Colombian Coach & Leader wins Behind Closed Doors/Australian Government Migrant Scholarship

Executive and Organisational Coach and Facilitator, Martha Lozano is the winner of the inaugural Behind Closed Doors’ (BCD) Migrant Scholarship for 2015.

Ms Lozano, a psychology graduate, Human Resources Management Specialist and Professional Certified Coach and Facilitator will look to use the experience to open new doors, tap into the minds of some of Sydney’s most influential leaders and create opportunities to work with leaders and managers to develop their coaching capabilities.

Founder and Managing Director of the respected professional development and mentoring company Donny Walford, said the 12-month scholarship was awarded to a successful female executive level migrant to further expand their leadership and business skills and assist in securing a leadership position within Australia.

“Ms Lozano has successfully supported many leaders in different organisations in Colombia to become integral and inspirational leaders.

“As she is new to Australia and English is her second language, Ms Lozano doesn’t have established networks to be able to enter a professional firm or the knowledge to be able to start up her own business in Australia as an Executive Coach and Facilitator.

“The BCD Executive program will provide Ms Lozano with a professional sounding board and support network where she 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.

Ms Lozano believes the BCD Executive program will assist her to gain confidence to start up her own business or gain employment in Australia as an Executive Coach and Facilitator.

“The most important thing about working in Australia is to be able to share my knowledge and experience, serve people and continue to honour my purpose in life. Being productive, I can contribute to my wellness, happiness and quality of life for my family,” she said.

“I see the BCD support network as incredibly valuable and I find it very appealing that we will be able to help each other to achieve our goals,” she added.

The BCD Migrant Scholarship initiative is supported by the Australian Government and offers a migrant businesswoman the opportunity to assimilate into Australia more quickly by providing a supportive executive women’s network.

The BCD Migrant Scholarship is an opportunity for Ms Lozano to build relationships and be amongst other businesswomen and assist with positioning herself to be placed in her chosen profession through a year-long membership to the BCD Executive program, valued at more than $9,000.

“One of the BCD Executive program’s 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.”

Sir Bob, food security and my book!

What a wonderful way to start the day today – energy boost from a room full of Business Chicks! And then to hear Bob Geldorf speak over breakfast. He held us spell bound ranging from the bad boy of rock and roll, to his childhood in Ireland which sensitised him to poverty and the effect it has on ordinary people who are burdened by it, Africa and its potential and the fact that all of us need to find a new way to be in the 21st century, we need to move away from a culture of direct competition to a more collaborative world that embraces diversity of thought. He highlighted that one at least of the Millennial Development Goals set in 2000 has been achieved, lifting 50% of the world’s poorest people out of grinding poverty, largely due to China’s efforts in economic development.

But what resonated with me most was his statement that we are all sleepwalking towards disaster, yet again. Most of us are aware of the issues, but seem powerless to get our leaders to take the difficult decisions to help us avert disaster. He mentioned climate change only once, but emphasised poverty many times. The tragedy is that the impacts of climate change will be hardest on some of the poorest parts of the world; in fact this is already happening with the typhoons and droughts over the last few years.

Bob also mentioned that we expect to have 9 billion people on the planet by the end of this century, which is the UN’s median prediction! Feeding all these increasingly affluent people in a sustainable manner and leaving a few resources for the other species on this planet is going to be quite a challenge.

In fact, I was commissioned by Springer Publishing to write a book on the subject last year. I’m delighted to say that my book “Energy Use and Global Food Production” has just been published electronically and will be out in paperback next month. I endeavour to highlight the Water-Energy-Food nexus and the challenges facing food security in the context of a rising population and climate change. Several encouraging case studies are outlined that give us a really good indication of what needs to be done to traverse the new few years safely and minimise the environmental deficit we may otherwise leave our kids.

My book is available from the publisher via this link.

I would really value feedback and discussion about the issues raised in this, my first book!
Sir Bob closed his address with a quote about ‘Commitment’, once one commits to something, the universe seems to back you (or words to that effect). I have made a commitment for the rest of this year to do all I can to work with business and political leaders towards meaningful emissions reduction in the lead up to the UN climate talks in Paris in November this year. Positive Climate Action this decade gives us the best and lowest cost option to manage the situation. Please reach out to me with your thoughts about what we should and could do together to achieve this outcome.

Dr. Meera Verma, is our Guest Blogger and the Principal of Headland Vision, a strategic and project consulting firm for medium sized technology-development companies in the biotech, pharma and cleantech areas.

To move ahead, companies need more women to take the lead

Despite disclosure requirements, the number of female executives in Australian companies has been declining. While mainly ingrained in corporate culture, companies may be missing out on success in failing to promote women to leadership positions.

Who would have thought that a school teacher in Zimbabwe would become one of Australia’s corporate leaders? Well, that is what former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly achieved. With single-minded determination, Kelly climbed the ranks as a bank teller at Nedcor in South Africa. In 2002, she became chief executive of St.George Bank, and joined Westpac in 2008 under the same role. Through her leadership, she was able to help Westpac acquire St.George Bank smoothly, and enabled the former to withstand the global financial crisis. For quite some time, Kelly was the only woman known to lead a ‘Top 50’ company at the Australian Securities Exchange. Now she will leave the title to two others as she heads toward a new direction.

Unfortunately, Kelly’s story is not the same for other women executives. Just last year, reports from Strategy& uncovered that the number of female CEOs fell from seven to six at ASX 200 companies. Women were often forced by the board to step down from their executive role, said Varya Davidson, author of the study and partner of Strategy&. “Comparing planned versus forced chief executive succession, 38 per cent of women were forced to leave versus 27 per cent of men,” Davidson stated. In addition, women are given less opportunities to develop their leadership skills, said Katie Lahey, former CEO of the Business Council of Australia. They are also more hesitant than men to volunteer for a new job, because they believe they need to learn more skills, Lahey added.

An analysis of BusinessDay on gender diversity disclosures of ASX 100 companies revealed the same finding. From 2011 to 2013, the percentage of women occupying senior executive roles declined from 24% to 23%. Meanwhile, the percentage of female directors climbed from 13.4% to 18.6% among ASX 200 companies. Amid the gender disclosure mandate for ASX companies, females remain underrepresented in executive roles. The policy itself is generating debate, as it can be a form of “red tape” for businesses. However, it may be needed to end inequality for women, said Claire Braund, spokeswoman for advocacy group Women On Boards. A closer look shows that it may be worsening the problem, as companies are free to interpret what “senior executive” means. Hence, they are appointing more women as directors, but not as chief executive.

In excluding women from the corporate ladder, companies are shortchanging themselves in the process. Female executives have a lot to bring to the table, especially in business. Wouldn’t it be fabulous to be in the business world and not need to have the discussion on how few women we have around the Executive and Board tables?

The business case for women executives

Firms that enable women to lead are more likely to achieve success as compared to those that are solely led by males, according to a study done by Dow Jones. In profitable companies, females comprised 7.1% of senior executive roles, but only 3.1% in less successful firms. Women may be helping companies excel because they are more resourceful and creative in solving problems. In addition, they are more attuned to the emotions of their team and are more likely to encourage engagement. They are also more inclined to consult and collaborate with others in making tough decisions.

It seems the tech industry has been ahead in realising the potential of women. Most of chief operating officers in tech companies are females. There’s Sheryl Sandberg as COO of Facebook, Emily White who left Instagram to become COO of Snapchat, as well as Sharon Feder at Mashable. For some corporate leaders, they seem to find women more suitable for the COO role because they have a good acumen for business and leadership, without getting all the credit for themselves. Startups, in particular, may find female leaders to be reliable in taking the business toward maturity. Going forward, the COO position can pave the way for women to take on corporate Chief Executive roles. If the male-dominated tech industry is seeing the potential of women in executive positions, soon the remaining industry sectors may catch up.

So what can we do to empower women to climb to the top of the corporate ladder?

Capacity-building and opportunities go hand-in-hand

To help women ascend in the corporate world, companies need to train them for career development, and provide opportunities for advancement. In particular, this entails the involvement of leadership, through ensuring that recruitment efforts are unbiased and female employees are being mentored adequately. Aside from this, employers also need to invest in professional coaching for women. For instance, in establishing an executive presence, women may need the assistance of a professional voice coach to sound authoritative, as did Margaret Thatcher.

For wide-reaching results, efforts to make the company more inclusive for women should flow down to all employees too. They should be encouraged to join local and professional communities that promote equality. In this way, they will be more aware of the need for gender parity and contribute in their company’s initiatives. Companies also need to offer potential leaders flexible work schedules. Parents need support in balancing the demands of the home and the workplace.

For women, we need to become more confident in pitching ourselves for executive roles. We need to ‘get on the radar’ with the right people recruiting executives by establishing relationships, building and maintaining broad networks, internally and externally, and clearly articulating our value.

Get a sponsor and a mentor and take responsibility for advancement!


Why it pays to be Sporty for Aspiring Women Executives

How being sporty assists executive womenHaving a background in sports helps women land positions in the C-suite, a report of the EY Women Athletes Business Network states. Sports cultivate leadership and competitiveness, so women who are athletic are more likely to be hired over others.

Go for gold, and you’ll climb the ladder

Can you recall sporting experiences from your high school and university years? Did you play basketball or volleyball, or get involved in the swimming team? Because if you did, you might find yourself reaching for an executive position much faster than those who didn’t.

A recent report showed that 97% of women who occupy positions in the C-level have played a sport sometime in their lives, according to Ernst & Young’s Women Athletes Business Network and EspnW. The study surveyed 400 female executives, and 61% of the respondents said that having an athletic experience helped them advance in their career path.  Besides the obvious health, wellbeing, team play and social aspects, sport cultivates leadership skills in women and makes them determined to complete projects. It also makes them more disciplined than non-athletes and provides them with the inclination to motivate others.

The study also found that 71% of executives consider famous athletes as their role models, over their family members. More than half of them say that they are enamoured by the lives of these individuals. Who wouldn’t be? With their hard work and drive to be the best in their field of sport, the lifestyle of athletes is often encouraging. They exhibit the epitome of success, which women can emulate in the workplace to get ahead.

“This study confirms the significant role that participating in sports plays in providing the tools necessary to succeed in the competitive world in which we live,” said Donna de Varona, lead advisor of EY Women Athletes Business Network. And to demonstrate the relationship of sports and women in executive positions, de Varona herself is a former competition swimmer and a two-time Olympic Gold medallist. In fact, 53% of the respondents said they currently enjoy sport activities such as swimming and running.

Women executives want former athletes on their team

With the significant impact of athletics on the life of women executives, it’s no wonder they prefer to hire people who are similarly sports-minded. Prospective hires that have played in sports are more likely to be employees that exhibit leadership skills, discipline and are determined to see projects reach the finish line. “Sport teaches intangible leadership skills that can’t be taught in the classroom,” said Beth Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of policy at Ernst & Young. Athletics also teaches women to work well with team members, and it equips them with perseverance to improve their own weaknesses.  Moreover, these women do not easily succumb to pressure, and tend to be more reliable in the workplace.

It is important that we encourage younger women to participate in sports to instil positive traits such as competitiveness that will allow them to succeed in the workplace. This entails emphasising the concept of winning, so that young women will be able to develop the skills and mindset to become successful in the future. Aside from this, they also need to be taught how to handle failure and should be encouraged to improve their abilities each day. This will eventually pay off in their personal development, especially if they enter the corporate world.

The value of athletics for women has been the driving force of the recent Global Sports Mentoring Program spearheaded by the U.S. Department of State and espnW.  The initiative enabled women executives in the U.S. to mentor emerging female leaders in sports across the world for a month-long period. The program taught the young leaders to gain confidence and exercise teamwork and leadership skills through their continuous participation in sports. As for the mentors, having been empowered to strive for their dreams in their younger years, they were able to appreciate the impact of sports on the lives of the participants. “When you know personally the positive influence sports have on your life, you have a desire to pay it forward; there’s a powerful pass-along effect,” said Laurel Ritchie, president of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

The benefits of sports for the corporate world are also being realised in other areas across the globe. Several companies have entered their employees in teams of four at the Grant Thornton 5K Team Challenge in Dublin, Ireland. Aside from the friendly banter, the event helps strengthen team-building among employees, and it promotes a sense of well-being. These advantages can be extended well into the workplace if firms encourage their employees to go running or perform other types of exercise by providing them with a longer lunch break or flexibility in start and finish times. Employees will surely feel more energised and be more productive.

Provided that sports cultivate positive workplace traits for women, it is extremely important that we encourage young women to participate in athletic activities. This will encourage them to become competitive early on, and be determined to reach success through discipline and hard work. For women in the workplace, is it time to lace up your trainers and reacquaint yourself with your bike, ball or racquet? It could be your ticket to a C-level job.



Dropping the F-bomb: Do you really need to do it?

Instead of helping to assert authority, profane words can backfire on women and the message that they are trying to convey in the corporate world. Work with your unique strengths and abilities and you won’t need “colourful” language to stand out! 

Curse words set the wrong impression

Let’s face it: Pressing deadlines, upcoming meetings and other demands at work can make you swear like a pirate. The use of foul language may seem justified for stressful situations, but it remains a no-go zone for the corporate world. It’s not ideal for leaders to use profane words in any context to motivate employees, as their language can easily be offensive and intimidating.

Women employees may sometimes feel the pressure to use swear words to thrive in a male-dominated workplace, but this could have negative implications on their professional, social and moral image. Former Yahoo CEO, Carol Bartz, admitted regret for using the f-word during her tenure at the company.

Many companies have implemented policies in place to discourage the use of curse words. Those who spout foul language may find themselves facing legal citations in violation of corporate rules and existing laws.

Aside from casting professional women in a bad light, the use of profanity could also distract your listeners and distort the message that you are attempting to communicate. Your credibility and judgment may be deemed unreliable if you are unable to stop yourself from using profanity. Colleagues are likely to question your professional image and it may also come across as having a narrow vocabulary for appropriately expressing yourself.

Women in authority attract contempt

It still remains an obstacle for women to firmly plant their feet in the corporate world because of the stereotypes held against them.  Many women who work hard to address workplace demands can be seen as “abrasive and aggressive.” Women who get the job done may be termed coming on “too strong” as compared to their male counterparts. According to a study by, women’s reviews were more likely to include negative critical feedback, and while men received constructive suggestions geared toward development of skills, women received this in the form of sharper statements such as ‘watch your tone or manner’, ‘step back’, ‘stop being so judgmental’ or ‘you’re being too tough.’

This notion of gender-based communication is particularly prevalent in male-dominated industries, such as technology and aerospace sectors.  Russian cosmonaut, Yelena Serova, had to clamp down on the journalists asking her how she would style her hair in space. Internationally-acclaimed lawyer, Amal Alamuddin, saw her accolades disappear after earning the label as George Clooney’s fiancée in the media. Amid the milestones reached by women in the corporate world, those who are successful in their fields are still frowned upon or labelled in society.

These stereotypes also label successful women as “bossy”, and yield a mindset that is on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum of using curse words. This sometimes results in businesswomen frequently using the term “sorry” and being apologetic all the time.  This type of thinking will compromise women’s ability to lead and make crucial decisions. It could also set women back from a well-earned promotion because their superior may think they are not ready or too weak.

Since this is nothing but a mindset, it can easily be challenged and overcome. And it can be surmounted without the use of profanity.

An expletive-free way to fight these stereotypes

Women can assert their authority in the workplace without having to spout expletives. You can climb to the top of the corporate ladder by simply being yourself. This may sound like a cliché, but women who “bring their whole self” to the table tend to be more successful in the corporate world, said Barbara Annis, chair emeritus of the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School. In contrast, businesswomen who adopt male behaviours can shortchange themselves in the process of achieving long-term success.  There is no need to swear like a sailor to get ahead; you only simply need to stand your ground and trust in your own abilities.

Furthermore, women can gain success in the workplace by forming bonds with each other. This will allow you to mutually encourage and support each other, embracing your uniqueness and using it as a tool for success in business. You can be comfortable in disclosing your challenges with female colleagues, and learn from them how to overcome them.

By simply being yourself and using your skills, work ethic and professionalism to assert authority, you can be a successful business leader without being vulgar and offensive. There’s no need – or room – for the f-word in your career.