for it and you can do all the sponsorship. If the person who is choosing you to be around, the one thing they look for is – can I trust this person? Can I trust them to be around my board because I trust them.

And the ABC, that’s probably where it’s really come to the floor – there is so much even with the managing director that I was very privileged to be a part of. That was so important to keep who was applying and who was going through the process and whatever – and leaking – was just – we were freaked about it.

It’s a fascinating point, I’ve been on a couple of boards and on one board there wasn’t that trust and in the end we were spending a lot of time on safe operational things and weren’t addressing the underlying issues of what was needed to be talked about because there was a fear that if that was discussed, it would then be leaked, you know, in a wider sense and so in the end the board was a bit of a lame duck and actually wasn’t addressing the things that it needed to.

And I think you need to have the same zero tolerance that I have in Behind Closed Doors. It would ruin my brand and it would ruin the whole concept of Behind Closed Doors, if one woman stepped out of that room and talked about what was discussed in that room, and so we have a zero tolerance.

If we hear, then there’s no second chance. You’re no longer a member of Behind Closed Doors. It’s so important. I think the boards should adopt the same thing. Zero tolerance. We know it’s your leak? You’re out of this board.

Just taking this one step further, the relationship between a managing director or C.E.O. or general manager and a board – how much should boards trust the operational person to make the right decisions versus at what point does a board need to take the reins or override what an operational person wants to do?

So our role is through the CEO toward the exec. The critical relationship between the chairman and the CEO. That’s the most critical of the relationships and obviously the board has to be behind its CEO/ managing director. If that relationship falls down, that’s exactly what happens – it falls down and one has to go on. It’s never usually the chair and so that’s a critical relationship.

The same with the rest of the exec team. If the board doesn’t trust a particular executive, through the CEO, you need to direct about the CEO taking steps to address whatever the board has an issue with, with the executive. So, the same on the way up though, the executive needs to trust the board and you can agree with the board inside of the boardroom and then walk out and say “oh, the board this” and “the board that” and that just doesn’t work, and that’s a poor culture.

So if the executive and the CEO don’t agree with the board, it needs to be said openly and honestly in that room – so the same thing. It’s all about trust. Luckily I haven’t had too many experiences over almost twenty years on boards but the organisation hums when there’s a good relationship with the executives in the board.

Just to change tact. What are your views on where Adelaide is at perhaps in a context of – compared to other states, in terms of business. You’ve been overseas, you’ve been back, you’re at a high level, you’re doing stuff nationally – where are we at?

I don’t know if you read yesterday that our unemployment just went up to 7%. That’s pathetic. We can’t do that. We’re an entrepreneurial state. Why should we have unemployment? And look – every State’s doing it tough. Western Australia is doing it tougher than us, Tasmania was doing it tougher than us – they’re just rocking it and they’re rocking it on the back of agriculture and tourism.

We can too. We are an agricultural entrepreneurial state. And I think too many people in South Australia are waiting for, now they are the waiting for government to change, or there are others waiting for a different government, I mean why don’t we just get off our backsides and just make it happen? I think both sides of politics sit in, you know, their role is to set the environment, it’s our role to employ it.

I think the latest incentives that the government has just put out to business about employing and there’s an incentive, and I always thought years ago we had that – I don’t know if you were around at the time – one % of your payroll had to be spent on training and that really improved the amount of professional development and training and skills development that employees got which was fantastic.

In some ways this is an equal incentive that you employ someone, we’ll pay you if you employ some more, we’ll pay you and if that’s going to get people back employed and jobs and growth, then great, but you know we’re just going to come off a bit of a housing bubble, in particular the eastern states there’s a glut of apartments and more are being built. God knows why. But economically Australia is doing it tougher.

For South Australia we aren’t growing at the same rates. We’re growing, but very slowly. That’s not sustainable. But I think like these engine rooms, you know that we talked about earlier, more of that investment in venture capital, angel capital investment and more of that to help – and applaud people who try – they might fail, but pull them back up.

A lot need mentoring, a lot need confidence building. We do more of that and I think we’ll see a different South Australia, but I think we need to be very proud of what we’ve got and develop and nurture and encourage all these entrepreneurs, whether they’re young or older and help them if they’re struggling because they probably got great models but they’re probably just don’t have the business sense or they don’t have – some they’ll grow too fast or they’re not sort of watching all the indicators that show they could get into trouble, but rather than you know the tall poppy syndrome why don’t we help pick them up and help mentor them and make sure they don’t fail.

When you meet someone who’s young- he hit you up for a coffee or wants to talk to you about, you know, his career. What attributes will you notice in an hour? What sparks you to go “oh I’d like to invest a bit more time in this person?”

You know, I mentor a lot of people pro bono because I just love their energy, I love their passion. They’ve got great ideas and they don’t have limitations, only limitations placed on them by others generally. So they’ve usually got great ideas and they just want to soak up all your experience, you know, it’s wanted- and they’re so grateful. I don’t know why they just they’re refreshing and I guess they keep you young.

They keep you thinking differently and they challenge your thinking and I don’t know, they just – I guess – I love the Behind Closed Doors women because they give so much back because they are so appreciative. But they change. Everything you say, ‘do this, do this, do this’, ‘have you considered that’, they just go ‘yeah’, and they do it and you think oh my god, and how refreshing.

So you haven’t invested time or been hit up for a coffee, you just have imparted knowledge, you’ve given some ideas, you’ve given some encouragement and they do it and you think oh my god, wouldn’t that be great for South Australia if everybody did that? And young people as I said – no limitations so they just do it.

So we have a very poorly organised rapid fire question sort of segment at the end of our interview. Actually already thought about a couple. Yes. This the first time I’ve actually been organising thought of my rapid fire questions, but I have a few in the bank.

Best investment you’ve made?

My husband.

It would definitely be in two properties that we’ve just built and are on the market as we speak.

Worst investment.

Buying a block of land two months prior to it losing all its water. We lost badly.

Can you remember a specific day that you would identify as one of the most exhilarating days in your business life where you’re consciously euphoric about what’s going on?

It has to be State Bank when I got that gig to turn the bank on its head and I did and I ran and I worked 120 hours a week. Seriously, no joke. And I could have loved to work more. That was exhilarating, that was change.

This is a little bit of a loaded question because I saw you answered this in another article that I read.

This is not very rapid fire, Andrew.

I’m just I’m trying to pre-empt you.

But I probably won’t remember what I said.

Your thoughts on budgeting – personal budgeting.

OK, All right. I set budgets for my company and I’m strict on it. Personally – I don’t and it just does my husband’s head in because he says ‘you’ve got to budget, got to budget’. I don’t have to. I budgeted all of my life and saved for everything, I paid cash for everything and I budgeted and then my husband left me and I lost everything and I thought, stuff that. I’m not letting that happen to me again.

Any money I earned, I spent and then unfortunately lost a brother and a father in separate accidents – I thought Jesus Christ how short is life? Maybe I just need to have a bit of money for tomorrow but spend what I’ve got today. So budgets went out. So now I budget in my head about what I want. But there’s no writing it down on spread sheets or anything but in my business.

I’m so the opposite on all my boards, I am the worst for sticking to budget. So it’s really weird that in my personal life I don’t do that anymore.

And it was tragedy in some way that actually perhaps inspired that outlook on life?

Absolutely. It was the defining moment for me. I just thought bloody hell. Why would I leave all my money to someone else after working this hard and not enjoy it? Because my father couldn’t and he died too. He was early 50’s, my brother died just before he turned 30, so no, I wasn’t going to do that.

This is unfortunately a technical question on the back of that series. I don’t think it’s rapid fire anymore, they’re just back to normal questions.

 If someone came to you with a P & L, or a balance sheet or a cash flow and said ‘oh shit, my business is going down the gurgler – help me’, what is one of the first one or two sort of areas of those reports that you just look at?

Top line, middle line, gross profit, bottom line. Go what the hell is going on, and then see what the cost of goods are- where are the direct costs? What are all the expenses, how can I cut it out. I’m great at trending, then I ask a thousand questions.

How many podcasts have you been on?

This is my first, I’m a virgin.

Have you listened to any podcasts?

This one! Rooster Radio.

I can see the script now – it will be Donny Walford, director, board member and Rooster Radio fan.

Yeah, but in all seriousness why is that this type of content, this type of forum is interesting to you?

Because it’s fun. And you do what everyone should be thinking of in doing pitches for their business, pitches for their life. Public Speaking. You get the story out of us and you do it in a way that’s really relaxing and fun.

That’s lovely feedback.


Behind Closed Doors. If we’ve got people who want to connect with you and get on board or at least know more about it, how do they find you and where do I find it?

They go to our website – They can register their interest and then one of my team – usually Tiffany will follow them up or me and really look after them. But they register their interest because it’s an invite only – so we need to basically interview them, make sure that the program is right for them and that they are right for us, and then we think about that matching process about which group do we think that they would be most suited to with the right facilitator and program director.

Thanks for asking.

What is next for you to achieve? What are the things that you are striving for?

Apart from being on the Crows board?

Absolutely. Well maybe that’s it.

That is – I tell you that is my goal.

OK, I want to build my business to a point of sale. And it would be – there’s a horizon of about three years. And then there’s always an earn out clause – you know [working] a week in the business, another one or two years, and I think then I’d like to be a professional board director and just do something… I mean I always wanted to do some mentoring and sponsorship of people – men and women.

And business coaching, but it would be more… well rather working the 24/7 I do now, it would be on a basis that I would have more time to spend with my husband and my grandchildren.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, feelings, your story, for coming on, and giving us a flavour of what it’s been like to fight and scrap and achieve in a world that wasn’t always easy to you.

4 Reasons Female-Only Professional Development Programs Are Effective

Why Female-Only Professional Development Programs WorkIn recent decades, women have made great strides in the professional realm. However, there is still a disparity between the number of men and women in leadership positions in Australian businesses across all sectors. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2013-14, women held just 26 percent of key management roles and 17 percent of CEO jobs as opposed to men. This is highly unsettling, as women make up 46 percent of the workforce.

While some of this difference may be due to women forgoing their careers to raise children, a bigger problem is the lack of support and guidance women receive when they do want to take on larger roles at work. In an effort to combat this, a number of female-only professional development programs have been established and they offer significant benefits over their mixed-gender counterparts.

Different Learning Styles

In general, men’s and women’s brains work differently when it comes to how they learn. While men thrive on competition and individual efforts, women are wired to learn better through a collaborative approach that emphasises teamwork and peer-to-peer learning. In a traditional professional development program, the approach is geared more towards men, and does not take into account women’s educational needs. Women-only programs, on the other hand, are designed specifically with women in mind, giving them greater opportunities to learn and succeed.

Different Life and Career Goals

When compared to men, women tend to be more concerned about work/life balance, particularly while raising a young family. Many women wish to embrace flexibility options in their jobs, but worry about the possible detriments to their career paths. While this topic is not often addressed in mixed-gender leadership development programs, it is a core component of many female-only programs. Having specific guidance in this area can greatly help women when it comes to re-entering the workforce after parental leave or striving to climb the corporate ladder while still maintaining time for family and personal pursuits.

Supportive Environment

While men are not often encouraged to share their feelings and emotions, this is something that comes naturally to most women. In a male-centric environment, showing emotion can often be seen as a weakness, especially in the workplace. With female-only programs, women are encouraged to share their feelings and receive the benefit of a supportive environment. Because of this, women in these programs are more comfortable discussing the issues that they face at work and get constructive feedback that is specific to their situation. This helps them develop the self-confidence and assuredness it takes to succeed in a male-dominated workforce.

Shared Experiences

It is difficult for men to understand the changes that women go through in the workplace, since men have never experienced it for themselves and may have a harder time understanding their point of view. In a professional development program that is focused on women, female attendees receive personalised attention from female mentors who have made their way through to executive roles. These shared experience and mentorship opportunities are invaluable for women in the workforce as it gives them first-hand guidance on how best to navigate a business world that is much more hospitable for men than it is for women.

At behind closed doors we specialise in helping women succeed in their careers and in entrepreneurship. Through our networking and mentorship opportunities, women are connected with other professional women who can coach and guide them on how best to tackle the issues that they face. Our main focus is on giving women the support and encouragement that they need to build their confidence and to help them achieve their career goals.


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3 Reasons That Prevent Women From Becoming Risk Takers

3 Reasons That Prevent Women From Becoming Risk Takers

At the opening of the Women in the World Conference in New York, Hillary Clinton highlighted a great gender difference and an issue that has been one of the greatest barriers to a woman’s career – self-doubt and the fear of taking risks.

She said that young women, when asked to move up, almost always respond with a ““do you think I can?” or “do you think I’m ready?” as opposed to young men, whose first response is, “how high, how fast, when do I start?”

In a world where men are winning because of their ability to take risks, women are trailing behind as they are still unsure of themselves. We have found three main reasons that cause this behaviour.

A Lack of Confidence

A study conducted by the British Psychological Society shows that women, when compared to men,  hold back when it comes to taking risks. In the survey that included 2,000 men and women from 20 countries, it was found that “the magnitude of the difference in risk taking between men and women was unexpected. Females were more than twice as likely to be wary and almost twice as likely to be prudent whilst males were more than twice as likely to be adventurous and almost twice as likely to be carefree. From the scale of these findings the researchers conclude that risk taking must be a distinctive feature of gender.”

The study pointed out that these attitudes have evolved from hunter-gatherer era where men took up the role of hunters and gatherers – risk-takers; while women took a more cautious approach that was a necessary skill for the apportioning of food and essentials, and taking care of the household.

It is unfortunate indeed that even though the world has moved on from the days of hunting and gathering, these attitudes are still prevalent and continue to affect women today.

Fear of Failure

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report showed that most women doubt their capabilities when it comes to launching their own businesses, which accounts for the high gender gap in entrepreneurship. The report says that fear of failure is the top reason why women hold back from entrepreneurial ventures.

Lead author of the women’s report Donna Kelley says, “When a woman has a choice between being an employee, especially when this is associated with an attractive salary, job stability, good benefits and even high social approval, she is taking a greater risk in entering entrepreneurship; she has to forego this opportunity in order to be an entrepreneur, and therefore has more to lose.” Women prefer to take the safer approach to progress their career and choose not to get into entrepreneurship.

Perfectionism published an article titled It’s Not You, It’s Science: How Perfectionism Holds Women Back that brought forth another reason why women tend to be hesitant when taking risks. Women are more likely than men to be perfectionists; they are unlikely to take a step forward unless they are absolutely 100 percent sure (where men function on 50%) that they can predict the outcome.

This attitude extends to all aspects of their professional life – be it asking for a pay increase or promotion, embarking on an entrepreneurial venture, or to answer or pose questions at a meeting. This proves to be a limiting factor when it comes to closing the gender gap and achieving the same career growth and opportunities as that of their male counterparts.

What is the Solution?

The first step to breaking these barriers is to reframe our own thinking. The biggest obstacle to a woman’s professional growth are the ideologies that are deeply ingrained in our minds due to norms set by society. Learn from the great women in today’s business world who are breaking free from these barriers and radicalising the idea of what women can achieve. Women like Indra Nooyi, Sheryl Sandberg, Irene Rosenfeld, Ursula Burns and Gail Katty, among others, are challenging stereotypes and paving the way for changing attitudes. Find inspiration from these women or from mentors to help break the barriers of your professional growth. behind closed doors can help you by opening the door to accomplished women and find mentors to guide you toward professional success.


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Sponsors Vs Mentors

How to find a good mentorI often am asked what is the difference between a Sponsor and a Mentor?

Mentors guide; Sponsors deliver!

Mentors observe and articulate what you may not be aware of in yourself or are able to verbalise. They can help you determine your strengths: what you do exceptionally well and what differentiates you i.e. help you identify what your personal brand is. They act as your confidential sounding board.

An experienced mentor will also have a diverse background and wisdom to ask challenging questions and help you learn to navigate the corporate ladder, and they understand the politics in organisations. Mentors can help you grasp the unwritten rules, how to manage you effectively and share experiences. They can also prepare you to identify and attract Sponsors.

Mentors help you define your direction and set goals. Sponsors help you achieve your goals and ambitions, opening up valuable networks and opportunities for you. Sponsors deliver: They make valuable introductions and speak on your behalf to key leaders within companies, government etc. They connect you to career opportunities and provide support. When it comes to opening doors, they usually support you throughout your career.

It is important to keep your Sponsors informed of your achievements and movements within your career. They are a valuable resource and therefore it is important to maintain an effective relationship with them.

Internal Sponsors are just as important as external Sponsors. Engaging the C-suite is a critical success factor. Visible and active support from a company’s most senior leader(s) – both women and men – often signals the difference between good intent and real outcomes.

Be strategic as you search for would-be Sponsors. The most effective Sponsors have powerful high-level contacts they can introduce you to. They can introduce opportunities such as projects and assignments that will advance your career, they have broad perspective and they will give you critical feedback.

Look in and beyond your immediate circle of Mentors and Leaders. Seek out someone with demonstrable power and influence to change and add value to your career.

Donny Walford

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Does Pregnancy Discrimination Still Exist?

Does Pregnancy Discrimination Still ExistIn Australia, according to the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) National Review of Supporting Working Parents, nearly 49% of mothers expressed they had been discriminated in the workplace either during pregnancy or after they have returned to work. That’s one out of every two mothers. Of these, 84% also reported that their career had suffered and they had to deal with mental and physical stress as a result of the discrimination.

Such discrimination against women is not unique to Australia and is in fact affecting the lives of women all over the world. In England,

  • Around 54,000 new mothers are being forced out of their jobs each year;
  • 10% are discouraged by their employer from attending antenatal appointments;
  • 9% said that they were treated worse by their employer on their return to work than they were before pregnancy;
  • More than one in 20 (7%) said they were put under pressure to hand in their notice;
  • When mothers were allowed to work flexibly, around half reported negative consequences such as receiving fewer opportunities at work or feeling that their opinion was less valued; and
  • The impact on younger mothers – those under 25 years old – is greater in many areas, with around 6% experiencing dismissal compared with 1% across all age groups.

So what’s being done about it?

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 in the US, the Equality Act 2010 in the UK, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 in Australia and many other Acts around the world, have protective laws in place to prevent unfair treatment of women based on pregnancy. Yet, pregnancy discrimination in the workplace still exists or worse, victims are not speaking up about it.

In a video addressing the findings of the AHRC Report, Melanie Schlieger, the manager of Victoria Legal Aid’s equality law program, says: “Ninety-one per cent of women make no formal complaint of any kind. The AHRC report found 110,000 women experience discrimination each year and just one in 10 seek advice.”

So what is it that’s preventing women from speaking up about pregnancy discrimination? The three possible reasons are:

  1. They aren’t aware of the laws on pregnancy discrimination.
  2. They feel filing a suit on their employer is tantamount to career suicide.
  3. They feel they don’t have the evidence to back the case.

While these are valid concerns, choosing to keep silent about facing discrimination is certainly not the solution.

If you feel that you can’t speak up in the office, find other channels that will provide that support. Forums such as the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign is one example. Their campaign works towards receiving complaints, then exposing the injustice all the while keeping the case anonymous.

It may also be good to talk to a good lawyer who is familiar with local laws. This will give you a better idea of where you stand and what recourse you can explore. If you’re planning to get pregnant and are worried about what you might face in the workplace, it may be wise to equip yourself with learning everything there is to know about pregnancy discrimination. A good read is the book You’re Pregnant? You’re Fired: Protecting Mothers, Fathers, and Other Caregivers in the Workplace, written by Tom Spiggle, who is a lawyer specialising in fighting issues on pregnancy discrimination.

If you’re looking for some inspiration to speaking up against pregnancy discrimination, reading about women like Joeli Brearly could provide you insights. Joeli is the woman behind the Pregnant Then Screwed forum, and had also experienced pregnancy discrimination firsthand. Jamie Cole and Peggy Young are other women who also fought against pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

Learn the laws that are in place that protects your rights. Support a friend who has been on the receiving end of pregnancy discrimination; and if you are affected – speak up. The most important thing you can do for yourself and for the other women out there who might be in the same shoes as you is to improve the situation by speaking up.


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Four Successful Women Who Benefited From Mentorship

Successful Women Who Have Benefited From Mentorship“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires,” said the writer, William Arthur Ward, on mentorship. Yes, a good mentor’s guidance and encouragement can be invaluable to success. Mentors give opportunities to mentees to reflect on their own goals and continue their professional development. Consider the following successful women who have benefited greatly from mentorship and who attribute their success in life to their mentors.

Sally Singer has been instrumental in the development of Vogue magazine where she worked as a fashion news director. She then became editor-in-chief at T: The New York Times Style Magazine. She later returned to Vogue as a creative director, overseeing the web version of the popular publication. Sally attributes her success to three female mentors: “The first is a woman by the name of Margaret Simmons of Travel Holiday magazine…the biggest lesson I learned from Maggie, was to have incredibly high standards, and to never think you have to compromise…the second is Sara Bershtel…she was an editor at Farrar, Straus, and Giroux…the interesting and important lesson she taught me was that you have to be able to think horizontally…third is Anna Wintour. She has taught me to always be true to myself; to fight for what I see.”

Anglo-Scottish actress, performance artist and model, Tilda Swinton, also circumvented the challenges of being a woman in the film industry through the lessons she learnt from her mentor. Her success as an actress is evident from her nomination for her roles in mainstream movies such as The Deep End and Michael Clayton, in addition to her successful collaborations with fashion designers Viktor & Rolf. Of her mentors, Swinton recalls: “My tutor at university was an ancient lady with a beard, Margot Heinemann. She taught literature and was an amazing intellectual. When I’d go to her and say, ‘I haven’t done my essay,’ she would ask, ‘Why not?’ And I’d say, ‘Well, I’d been busy doing this.’ And she’d say, ‘Write an essay about what you’ve been doing.’ She was a really cool woman, and a wise woman.”

Somalian fashion model, actress and entrepreneur Iman Mohamed Abdulmajid, (professionally known as Iman), has been a pioneer in the field of ethnic cosmetics. Her rise to the top of this industry was a result of the role her mentor, Rose Marie Bravo, current vice chairman at Burberry, played in her life. Iman says: “I’ve always believed that women should find other women to mentor them. She’s mentored me through every move I’ve made with my cosmetic company. She’s told me what not to do, and when I needed to meet people that might be influential for me, she introduced me. It’s been amazing.”

Current CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Mayer, steadily rose to become a successful business woman from her humble beginnings in Wisconsin. Being a female computer scientist in a male dominated industry was not easy, but she overcame this challenge and became Google’s 20th employee in 1999. She attributes listening as a key skill for being a good leader, a skill she learnt from her mentor, Eric Schmidt. Her mentor was the former CEO of Novell and is the current Executive Chairman of Google-owned Alphabet Inc . He taught her that her “job as an executive is to set a vision, listen to the team and get things out of the way so they can run at that vision as fast as they can.” Following her mentor’s advice, Mayer made listening to her employees a top priority and this helped her become the effective and successful leader she is today.

These women have risen to the top of their respective industries through the inspiration they received from their mentors, all of whom helped each to harness their skills. As Paulo Coelho writes in The Witch of Portobello: “What is a teacher…someone who inspires the student to give of her best in order to discover what she already knows”, mentors inspire individuals to realise their full potential. At Behind Closed Doors, we recognise the importance of helping women find suitable mentors and thus are committed to finding the right mentor for you. We’ll be happy to address any questions you may have regarding mentoring, programs and membership.

Tell us about your experiences with mentoring, good and bad.


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National Business with SA Head Office Steps Out From Behind Closed Doors Into US Market

Donny Walford, Managing Director, behind closed doors

Donny Walford, Managing Director, behind closed doors

National business with head office in South Australia, behind closed doors, will cast a footprint in the US this year after securing funds from the Department of State Development‘s Export Partnership Program to launch their successful professional development, mentoring and networking model to businesswomen in Florida.

The Export Partnership Program provides funding assistance for small and medium-sized businesses to access new global markets through marketing and export development opportunities.

behind closed doors (BCD) Managing Director, Donny Walford, will attend the International Women’s Forum 2016 World Leadership Conference in Chicago September 28-30 and hold introduction sessions to BCD with in-country facilitator Lisa-Marie Jenkins.

“Competitive analysis indicates that there are no programs as comprehensive as BCD in the USA and we look forward to bringing our offering to the market.” Ms Walford said. “behind closed doors gives businesswomen an experience like no other, the all encompassing membership offers group mentorship as well as access to a community of facilitators and members who become your Sponsors.”

With more than 800 attendees expected at the conference, BCD will have an opportunity to network with influential women from not only the USA, but across the world.

Modifications to marketing and online materials enabling the Australian business to connect with the US market have been put in place, an introduction to BCD session will be held in Florida on October 3, 2016.

For furether information about behind closed doors activities in the USA visit


Media contact: Penny Reidy, tel: +61 401 349 791

5 Women Who Achieved Entrepreneurial Success in Male-Dominated Industries

Women Who Achieved Entrepreneurial SuccessWomen entrepreneurs tend to be stereotyped as being successful in businesses that are either in the line of fashion or baby products. Although women have enjoyed success in these fields, they have also proved their mettle in many other areas. Some of these include Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, Industrial Manufacturing and Venture Capitalism. These industries have conventionally enjoyed popularity with men and are hence male-dominated. However, how do you define a job as being male-dominated?

The United States Department of Labour states that a “non-traditional [male-dominated] occupation for women is one in which women comprise 25 percent or less of total employment.” Entering these industries is not simple. This is not because women have lesser capabilities in these sectors but because of the societal mindset that labels women as being unsuitable for these industries. An article in Askmen described the term as “A male-dominated industry is like an unofficial boys’ club with a “no girls allowed” sign on the front door. Sure, you’ll find a girl in the clubhouse once in a while, but they’re usually stared at, and her presence is a topic of conversation simply because she’s there.”

Despite the stereotypes they face, women today are slowly foraying into these industries. We have compiled a list of the five exemplary women who have demonstrated that gender is irrelevant to achieving success, by creating successful enterprises through innovative products.

Helen Greiner – CEO of CyPhy Works
The first entrepreneur on our list is from the world of technology. Helen Greiner is the co-founder of ‘iRobot’. The company is famous for its ‘Roomba’ line of vacuuming robots. The company also supplies the U.S. troops with thousands of ‘PackBot’ robots that can detect and dispose of explosives. Her newest company ‘CyPhy Works’, creates top-notch drones for photography, inspection and reconnaissance and is currently exploring aerial robotics as well. The initiative has attracted $22 Million in funding from Bessemer Venture Partners proving that not only does her company have potential, but also has a great future with a talented CEO at its helm.

Sarah Krauss _ Founder of S’well
Our next entrepreneur, Sarah Krauss, has taken the number one slot in the list of 50 fastest-growing women-owned or led companies put together by the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO). She has created a line of designer bottles called ‘S’well’ that can keep liquids hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours. S’well has contracts with Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, J. Crew, Neiman Marcus and Starbucks. The company has also seen its revenue grow from just under $10 million in 2013 to $47 million today, proving that she has definitely struck a chord with her clients.

Manisha Raisinghani _ Co-founder of LogiNext Solutions
Manisha Raisinghani founded LogiNext with her friend Dhruval Singhvi to help ecommerce and hyper local companies with logistical difficulties. She studied Big Data and Analytics from Carnegie Mellon University and then worked in the field of logistics while working as a consultant for IBM Consulting. Her firm focuses on using the power of big data to map out the best routes for deliveries for clients and predict delays. As a result, her clients do not have to deal with the challenges of maintaining any back end technology. Sixty companies have enlisted their services including big names like Flipkart and Paytm.

Vani Kola _ Managing Director of Kalaari Capital
Vani Kola is another example of a successful woman leader. She started a venture capital investment firm that focuses on the technology sector. Predominantly led by men, research shows that just 4.2% of decision-makers at venture capital firms are female. Not only has she been successful, she has also created a company that has funded more than 50 companies in India. Her goal to create an early-stage venture ecosystem in India has been widely recognised, putting her on the list of the top 10 entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. She was also listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian Business by Fortune magazine in 2014.

Christina Lomasney _ President and CEO of Modumetal
An finally, Christina studied and worked in the field of nuclear decontamination. She also participated in decontamination efforts in Chernobyl and Fukushima before founding ‘Modumetal’. Modumetal manufactures nanolaminated metal alloys that are “stronger and lighter than steel, more corrosion resistant than galvanize, durable than chrome and is redefining metals performance in major industries.” In what would be considered a very male dominated field, Christina has taken her company to new heights. Her vision for her company was strong enough to win over the backing of companies like Chevron Technology Ventures and BP Ventures.

These five women show that the entrepreneurial successes of women are not restricted to the stereotypical ideas of which industry is suitable for them. They prove that women can be successful in any industry sector. Behind Closed Doors applauds them as they defy all stereotypes of what kind of business a woman entrepreneur should be in and inspire women everywhere to do dismiss stereotypes and limitiations.

Donny Walford

Adelaide: 2016 Entrepreneur Scholarship

Nominations are now open for our Adelaide Businesswomen’s Entrepreneurs Scholarship. Go to the behind closed doors website to nominate yourself or a worthy entrepreneurial female today.

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5 Tips to Supercharge Your Brand’s Social Media Profile

Social Media Profile TipsSocial Media is currently the platform to getting your business on the map. A great social media profile can be a brand’s lifeline – it improves brand recognition, which subsequently results in increased inbound traffic, higher conversion rates, richer customer experiences and insights, and therefore more brand loyalty. To achieve all this and more, your social media profile needs to stand out from the crowd and continually engage your audience through meaningful interactions. Here are 5 tips to supercharging your brand’s social media profile:

1. Share Your Story

Whether you are branding yourself or your business, you will need a biography that is catchy and informative. People are keen in reading stories and so narrating your story will not only help them relate to you and your brand but also keep them interested in what you have to say. If you’re looking to grow your personal brand, you can share your background and past achievements while talking about your interests and future aspirations. Do the same when it comes to making your brand personable and make sure that you are aligning the shared information with your social media branding goals so you know that you are putting out the right messaging.

2. Think Twice, Speak Once

If you don’t already know, nothing that goes on the web ever gets deleted. So, if you don’t want to post something that you might come to regret, it’s certainly wise to think twice before posting anything. Justine Sacco was at the receiving end of this when she irresponsibly tweeted, “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” She went on to become the number one worldwide trending topic on Twitter, albeit for a terrible reason. The consequence of this one tweet cost her a job while facing intense backlash from worldwide media. When you upload anything, keep in mind that you are talking to an audience that spans different cultures, languages and values and that no content is truly private. Something that may seem inoffensive to you could easily offend others and on social media, a single mistake can be quickly picked up which could turn out to be very costly. It’s certainly good practice to think twice before posting and if you are really not sure about what you should post, it’s best to consult a social media expert.

3. Engage in Conversations

Don’t be afraid to join in ongoing conversations and share your opinions because someone out there may value your expert advice or experience. This helps build your brand’s reputation amongst other people in the conversation, highlighting the value that you bring to the table. These conversations will also give you direct insight into the minds of your target audience, helping you understand their interests so as to better tailor content that would appeal to them. By engaging in conversations with your followers, you are adding value for them to stay connected with you and when you need to, start your own conversations.

4. Spread Positivity

People today have enough to worry about in their own lives, so why not use your brand as a source of positiveness for them. Positive and encouraging content will always be welcome by audiences and make them want to stay connected with you. There are many sites, such as BrainyQuote, that can quickly provide you with inspiring words to share so be generous in communicating wonderful news whether it is in relation to your brand or simply with the purpose of making someone who is connected with you on social media smile.

5. Stay Active

Once the initial excitement of your new social media profiles has died down, the key is to ensure that you maintain a healthy level of activity on these sites. Otherwise, followers will quickly forget about you if they don’t see new content and if your pages remain static. Staying active also does not mean you should continuously flood your audience with content as this may drive them away. Think about what your target audiences are interested in, what they want to see and share, and post updates accordingly that cater to their interests. You can even plan out the type and frequency of content to ensure regular and relevant posts.

Brands are increasingly seeking ways to gain an online social media presence as a way of promotion and your brand should be too. Keeping in mind these tips while building your social media presence will help give your profile the exposure it needs while ensuring constant engagement with your audience, effectively supercharging your brand’s profile. If you have more tips to share, we’d love to hear them.


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How can women successfully find a great mentor?

How can women successfully find a great mentor?A coach, guide, tutor, facilitator, counsellor and trusted advisor, a mentor is someone willing to spend his or her time and expertise to guide the development of another person.”Mentor Scout

In this competitive business world, having a mentor to guide you has become an important factor to success where you not only gain valuable insights and advice but also connections. The value that a mentor brings helps you grow in both your career and as a person. Since your mentor will play a huge role in influencing your life, it’s important to first identify the right person. The next step is to work towards having the person agree to be your mentor.

While you would think that simply asking someone to be your mentor is how it works, don’t be surprised if you encounter rejections.

Women who you consider to be potential mentors are likely to also be seen as the same by others, which may leave her limited time and resources to mentor you. Consider also that prospective mentors are successful women who have invested considerable time and energy in achieving their goals and careers. They would probably still be career-focused themselves which may leave limited time and effort to focus on mentoring others.

Furthermore, due to intense rivalry, many women may face rejection, even from people they already know, such as their senior colleagues. Nicole Williams, author of Girl on Top and Earn What You’re Worth, says it straight: “I’ve never actually heard a woman say, ‘I’m not interested in mentoring another woman’, but we may hesitate to support one another because we might think, ‘If she becomes more successful than me, that may look bad.’” In spite of these challenges, there are ways you can find a mentor and a good one at that. Here are three tips to help you find a mentor.

Three tips to find great mentors

1)    Stand out from the crowd

Powerful women receive frequent requests to be a mentor and, understandably, they cannot commit to every request. Keeping this in mind, you will need to stand out from others.

Acquisition Interview Consultant, Gayle Laakmann McDowell, has been a mentor to many; understanding what compels a person like her to mentor someone will help you be that perfect mentee. Talking about how important it is to form a personal connection first, she says, “I recognize the names of people who regularly comment on my Quora posts, who re-share my Facebook posts, and who re-tweet my tweets. If I feel like you’re not just a total stranger, I’m more likely to help you.” Hence, it is important to show that you are genuinely interested in her insights, making you come across as someone who is involved with her line of work.

It is also important that the mentor knows that you value her work. “The vast majority of mentorship requests I get are from people who have read one or more of my books but haven’t posted a review on Amazon,” she says, “If you tell me you love my book and you’re asking for help from me, I’m likely to think, ‘If you love it so much, why not post a review?’” Make yourself visible to your potential mentor and give them an incentive to help you.

2)    Value their time

Show them you value their time. Asking them generic questions like “How did you get where you are?” will not help. They have achieved success after working hard for many years; asking them such direct questions can make you come across as someone who does not appreciate their time.

Ask well prepared and targeted questions instead. Questions like, “What do you wish you knew at my stage of career?”, “Who else would you recommend I connect with?”, “What would you do if you were me?”, and “If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?” are some good questions you can ask.

Study their journey beforehand so that when you are given the opportunity to propose mentorship, ask questions about a specific obstacle that you are looking to overcome with their help.

3)    Reach out through established networks

The best way to find helpful mentors is through well-established networks, which provide a forum for women to come together and support each other. Behind Closed Doors provides this type of a platform and has helped support many women through its mentoring memberships.

Finding the right mentor to help you in your professional journey may take time, but it is worth the effort. Look out for mentors in circles other than work, join networks and reach out for help, and when you do find that mentor – show them you are coachable.

Mentorship can go a long way in shaping an individual’s business skills, cultivate superior leadership qualities, while allowing the mentee to be exposed to wisdom gained by an experienced individual over many years. Utilising the afore-mentioned techniques will allow you to successfully find a great mentor. You can also  join the behind closed doors network of professional women and benefit from our mentoring memberships.

If you have had success in finding a great mentor, share your story with us.


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Top 10 tips to start your career: From one professional woman to another

Top 10 tips to start your careerMentorship and guidance are critical inputs for professional women to succeed. They become more important in a background where women have to fight gender stereotypes and need insights from women who have been there and done that.

Here are 10 pieces of advice for starting a career that have been compiled from successful women all over the world.

1) Get rid of the impostor phenomenon

This is one of the best pieces of advice you will ever get. The impostor phenomenon is a syndrome where a person feels that they do not deserve the success they have achieved; despite external evidence of their competence, they feel that they are frauds and are deceiving people into thinking they are greater than what they really are. This syndrome has affected the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Tina Fey. A survey by the Institute of Leadership and Management examined the levels of confidence of managers in their profession. It showed that self-doubt over job performance was close to 50 percent for women, as compared to 31 percent for male respondents.

Dr. Valerie Young’s book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer From the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive In Spite of It, takes a fascinating look at how so many accomplished and capable people suffer from self-doubt. “When you feel yourself sliding into competence extremism, recognise it for what it is. Then make a conscious decision to stop and really savour those exhilarating mental high points and forgive yourself for the inevitable lulls.” Learn to reframe your mind. If one negative self-doubt thought enters your thoughts, replace with two or more positive thoughts and affirmations on what you do well and have achieved.

2) Choose who you listen to

Karen Deutsch, Advertising Director at Cosmopolitan, says “Find the decision maker and never take a no from a person who doesn’t have the power to say yes.” The inclination to play nice and be in everybody’s good books is a temptation; but understand who has the authority to make decisions and that is who you go to.

3) Stay out of office politics

Nearly every successful woman has handed down this piece of advice. Discretion is key, especially since women have been stereotyped as leaning towards gossip. Donna Kalajian Lagani, Senior Vice President, Publishing Director and Chief Revenue Officer of The Cosmopolitan Group says: “When you have the job, have the following attitude: set your sights high, be willing to work your hardest to succeed, stay out of office politics.”

4) Accept praise

When somebody compliments you on your work, own it. Women are natural equalisers and tend to deflect compliments or pass the credit on to others. When your boss says “Good job,” fight the urge to say “I have a great team.” A simple “Thank you” will suffice. If you have worked hard for it, give credit to yourself where credit is due.

5) Do not be over-sensitive

The office is a good place to learning to accept criticism and comments from peers. Criticisms will hurt, but the best way to tackle them is to take them constructively and move away with a smile and a sense of determination. Learn from these criticisms and instead let them help you become a better person and a better performer.

6) Be a woman of few, but on point words

Instead of talking about all the things you can do or have done, let your work do the talking. Karen Deutsch says: Make yourself valuable every day. Don’t look to take credit. If you do your work well, credit will come to you.”

This does not mean that you don’t speak up. Rather, use choice words and avoid over explaining or justifying things; instead be articulate and stick to the point.

7) Be Kind

Do you worry about being too gentle such that your co-workers are likely to think you are too nice for the job? Or what about being too assertive? In any case, this should not stop you from being kind, a quality we tend to overlook and under-appreciate. The world needs kind people; so be one.

Lisa Leslie, retired WNBA superstar and four-time Olympic gold medallist, says: “Whether you’re talking about the janitor or the President, you want to treat people well and never like you’re on a different level. True kindness can lead to unexpected rewards. And it’s more pleasant!”

8) Perfectionism can bring you down

Wanting things to be perfect is a great asset, but remember that striving for perfectionism can become a snare and a confidence killer.

In the pursuit of perfection, women tend to hold back until they are completely sure of what they want to say or need to be 100% competent to go for promotion or board roles, while men take more risks. This could mean loss of opportunities and increased self-doubt. Keep it real – accept that you can make mistakes and learn from them …so take risks.

9) Look for mentors

“Don’t be afraid to reach out to people who have careers you idolise” says writer Anna Breslaw. Ask them, learn from them and grow with them. Finding a good mentor that is suitable for you is not easy, and this is where Behind Closed Doors can help. By giving you access to a vast support network of women who have proved their mettle as business executives, government and community leaders, Behind Closed Doors helps empower women by mentor matching. Learn more about us on our website.

10) Believe in yourself

This is probably the most important advice you should follow. Have the conviction that you are the right person for the role and go all out in demonstrating your capabilities to yourself as well as to others.

 What piece of advice helped you when you started your career?


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Three Super Flexible Jobs for Mothers

Flexible jobs for mothers“I believe that women should live for love, for motherhood and for intellect, and I believe we shouldn’t have to choose.” – Erica Jong, Writer

Experiencing a successful career is a remarkable achievement. Likewise, motherhood brings with it adventures that open up to a whole new world of delight. The two, however, are often thought to be mutually exclusive when in fact motherhood is not something that calls for a resignation of all our ambitions. Sure, there are bound to be challenges balancing both career and parenting, but the balance is not impossible; which is why we salute the women who are so successful at it.

So how are astute working mothers achieving their best of both worlds? According to a survey by FlexJobs, 97% of parents prefer a work-from-home job or one with a flexible schedule because it would help them be a better parent. 

For all those who agree, here are three super flexible jobs that have helped professional mothers achieve the balance they seek. We have also thrown in some tips about the job industries to get you started.

1)    Pharmaceutical Reps

A 2011 survey by CareerBliss found that pharmaceutical sales positions ranked as the happiest for working mothers and was the second highest paying for women according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This consensus is still valid today with the growth rate for pharmacists predicted to reach 14% by 2022.

“Pharmaceutical workers are offered high pay, a flexible environment, the feeling of being rewarded at work, and good, well-educated managers,” says Heidi Golledge, CEO and co-founder of CareerBliss.

Tips to getting into the pharmaceutical industry:

  • Having a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy is excellent if you want to enter this field, but surveys have shown that labour force participation had an 81.5% rate even without that particular degree. Consider enrolling for online courses that will add value to your resume.
  • Do research on companies and consider how you are able to fit the role. Working Mothers has a good read that lists some of the Best Companies in Health Care & Pharma, which offered creative flex and family-friendly practices that make them employers of choice”, especially for working mothers.
  • Equip yourself with all the information you can get on the job role; the Australian Medicines Information Training Workbook is an excellent guide to prepare you.

2)    Realtor / Appraiser

Realty is a viable option for mothers, though good sales skills and a good eye for property is a must. Qualifications will depend on the state you live in, but the required certificate or creditation is easily obtainable and often come with options for home-study. This makes it easier for mothers to decide how quickly they want to get back to the workforce.

Take for example Anna Altic, a mother of two and an entrepreneur who has built a thriving realty business. Anna wanted to work and yet dreaded the thought of getting back to a 50-hours work week in corporate. That’s where she realised real estate was a good fit and built her business from thereon.

Roberta Hoskie is another great example – a mother of three, she went from living on welfare, to owning her own million dollar realty business.

Tips to getting into the real estate industry:

  • Though you may not need special qualifications to be a realtor, it’s still essential that you do adequate prep work and read up on all provisions that you can avail of when it comes to property in your locality.
  • Keep your eye out for good property and link with someone you know who can refurbish properties that can help you get a better deal on houses.

3)    Writer/ Editor/ Blogger

If you have great writing skills, consider this. A publishing/editorial background is an added bonus of course, but not strictly necessary. Nearly every company has a need for good quality content in the form of blogs, press releases, articles and social media posts – so there is no dearth of work.

“Go for it. Go for the kids. Go for the career. Don’t give up your dreams. Don’t give up time with your kids. And no matter what you do, listen to yourself,” says Helga Schier, who chose to become a freelance literary editor for its flexibility and has made quite a success of her choice.

Tips to getting into the journalism industry:

  • Start a blog on a subject you care about. This could be on a subject that you are already familiar with, e.g parenting. You could even start by joining communities like Australian Mummy blogs. While there are loads of mum communities that will lend support if you choose to write on topics related to motherhood, do note that this market already has its own share of parents sharing experiences. So, we suggest that you find a passionate topic to blog about and stick to that. Good blogging can earn you awards in prominent circles like the Circle of Moms and Top baby blogs, which have the potential to further catapult your reputation as a writer/blogger.
  • Write queries, send letters of introduction, connect with editors, and build your brand on social media.
  • Sign up on writer’s forums like Freelance Writer’s Den, which provide platforms to seek work and learn about the writing business.

These are just three of the many flexible options available for mothers; we would love to hear from you if you have found success in any other areas.


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What Hinders Organisations From Building a Diverse Workforce?

What hinders organisations from building a diverse workforce?The benefits of having a diverse workforce are immense but according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2011, labour force participation rate of females at 65% is much lower than the 80% for males in the same age group. It has not changed much since then.

Why does this gender imbalance still exist in the workplace and what can be done about it?

Importance of gender diversity at work

By limiting diversity parameters, employers effectively limit the number of candidates and their chances of finding the right person for the job. A fully diverse workforce communicates an organisation’s commitment to equality and makes you a choice employer. This also converts into high retention rates.

According to The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM), if the UK is to remain competitive, UK employers will need to have recruited an additional 2.2 million new managers between 2007 and 2017”. This would be impossible if women, who make up 46% of the UK workforce, aren’t effectively included. A study by the Catalyst showed that companies with more women board directors showed a return on equity that was 53%, and a return on invested capital that was 66%, higher than companies with no female directors.

A survey was conducted of Australian employees by HAYS with regard to diversity in the workplace. 58% responded that they would like to see more diversity.

What are the obstacles to a diverse workforce?

Education and career choices

The number of women who opt for STEM subjects science, technology, mathematics and engineering is lower worldwide. This is unfortunate as these subjects are currently in demand in the labour market and will continue to be the required qualifications in growth industry sectors.

Mid-career drop

Studies consistently show a major drop in the number of women from the workforce mid- career. Consider the representation of this drop as shown in The Davies Report:

Lack of flexible hours, the “think leader, think male” phenomenon, and gender related stereotypes and bias’s affect the career growth of women.

Organisation Culture

Gender based barriers are one of the top reasons why companies lose female employees. A McKinsey study showed that 27% of women had experienced some form of gender-based discrimination in their role. An organisation that has predominantly male employees, which is most often the case in sectors like construction, mining and the sciences, also tends towards unconscious biases and gender stereotyping. This can adversely affect a woman’s role in an organisation forcing her to leave the labour market or not opt for leadership roles in the prime of her career.

What can be done?

A few steps in the right direction can go a long way in correcting the existing gender imbalance and creating a more diverse workforce.

1)    Encouraging young women to take up STEM subjects will go a long way in increasing the labour force of women. Organisations could take up the initiative to set up career guidance workshops in schools and universities with this aim.

2)    Implementing a clear cut, standardised organisation policy for hiring and retaining women, with emphasis on equal career progression opportunities. The inclusion of women in the interview panel at all levels of hiring has showed great results in many organisations.

3)    Developing or placing women in mentoring programs where they can benefit from the example and experience of women leaders.

4)    Intensifying the effort to remove unconscious bias among employees by fostering an equal opportunity culture within the organisation.

5)    Working with employees to understand the barriers to organisational culture by creating awareness at all levels. Making gender diversity a part of the organisation’s vision goes a long way in fostering a culture that actively works to rectify the gender imbalance.

Flexibility in working hours has been a popular suggestion to overcome these barriers. 62% of women in the USA feel that family obligations and reduced mobility are impediments to their career growth. Interestingly, an Ernst & Young study showed that women “working flexibly waste just 11.1 per cent of working hours, compared to 14.5 per cent of their full-time counterparts.” And …. make flexibility in working hours available to everyone not just women!

What do you think? Are there any steps you’ve taken within your organisation to correct gender imbalances in the workforce?


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How to Create a Better Environment for Women Entrepreneurs

How to create a better environment for women entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs are on a steady rise. In the paper titled The Changing Experience of Australian Female Entrepreneurs, “The study of female entrepreneurship is a dynamic field with more women than men engaging in self-employment in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States.”

The increasing numbers of women entrepreneurs is great news and yet, conditions could be a lot better. Challenges that women face in the business world still exist; gender disparity in financing and funding, stereotypes that affect the growth of women entrepreneurs in male dominated industries, lack of practical support to maintain work-life flow, and the want of mentorship and guidance, are some of the bigger problems at hand.

There is a need then to create an environment that fosters women entrepreneurs and surmount the above challenges. The following ways are what can be done toward building a favourable environment for women entrepreneurs:

1)    Putting in place policies and efforts that address existing challenges

The above challenges are just some obstacles women face when following the path of entrepreneurship. Upon identifying these issues, policies can be implemented by the government or even within organisations to help mitigate these challenges.

The African Development Bank and International Labour Organisation sets an excellent example in this regard. As early as 2003, they sought “to identify the most appropriate means of contributing to an improved enabling environment for women to start and grow enterprises.”  Their vision led to the Integrated Framework for Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs (GOWE), which looked into various aspects that would improve the opportunities for women entrepreneurs.

An offshoot of this initiative is the Support for Growth-oriented Women Entrepreneurs in Tanzania, a program that focused on boosting employment through initiatives like the Small Enterprise Development. A SME Development Policy was subsequently proposed to include gender mainstreaming and measures to promote women entrepreneurship, among them the designing of special program and the addressing of factors inhibiting women and the disadvantaged.

Having policies that ensure women entrepreneurs get the equal opportunity they seek will certainly go a long way in creating an environment for women entrepreneurs to excel.

2)    Encourage women towards tech based entrepreneurship

Within the tech sector, gender disparity still exists. Though it’s promising that the participation rates of women in the field of engineering have improved, a critical mass of 30-40% is still required to balance the gender disparity. To encourage more women to joining the tech sector, education establishments such as universities can consider offering scholarship programs toward women applicants, like in the Lead to Win program from Carleton University.

Courses like the Innovation Strategies for a Changing World designed specially for women by Harvard University is also an admirable example of providing avenues for education and growth of women in Science. Such opportunities for women to foster education on technical courses will encourage greater learning toward tech roles, ultimately contributing to the tech sector of the future.

3)    Better financing options

Despite solid facts that prove women-led tech companies bring in revenue nearly 12% higher than male-led companies, women still get less than five percent of Venture Capital funding. This goes to show that obtaining finance still poses a big challenge for women.

The result of such unconscious bias on women has affected the way they seek funding and ultimately their ability to grow their businesses. A majority of women are now choosing to start ventures using funds from their personal savings or loans from family and friends according to the paper on the Changing Experience of Australian Female Entrepreneurs. Without the confidence to seek bigger funding options, women will only be limited to starting up small-scale businesses.

Better financial options for women, an unbiased approach to risk assessment by investors and bankers, and an increase in women-led VCs can together bring about better financial environment for women entrepreneurs to both start and grow their ventures.

4)    Fostering women networks

Mentors are a vital aspect for all businesses. These are people who can guide the business, provide sound advice from an ‘outside’ perspective and also the connections that will subsequently help in business growth. In the case of women entrepreneurs according to the Creating an Environment That Encourages Women Entrepreneurs, it’s a pity to learn that they “lack access to advice, counselling and encouragement. This is largely attributed to a lack of donor-supported services. Women, in most cases, do not have the funds to pay for these services, and those that can afford user-pay programming do not prioritise funds to pay for these services.”

To improve on the current situation for women entrepreneurs, the benefits of mentoring must be educated and emphasised so women will understand the importance of having a mentor. The demand for women mentors must also be met with the supply, so other women who have experience should also speak up to share their experiences as mentors.

It may be a less-than-perfect world for women entrepreneurs; but it is looking up as governments, international bodies, and financial institutions are working towards creating a better environment for them. At behind closed doors, we are doing our part in fostering a better environment for women businesses by providing mentorship guidance and support to women entrepreneurs globally. Our network not only encourages and supports fellow business women but also helps in opening doors to new opportunities and markets. If you are a woman and are seeking a mentor or would like to be a mentor, we would love to hear from you.

Let us know your experience including what has worked for you as an entrepreneur.


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Female Entrepreneurs Harness the Power of Social Media

Female Entrepreneurs Use Social Media

Female Entrepreneurs Use Social Media

There is no debate on the power of social media in boosting business. Women all over the world are recognising this truth and going all out in capitalising on this. One paper was even written by the University of Johannesburg on this subject matter where, according to the study, 43% of women entrepreneurs use at least one social media tool for their business compared to 37% of male entrepreneurs – definite proof that women are ruling social media.

So, what is it that makes women better at using social media for their business?

1)    More Empathy and Social skills

Women are better ‘wired’ for empathy than men, according to a theory propounded by psychologist Baron-Cohen after extensive research from a genetic and biological viewpoint. This means that generally women are better at social skills and adaptability – both great assets when it comes to social media.

2)    Better Communicators

Women were also determined to be better communicators than men. According to the findings, “when talking about serious issues such as current affairs, men and women were on the same wavelength in terms of the language used, but while socialising women are the more skilled communicators.” This was attributed to the fact that men have trouble expressing themselves while chatting to friends because their words contain less variety than women.

Another study sheds more light on the fundamental difference in linguistic behaviour between the genders. Drawing from earlier research, the study on Gender, Status and Power in Discourse Behavior of Men and Women deduces that women focus on the emotional quotient of an interaction more than men do, using linguistics to increase solidarity.

Using social media successfully calls for the communication to others in a social manner, over the new media. Women being good at the various communication skills are the reason why they are so good at social media.

3)    Women listen

While social media and conversations make up the building blocks of an online presence for an organisation, the ability to listen to what others say and respond proactively is what enables women to keep the conversation and the clicks going. According to a HBR research “if a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.” Linking the results to the probable reason, Anita Woolley, one of the researchers said, “What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart, but that they listen to each other. They share criticism constructively. They have open minds. They’re not autocratic.”

Being successful on social media is not an extraordinary feat. Women at all levels and demographics have used the power of social media for their business and have been rewarded for their efforts.

A case in point is Caroline Ceniza-Levine, the co-founder of SixFigureStart, which specialises in corporate training, HR consulting and leadership coaching along with placement consultation. Caroline’s social media efforts resulted in the company’s 600% growth within the first four years and CBS, CNN and Fox Business lauding her social media efforts.  “It’s simply establishing relationships and getting people to trust you and know you better and that can lead to something tangible,” she says. “As a career and business coach, being seen on these social media outlets is important. My ability to meet people and grow my client-base is enhanced by social media.”

How you can start to up your social media efforts

1.     Personalise your message

The uniqueness of social media marketing lies in that you can market your product without actually appearing to do so, and when you do market your product, it needs to market to what the people want. People like reading stories, so share your story, and even get the people in your company to share theirs. Engage your customers further by giving them a slice of the action and get them on your pages. Let it be about the people. The moment people sense you are pushing your products, they will lose interest and look at your efforts as just another marketing gimmick.

2.     Stir emotions

The ability to move and appeal to human emotions is something that has been proven to work time and time again for marketing campaigns. Work towards messages that appeal to the emotions and your campaigns will be a success.

Another vital component of social media networking is collaboration between women-owned businesses. The desire to help each other advance in careers has led to the emergence of a rich ecosystem of networking groups, which has been a great source of business contacts and opportunities.

Opportunities on social media are aplenty, but it’s you that can capitalise on these opportunities and use them as tools of success.


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Do you suffer from the Impostor Syndrome?

Imposter SyndromeEver stop for a moment, look at all that you have achieved and still feel you and your achievements are insignificant, and you don’t deserve the success? If you have, well, you are not alone.

Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg says, ‘‘There are still days when I wake up feeling like a fraud, not sure I should be where I am.’’

Termed the Impostor Syndrome, it is important that this feeling be identified, for it is not merely a passing feeling of insecurity. It is something far deeper, and oftentimes, crippling.

In their paper, The Imposter Phenomenon in High Achieving Women: Dynamics and Therapeutic Intervention, Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes elucidate that women who experience the impostor phenomenon believe that they are not bright and have fooled anyone who thinks otherwise, in spite of their outstanding academic and professional accomplishments.

It is, however, important to understand if what you are experiencing is merely a feeling of insecurity or a result of the Impostor Syndrome. The main distinguishing factor is that people with feelings of insecurity are unable to achieve much success and feel disappointed with themselves because of their failure to reach their goals. Those with Impostor Syndrome on the other hand, are often highly successful and have many achievements to their name, and yet feel insignificant.

Pauline Clance says, “The clinical symptoms most frequently reported are generalized anxiety, lack of self-confidence, depression, and frustration related to inability to meet self-imposed standards of achievement.”

It is vital that you recognise and treat this syndrome as it can seriously cripple your professional life and prevent you from reaching your full potential. As with all psychological issues, the diagnosis of the Impostor Syndrome is the first step towards its remedy. Below are 5 signs of the Impostor Syndrome that you should look out for:

Sign #1: You think you don’t deserve your achievement and it must have been a mistake.

The study by Clance and Imes examined university graduates who felt that they were admitted by some possible error by the admissions committee. They were also firmly convinced that their high grades were due to a wrong evaluation. Rather than attributing your achievement to your skill, you think that it must be a mistake.

Sign #2: You constantly feel that people will discover you don’t deserve the accolades and so you go out of your way to prove your worth.

Reaching out to greater heights of achievement is definitely a good thing, but if that is motivated by your fear of being “found out” as a fraud or impostor, then that only leads to a constant sense of dread and anxiety.

The Impostor Syndrome robs you of confidence and cloaks your achievement with a sense of foreboding that will gradually eat away at your self-esteem. Actress Natalie Portman at a Harvard Commencement Speech shared  “I felt like there had been some mistake, that I wasn’t smart enough to be in this company, and that every time I opened my mouth I would have to prove that I wasn’t just a dumb actress”, even though she had graduated from Harvard.

Sign #3: You tend to forget all that is right and zoom in on the one thing that’s wrong.

Despite achieving a goal, you stay focused on a minor mistake made along the way, which in the grand scheme of things is typically insignificant. The inability to forgive yourself of that one mistake and your constant worry in reflecting on errors rather than achievements can prove detrimental to one’s physical and mental health over time.

Sign #4: You feel your achievements aren’t worthwhile; that they aren’t enough.

You are constantly trying to live up to a standard that you have set but never seem to be able to reach. Any form of achievement that you may attain, you still feel it’s lacking, that it’s not the best and that things could have turned out much better. You underplay your achievements to others and to yourself, refusing to accept that you have achieved anything significant worth celebrating for.

Sign #5: You think that credit is only worth it if the path to achievement was extremely difficult.

You refuse to believe that talent comes to you naturally and that it might actually be easy for you to achieve success.  Drawing on professor Kay Deaux’s study, Clance and Ime’s paper show that “unlike men, who tend to own success as attributable to a quality inherent in themselves, women are more likely either to project the cause of success outward to an external cause (luck) or to a temporary internal quality (effort) that they do not equate with inherent ability”.

Minimising achievements in this manner makes you feel that you don’t really deserve the accolades.

If you see these signs in you, then you might want to measure yourself on the Clance Impostor Phenomenon Scale (CIPS). Remember though that a self-diagnosis isn’t enough; this is just to help you recognise what you are going through.

Having said that, it is important to know that living with and conquering the Impostor Syndrome is possible. High achievers like Sheryl Sandberg and Natalie Portman have proved it. So believe in yourself; get the help you need and let the superstar that you are come through.


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