Time for women Leaders to step into power and pave their way to c-level

20 March 2021

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The more time goes by, the more we realise the benefits of having women out of the home and into the workplace. However, there are large lacunas that still need to be addressed and a mentality shift that needs to be enforced to reach true equality. This was brought about during the Women’s Day Business Breakfast organised by JCI Malta and JCI La Valette as part of the women’s day related “celebrations”.

One of the points that was brought up for discussion was that of gender quotas in Malta and the 5 panelists were asked whether they agreed and disagreed with the concept of gender quotas and why. This question was brought about in the light of the bill currently under discussion in Parliament that is proposing a gender corrective mechanism, whereby up to 12 extra seats would be added for women if they make up less than 40% of the House of Representatives after an election. Additionally, Europe has been trying to push for its member countries to introduce mandatory quotas for women on company boards.

Juanita Brockdorff, KPMG Partner, explained how it would not be the first time that fully qualified women appointed to boards that have imposed gender quotas are resented by their male colleagues. “They are resented, even though they are fully qualified and deserve to be in that specific role. Their male colleagues almost imply that the only reason they managed to make the board is because of the quota and resent them and their opinion. They end up treating them as less than, even though there’s fundamentally no reason to,” explained Brockdorff.

On the other hand, Sarah Woods, Co-Founder, Owner and Director at SHE: Social Hub Entrepreneurs, looked at the quotas element from the other side of the coin. She remarked that there is a huge gap that needs to be addressed and unfortunately there’s the need for a law that would enforce mechanisms like quotas. “However we should not stop at that, we need a societal paradigm shift. Women should no longer be seen as the caregivers. We need to encourage women to aspire to be in leadership roles,” she insisted.

Women's Day Online Business Breakfast

Stephania Dimech Sant, the CEO of Richmond Foundation, recounted her own personal experience following occupying several senior positions for the past 20 years. “It was a stressful situation and it made me realise just how much harder women need to work to get their validity recognised. But we have started moving in the right direction, especially if women start also supporting other women,” Dimech Sant remarked.

Fran Moisa, JCI Malta’s Vice President for Partnerships & Training, who was moderating this panel discussion said how based on research, men are more likely to apply for jobs which they don’t have all the qualifications and qualities for, while women, on the other-hand, apply for jobs that they feel that they tick all the boxes for.

“Women hold themselves back, while men push themselves forwards. All those women who made it to senior positions need to take it upon themselves to remind their junior colleagues that they don’t have to be afraid. I’ve seen women refuse promotions because they don’t realise how competent they are. Women tend to not go for it unless they feel they are fully prepared, while men tend to wing it. The women that are pushier tend to be the ones that succeed,” said Brockdorff.

Bringing her daughter as an example, Liana Cremona COO of Recruitgiant, explained how we still have a long way to go for a mentality shift. “I see this through my daughter – people might look at her as bossy when the truth of the matter is that she has strong leadership skills. As leaders we need to be responsible when hiring. People that just tick the boxes aren’t necessarily the right people for the role,” Cremona explained.

Looking at the topic of free childcare and whether such an incentive is enough to encourage women to join the workforce, Anita Mirasole, Head of Corporate at FJVA, said that she has come across women that see family as the main barrier for their career. “In Malta there’s this culture of long working hours as well, which is not supportive of people that have a family. The corporate culture also needs to change. Another reason why women feel held back by the family is because they don’t trust men enough to do jobs related to the home and caregiving,” remarked Mirasole.

Adding on to the topic, Dimech Sant said that it is time that we revisit our standards and also allow men to improve and become better within the home. Additionally, Brockdorff also weighed in and said that family management should be something that every couple discusses before getting married. “The fact that we don’t discuss this with our partners is a stumbling block we’re making for ourselves,” insisted Brockdorff.

At the end of the session, the panelists weighed in to put together a list of advice for women who want to focus on self-development and growth. Together they came up with the following 9 points:

  1. Get qualified
  2. Find yourself a mentor to guide you
  3. Apply for that position that really interests you, even if you are not “qualified” for it
  4. Believe in yourself – success is your own responsibility
  5. Don’t be scared to share your opinion, even if it is rejected
  6. Build a strong network and support system
  7. Don’t try to be everything to everyone
  8. Be authentic
  9. Never give up

The panel was made up of Juanita Brockdorff (KPMG), Liana Cremona (Recruitgiant), Anita Mirasole (FJVA), Sarah Woods (SHE) and Stephania Dimech Sant (Richmond Foundation). The session was moderated by Fran Moisa, JCI Malta’s VP Partnerships & Training.

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