Media Release, 17 November 2014

A survey of leading Australian business women shows 84 per cent take on responsibility to mentor the next generation of women, in a bid to tackle gender equality in the workplace.

The survey of 125 state and territory finalists in the 2014 Telstra Business Women’s Awards also found that 78 per cent believe active sponsorship as well as mentoring are essential tools in breaking down barriers for women in business.

They believe sponsorship encourages confidence with 83 per cent saying “confidence to challenge and influence authority” is one of the key personal attributes women need to succeed in business.

The survey, which focused on changes business women have experienced in 20 years since the Telstra Awards were launched, was carried out ahead of the National finals in Melbourne on 26 November.

Asked what they’d change for women in business, the finalists named more senior leadership opportunities and gender pay equity as the top two issues - 39 per cent said they have encountered a pay gap compared with a male doing the same job.

Asked what’s needed to close the gender pay gap, 70 per cent said “employers willing to act to close it” while 59 per cent said “women becoming better negotiators over pay.”

Among many changes in the past two decades that have significantly impacted women in business, the finalists listed public debate about gender equality, less emphasis on gender stereotypes, and a recognition that gender diversity improves organisational performance.

Family support (58 per cent) and technology (53 per cent) were listed as the most important factors helping the women to achieve work life balance, ahead of the employer’s flexible work practices (47 per cent) and outsourcing (31 per cent).

One of last year’s winners, Harcourts Victoria CEO Sadhana Smiles, has called for both men and women to start “a ripple effect” to bring on true gender equality, saying domestic violence and the percentage of women and girls as refugees and among the world’s poor are as much a part of gender equality as women in leadership.

“Gender equality is not just about the workplace or what we get paid. Revolutions start as a ripple. If each of us, men and women, choose to start a ripple, no matter how small, we would effect revolutionary change and it would not take another lifetime for our children to achieve gender equality,” Ms Smiles said.

Vanessa Nolan-Woods, General Manager, Commonwealth Bank’s Women in Focus said, “Women in Focus brings together women from a diverse range of industry and experience to share their experiences and learn from one another, from both their triumphs and challenges. It’s these connections that provide the opportunity for businesses to grow and women in business to flourish.”

“At Women in Focus we believe when women work collectively together to help each other, we will see more women thrive in business,” she said.

Thirty-seven women who won 2014 state and territory awards are national finalists for the Telstra Australian Business Women’s Awards. For finalists and winners across Australia the Awards offer a share in $650,000 in cash and prizes.

Further findings from the survey of 2014 Telstra Business Women’s Awards finalists:

  • Inspiring your team was chosen as the top attribute of successful leadership (92 per cent) followed by vision (90 per cent), confidence (76 per cent), strategy (68 per cent), hard work (63 per cent) and risk-taking (48 per cent).
  • Ten pieces of advice the finalists said they’d give other women included:
    • To be honest to yourself and others;
    • listen to all advice but stay true to your beliefs and values;
    • back yourself and draw on your intuition and emotional intelligence to make better choices;
    • never give up or let your ego get in the way;
    • If you are a leader, scaffold other women to follow in your path;
    • Be your authentic self;
    • Lead with confidence, flexibility and compassion;
    • Praise, praise, praise;
    • Learn to say ‘no’ at times and don’t apologise for it; and
    • Be exceptional at what you do and your gender won’t matter.
  • 73 per cent of those surveyed currently have or have had a mentor or sponsor
  • Of those who currently mentor, 39 per cent support between two and four women, with 38 per cent supporting more than four
  • 47 per cent believe Australia does a good job of fostering women entrepreneurs while 49 per cent said the nation could do better
  • When asked how they balance work and personal commitments, many women said they outsourced activities including cleaning and dog walking, ironing, childcare, book-keeping and gardening
  • Asked how they prevent burnout, the Awards finalists listed diarising personal time, taking regular short breaks, meditation and exercise
    • One said: “I don’t feel I have been successful in this. It is easy to prioritise everyone and everything else. I feel this is a constant battle that a lot of women face.”
  • Ninety-six per cent believe their physical fitness influenced their focus and productivity at work. Asked how many hours a week they devoted to their physical wellbeing, 18 per cent not enough or none, with the majority five hours or less
  • Asked for the biggest inspiration on their life’s journey, 35 per cent of participants said their family, 23 per cent their mother, 19 per cent their father, 10 per cent a teacher and 12 per cent a public figure, including Gerry Harvey, the late Paul Ramsey, Oprah Winfrey, Jennifer Lopez, Anita Roddick, Steve Jobs, Vivienne Westwood and Florence Nightingale
  • 46 per cent rate the importance of using social media to build a personal and/or business brand as high, 44 per cent as moderate and 10 per cent as low
  • 42 per cent thought Julia Gillard’s experience as Prime Minister will encourage women from entering public life while 23 per cent thought it a discouragement and 35 per cent weren’t sure

More information on the Telstra Business Women’s Awards can be found at