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smiling, laughing : san francisco (2011)


Promotion, opportunity and the myth of having and doing it all!

The following is an extract of an article written by President and member of Chief Executive Women, Belinda Hutchinson.
When I was invited to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In, Women, Work and the Will to Lead I dropped everything. Why? Because if you’ve followed the rise of one of Silicon Valley’s most powerful women (Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer), then you will know she is a strong and persuasive advocate for women at work.

Her message is clear and simple: we need men and women to work together to overcome personal and societal belief systems and the stereotypes that hold women back.

I recognised many of Sheryl’s examples of the sometimes subtle but very real barriers women face as they try to build a career. The ‘fair go’ that we like to think is in Australian’s DNA often does not apply to women at work. Sadly, recent data confirms this.

In addition to Sheryl’s key message I would add: Speak up and be ambitious for yourself. Put your hand up when an opportunity arises – don’t wait for someone to recommend you.

I have been successful in my career partly because I have seized opportunities as they arose, and you should too.

One of the best things I ever did for myself was attend a leadership program when I was at Citibank. I realised that my male equivalents in the company were not only all vice presidents, they were paid more than I was and were earning bigger bonuses. I confessed to the course facilitator that in my last salary review I’d asked for nothing. I didn’t think I needed to ask for a pay rise because I assumed my boss would recognise my contribution. Believe it or not, that’s a common mistake women make. Once the facilitator taught me ‘The Ask’ – how to speak up and demonstrate clearly how my contributions justified recognition – I was promoted and then went on to double my salary and bonuses within three years.

Speak up about the guilt of being a mother who works. Speak up about the myth of doing it all. I have always tried to focus on prioritising what is important and letting the other things go.
Speak up and ask your bosses to get involved in navigating, what Sheryl calls the jungle gym.

If we allow more women to lean in, to participate to the fullest of their abilities, we will be investing in the potential of this richer workforce to transform society and enrich all our lives.

When I was in my thirties and my father would call me to ask my opinion on the latest economic or business news, I would smile from ear to ear. These were the moments when all my struggles, my insecurities, my setbacks, and my dogged determination to try to have both a satisfying career and a full home life became worth it. I only wish he had lived to see me lean in to take the chairman’s seat at QBE. He would have loved that.

Visit the Chief Executive Women website at to read the full article. This extract first appeared on the Rural Women’s Network News Issue 4 summer 2014.

Chief Executive Women is a member-based organisation that represents Australia’s most senior women leaders from the corporate, public service, academic and not-for-profit sectors.