To celebrate International Women’s Day 2017 – Be Bold For Change, we wanted to share a snippet of Alison Monroe’s story. Alison is the National Director, Sageco – a RiseSmart company, and is frequently asked to present on a range of topics including the ageing workforce, mature age transition, diversity and inclusion, gender pay equity and career transition. This morning, she had the privilege of celebrating International Women’s’ Day with over 90 senior leaders from Allianz. In sharing her own #BeBoldForChange story, Alison wanted to inspire leaders to take action – small and large steps to personally further gender parity in their own roles and teams.
Here Alison shares a snapshot of her journey to boldness:
Exposure and experience.
I grew up in a household shaped by my father’s employment in a global IT company. I had the opportunity to live in different places when he worked on international assignments and meet my father’s co
lleagues and family members from diverse backgrounds. My mother encouraged my development as a keen dancer. I performed for charity events for children with heart conditions and from a young age developed a deep empathy and sense of inclusion. Performing also gave me the confidence to present publicly – something I really value in my professional life.
One of my favourite performance highlights growing up was being in ‘My Fair Lady’. I so enjoyed the fabulous Sydney production last year – but what struck me some thirty years later looking through an experienced gender lens, is the extraordinary misogyny of Professor Higgins and the deeming of Eliza’s success only as she attains ‘perfection’. Despite this, Eliza does come into her own and triumphs.
When we seek perfection, it robs us of many opportunities. We all – but particularly women – subconsciously strive for perfection. Working in career transition, we know that when applying for roles, women don’t typically don’t apply unless they meet 80% of the criteria; for men, it’s just 30%. This is a completely unfounded confidence gap which we seek to address in our coaching and workshops.
Dive in at the deep end.
I started my career in hospitality management. In 1993, I was selected for the Marriott Hotel’s North American HR graduate program based in Boston and fronted up to lead the TQM (Total Quality Management) program. I had no idea what TQM was, and there was no google or internet to save me. Did I let on? No, sometimes you have to fake it till you become it. Needless to say, I scurried around, borrowing industry magazines and text books to quickly understand TQM and be one step ahead.
From that Marriott experience, customer centricity and delivery excellence became deeply ingrained in me. We have a Sageco mantra that ‘every moment matters’ and I attribute this to my Marriott days.
Know when to step up, step in, and step away.
While I have a natural inclination to embrace every opportunity, sometimes we need to take a step back and consider what lies before us. In 1997, I was on the cusp of a promotion to General Manager – the youngest person in the UK hotel chain to have this opportunity. But something caused me to stop and reflect; there was a world of opportunity that I still wanted to explore. I took a sabbatical year and intended to return. I didn’t (and I hope they’re not still waiting for me). Instead, this led me to Australia, eventually gaining the role to manage the career transition program for the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games – a chance of a lifetime. Whilst in this role, I met the father of my beautiful daughter and the co-founder of Sageco (Catriona Byrne). The groundbreaking work we did in career transition and the exposure to the 50 000 strong volunteer workforce (many of whom were mature age) really planted the seeds of Sageco. I stepped up to start a business that I believed would make a profound difference to mature age people in career transition. Thirteen years later, this has proved to be true.
Be an agenda setter | Believe in yourself | Never give up.
When we started Sageco as a then niche consultancy in the ageing workforce and mature-age transition,
we were so fortunate to have the insights a panel of sages, one of whom was our former CEO, Sandy Hollway. He reviewed our business plan, leant back and said, “You are early in an immature market.” He then paused for effect and said, “Which is a great place to be.” Phew! I became an agenda setter, surrounded by experts and people smarter than myself. In 2013, I was honoured with the Women’s Agenda Award for Agenda Setter. I had to believe in myself enough to submit the application. As women, we need to back ourselves. Put our hands up and don’t shy away from being acknowledged for the good work we do and for what we stand for.
In 2015, I took on the role of a WGEA Pay Equity ambassador. This has given me unique opportunities to share my passion for inclusion and to challenge
business mindsets. At Sageco, we are intentionally supporting our participants to fully understand pay equity and thus empower their job search and conversations.
Leading Sageco has been a long journey and there were plenty of reasons to give up along the way – as any business leader or owner would attest. As a practice, my team and I start our week, every meeting, every quarter and evey year with the questions: What are our most important things? At the beginning of 2016, one of my Most Important Things for Sageco was global expansion. Nine months later, our acquisition by Randstad began and we were brought into the RiseSmart fold. Sageco is now a RiseSmart company, empowered by revolutionary technology with the global reach of Randstad. At the beginning of each week, my team and I communicate the “Most Important Things” for the week. This creates focus and tenacity
Invest in yourself |Love what you do
I have learnt the hard way that you can’t be a good employee, manager, mother, partner, daughter or friend if you lose perspective and start to unravel. I have forged new flexible ways of working that better support my well-being and my family relationships. I have taken the time to participate in programs that I’m passionate about. In 2012, I invested in trekking through Vietnam and visited an orphanage for Good Beginnings Australia – a life changing experience. I truly believe that if you love what you do, you never have to work another day in your life.
As part of our commitment to raise awareness of gender equality, we run gender pay equity workshops for employees in transition. The session today was highly interactive, fostered confronting discussions and raised bold questions. Participants left the room with strategies, tools and resources to close the gender pay gap as an employee or a people leader.
Be bold for change
International Women’s Day for me is about taking action. What steps can we take as leaders in our organisation to shift mindsets and further gender equity? It often starts with a conversation. What conversations do you need to have?
Our Be Bold For Change Gallery