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Microsoft APC 2014: Smashing the glass ceiling

Allan Swann | Sept. 10, 2014
Microsoft hosted three top female executives who discussed how they worked their way to positions of prominence in a male dominated industry, and shared their advice for women in the early stages of their career.

Microsoft hosted three top female executives who discussed how they worked their way to positions of prominence in a male dominated industry, and shared their advice for women in the early stages of their career.

The panel, hosted by media personality Adam Spencer, featured Maree Adshead, who is the CEO of the Open Data Institute in Queensland, Andrea Della Matea, senior vice-president at Insight, and Grace Kerrison, Microsoft's director of enterprise partners in APAC.

So how did these powerful women make those hard decisions between and family and work that defined their careers?

Adshead said that the decision early in her career as a lawyer at Minter Ellison to leave and join a start up, made all the difference — "I'm clearly not motivated by money."

Instead she claims that the decision was motivated by looking around at her colleagues' busy lives, and their children being raised by others. She wanted a different life, working at home "with kids running around your feet."

Della Matea said the key is in trusting your decisions, and not focusing on regrets. Her partner played a critical role, and told her to seize her career opportunities, she said.

Kerrison agrees, her family was all set to move and settle in New Zealand, but a last minute call from Microsoft MD, Pip Marlow, to seize a senior position in Singapore changed all that. She jumped at the opportunity, and moved the whole family over there. That key shift "laid the foundation" for future career successes, but she does plan to one day move back to New Zealand.

When asked what advice these senior leaders could offer young women looking to drive toward their goals, the three had similar responses.

Kerrison said young women need to look at role that's interesting, rather than cash and titles. Della Matea agrees, noting that too many workers focus on job titles rather than more interesting opportunities.

Adshead goes a step — "learn to say 'yes' more".

"How many times have I dragged myself to a function I didn't want to go to — and then met a key partner?"

Due to the lack of representation in the industry, mentoring has become increasingly important to develop the business, strategic and social skills to survive in a tough market.

Kerrison breaks mentoring down into coaching and mentoring — the former more of a sounding board (such as feedback on a meeting), the latter a long term relationship about working towards specific goals.

Adshead said it was something she never had access to during her career, but has made the effort to get involved with mentoring young women. She broke it down into informal and formal mentoring — the difference between a café chat, and a more structured feedback session.

 

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