Every March 8th is International Women’s Day. Today we are celebrating with an interview with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Central Desert Regional Council (CDRC), Diane Hood.
What challenges have you faced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?
The inherent challenges to women in our society are sexism and unconscious bias against them. It is assumed that women should act in a certain way; nurturing and caring, but at the same time when in a leadership role they are expected to be logical and decisive, which are traditionally seen as male traits. When a female executive doesn’t act the way they are expected to it is hard for them to be seen as an individual with individual strengths and weaknesses.
In the end, it has made me a better executive because I have been exposed to many different perspectives, and had to navigate through them. You have to stand up and be counted. Pretending to be someone you are not doesn’t work, but learning techniques and tools to better manage people and situations is an ongoing process!
An example of challenge was when I once worked for a multi-national company and had a track record of high performance, but my pay was significantly lower than my male counterparts. When I brought it up to executive there was push back, but I also pushed for it and ended up getting a pay rise every six months for 2 -3 years, but there was no acknowledgement of the issue whatsoever.
At some stage women need to make the decision between getting along with people, or standing up for equality. In another job, I had developed a government training program, for which I was to receive an award. At the presentation the male presenter of the award said that it was for “giving great morning tea”. I publicly refused the award, which needless to say, was not how I was expected to behave.
At the end of the day, a lot of organisations have got great policy, but it comes down to individuals to enforce behaviour. If people (male and female) don’t stop bawdy jokes or inappropriate behaviour of any sort and say “this is not acceptable”, nothing will change and poor behaviours will continue benefiting those in the majority group.
Which mentors or role models have positively impacted you in your career?
Nell Wilson was a great mentor that I paid to help me navigate a time in my career when I was deciding whether to change careers or not. She helped me confront my own part in the problems I was facing and advised what I should stop doing. She also help me see what I should not stop doing.
I have been lucky to have had several great mentors in my career and I recommend it to everyone, even if you pay for one yourself. It can be challenging, but the benefits are worth the effort.
How have you managed to balance your career and personal life?
I make sure that I have time out, with a clear division between work and home. It is important to cultivate activities that bring you joy, and also to exercise regularly.
What advice would you give to your 20-year old self?
Don’t be surprised by people’s behaviour. Always remain open to possibilities.