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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