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Words to live by: Advice on leadership, confidence and work-life balance

In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8, businesses across Australia will be taking stock of the progress they have made towards gender equality, from paid parental leave and more flexible workplace policies, to greater leadership and boardroom diversity and a smaller gender pay gap.

According to the latest data from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, the retail industry as a whole has narrowed the pay gap from 17.6 per cent in 2014 to 15.9 per cent in 2019. It’s a little underwhelming.

And when it comes to women in positions of leadership, retail is well behind other industries, with women making up just 11.4 per cent of CEOs and heads of business, compared to 17.1 per cent in all industries.

So, there is still a lot of work to do. And while IWD rightly shines a light on this space, we at Inside Retail feel it’s important to cover the issues affecting women in retail throughout the year, not just on a single day.

Which is why we’ve compiled some of the best quotes on work-life balance, leadership diversity, unconscious bias and more from our archive. We’ve also included a few noteworthy quotes from non-retail leaders, because, well, Jacinda Ardern.

On balancing work and motherhood

“I am not the first woman to multi-task. I am not the first woman to work and have a baby – there are many women who have done this before.”

  • Jacinda Ardern, prime minister of New Zealand, announcing her pregnancy in 2018, via SBS

“I think providing women with mentors is important. Not just from a business sense, but how to achieve that work-life balance. Most women I speak to want to know how I balance a young family with work. They’re not asking me for professional advice – I certainly get that as well – but it’s more about how to juggle it all.”

“Family responsibilities have also been barriers to women achieving leadership positions in the past. Women have historically been often overlooked for leadership positions once they have families, due to a perception that their attention and focus is less on work and more on family life and the household. This has very much changed over the past few decades, with a greater focus on shared household responsibilities, modern family dynamic and the evolution of what is considered the ‘traditional’ work day.”

Kate Morris, founder and CEO of Adore Beauty

On upskilling yourself and others 

“Trying to get more women into STEM careers, not just studying it at school but careers, is something I’m quite passionate about. Every business nowadays has a significant technology aspect to it. In retail, where women are making 85 per cent of purchasing decisions, women who study STEM will be well equipped to do well and contribute value.” 

  • Kate Morris, founder and CEO of Adore Beauty, speaking to Inside Retail in 2017

“One key to rising through the ranks is spending outside hours on self-development. Learn new skill sets that will make you stand out in your role. During my first few years in the retail industry, I spent a few hours most weeknights dedicating time to up-skilling. Whether I was expanding my knowledge of social media tactics, Excel formulas or simply watching a TED talk, I know it was the effort I put in after-hours which ultimately brought me to where I am today.

  • Travis Wright, GM of Esther & Co, speaking to Internet Retailing in 2019
Dominique Lamb, CEO of NRA

On closing the leadership gap

“Female representation has always been most concentrated in customer service roles, but then becomes increasingly sparse with every rung up the management ladder…we need to see real action and a move towards workplaces that allow female leaders to progress by embracing everything they have to offer and cultivating them throughout their careers.”

“Having the right sponsor to introduce you to people, talk about opportunities with you and advocate for you in the business is statistically the most important thing you can do.” 

“For a really long time, we have assumed that leaders have to look and sound a particular way and anyone that doesn’t fit that stereotype is seen as not having merit or somehow being in that role as a tokenistic gesture. But if you normalise the difference, no-one will bat an eyelid. That person got that job not because they’re female, culturally diverse or have a visible disability – they got that job because they have merit and that’s where we have to challenge the concept of a meritocracy and what that means.” 

“Companies must put infrastructure in place to support their female employees and ensure that they receive the benefits of male and female leadership.”

  • Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of Bumble, speaking about the business case for gender equality in 2018, via the Wall Street Journal
Laura Doonin, partner and director of Moustache Republic

On including men

“I don’t think you can ask women to play a protagonist role [in their lives] and lean in if we’re not celebrating [men] playing a bigger role at home. Having paternity leave is great, but having it celebrated both within an organisation and society is where there’s a lot of work to do.”

  • Kate Box, head of retail at Facebook ANZ, speaking at the Women in Leadership Breakfast in 2019

“I really believe that change – real change – only happens in the day to day. I am trying to check my own unconscious biases, support other females around me who are pushing ahead and focus on diversity as the matrix – not gender. I also want to support the good guys around me – we need the good ones!”

  • Laura Doonin, partner and director of Moustache Republic, speaking to Internet Retailing in 2019
Tory Burch, founder of Tory Burch

On confidence

“I think there’s a tendency with some women especially to internalise and think, ‘I have to be perfect at everything before I’m going to put myself out there.’ We’ve got to change that mindset. And I think it starts with confidence.” 

  • Lynne Doughtie, CEO and US chairman of KPMG, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2017 via Fortune

“There’s always a stigma attached to the word ‘ambition’ and women. I’ve embraced it. Ambition is NOT a four-letter word and women have to embrace that.”

  • Tory Burch, founder of Tory Burch, speaking about gender equality at the launch of her foundation, via Fortune 
Anna Lee, CFO of The Iconic

On why diversity matters

“We love having a diverse team that reflects the communities in which we operate.”

“We have half a billion consumers coming through our centres every year, so it’s really important that a company like ours goes beyond unconscious bias and into action. I think leaders of industry are realising that we have a responsibility to be more deliberate and purpose-orientated. I can see the community looking to us for answers. If we don’t start listening, we risk becoming irrelevant over time.” 

  • Simone Carroll, ‎then executive general manager of digital product and strategy, marketing, people and culture at Vicinity Centres, speaking to Inside Retail in 2017

“There is an abundance of research showing that diversity of thought brings better decision-making, and this can only be a good thing when it comes to running businesses to yield performance and engaged teams.” 

“What I know is that when people have an unconscious bias, they miss out on a diverse pool of talent. This is not a women’s issue, it’s a community issue.” 

This story originally appeared on Inside Retail Australia.

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