How Do You Become A Strong Female Leader?
A strong female leader is one who can be herself. I have been told in the past that I am “too much”. Too emotional, too passionate (as though that could ever be a bad thing), too headstrong too opinionated. I have listened to the feedback and assessed it and often it is given through the lens of male leaders. I don’t accept it – a strong leader is a leader who stays true to her values and purpose. That is what I do, but how I do it is my decision. I am respectful, values-driven and ethical but I am not going to tone down my personality or character to suit the patriarchy and I make no apologies for this. I would encourage any leader to do the same – embrace leadership on your own terms.
Build Your Confidence
Engage with other female leaders, work with a mentor, and undertake professional development. Do whatever you need to do to build up your confidence. As a leader, you need to feel that you deserve a seat at the table, that you have worked hard to achieve what you have and that you can lead and make an impact.
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
Research conducted by Hewlett-Packard on internal hiring practices found that women only apply for roles when they feel that they meet 100% of the criteria on a position description whereas men apply for a role when they meet 60% of the criteria. This highlights the greater self-doubt that women experience, and it is time to back yourself and capitalise on any opportunities that come your way. The only way to build competency is to take opportunities that will lead to growth and development, and this is not always going to be a comfortable experience so get out of your comfort zone and step into new and different experiences.
Being a leader requires you to be brave. Brave enough to disagree, brave enough to put forward an alternative idea, strategy, or opinion. Leadership requires courage to have hard conversations, to manage poor behaviour, and to make a stand when it is required. It is not fun or pleasant, but it is the duty of a leader to do the hard things and being brave is key. Bravery is like a muscle, the more you practice, the better you become at it.
Pay It Forward
If you are a female leader, consider paying it forward. Build up the women around you by empowering them, affirming their efforts and encouraging them to develop their leadership skills. The only way we will close the gender gap is by women championing other women. The sisterhood needs more women who help others up the ladder to break through that glass ceiling.
About The Author
Sue Karzis is the Chief Executive Officer of State Schools’ Relief, a Victorian-based not for profit organisation that supports the needs of financially disadvantaged government school students by providing them with new school uniforms, footwear and other essential educational resources.
Since her appointment, Sue has propelled the charity to record numbers of impact, with the charity helping 67,200 children and young people in need, with the number and value of items distributed exceeding 255,000 and $7.1M respectively during 2021/22.
In addition, Sue has established a number of innovative production processes and relationships with a range of sponsors including the Department of Education and Training (DET), AEU, Optus, Lenovo, Bank First and Bank Australia resulting in SSR being able to impact over 85% of all Victorian state schools in the past year. In 2021/22, the not for profit is on track to impact more than 80,000 underprivileged state school children.