Eight Amazing Women on Achieving Work-Life Balance And A More Gender-Balanced Workplace

Zoey Banks International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

Rachael Robertson. Photo credit: Campaign: Yarra Trail / Photographer: Marija Ivkovic /Creative Agency: Kinc Agency

Did you know that on average, Australian women have to work an extra 56 days a year to earn the same pay as men for doing the same work? While progress is being made to address gender imbalances in the workplace and inflexible working arrangements (that make parenting all the more challenging)—there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Indeed reached out to eight incredible women at various stages of their careers to share their tips on achieving work-life balance, better gender balance in the workplace (this year’s theme for IWD is #BalanceforBetter) and the best career advice they’ve received.

Rachael Robertson, Speaker, Author, Antarctic Expedition Leader

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
The best career advice I ever received actually came from a song. It was
1984 and Midnight Oil were at the top of their game. Their song ‘Power and the Passion’ was everywhere. There’s a lyric in it that goes; “it’s better to die on your feet, than to live on your knees”. Emiliano Zapata said it first, but for a 15-year-old girl—he wasn’t on my radar like the Oils were! It was like a lightning bolt and from that moment on I made a choice to always throw everything at life; make bold decisions; take calculated risks.

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
To to put my time and more importantly, my energy, where it matters most. The most important tool I use for this is ‘No Triangles’.

No Triangles is a practice we used in Antarctica and it simply means “I don’t speak to you about her, or you don’t speak to me about him.” Have direct conversations. If someone has done something to upset you then have the professional courtesy and respect to go directly to him or her, don’t take it to a third party.

I estimate that I save between 30-60 minutes every day, in time and energy not dealing with these conversations. It means when I walk in the door at home I actually have the energy to engage with my family; I’m not burnt out.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
We need a critical mass of women in decision-making roles. Whether it’s business or government, every senior team needs a significant group of women, not just one or two, but at least a third. At the moment there is still a novelty factor around women in leadership roles and this will remain the same until we get to a critical mass. Only then will women be noticed for their capabilities and competence, rather than their gender. It won’t be the first thing you notice when a woman walks into a boardroom or parliament house.

Professor Rae Cooper, Associate Dean (Programs), University of Sydney Business School

Professor Rae Cooper International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Stay engaged in work and your career when you have babies and small children. Sometimes it feels like you are working for the superannuation and it is completely exhausting, but hanging in there is worth it in the long run. Especially if you are in a job you love. Luckily, I still think that my job is the best in the world (and I hung in there).

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
Life is a lot bigger than work. Putting career in perspective is really important. When parents’ kids are sick, or they have an athletics carnival or a speech night—these things trump work meetings and you’ll be missed much more there, than at a meeting. Also, when you go to these things, tell people you are, the more we normalise having lives and caring responsibilities and needs, the more accepted they will be.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
Employers still need to work on normalising access to flexibility and allowing parents (both mums and dads) to be able to work flexibly and without being penalised.

Ruby Lee, Founder, Own Your Hustle

Ruby Lee International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Go before you’re ready. This applied to that time I was ready to step up into a management role (I was 24), that time I switched careers from accounting into HR, and that time I decided to leap into entrepreneurship. The best advice ever is to keep growing and to keep challenging yourself to level up.

What’s your tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
Take time to define what balance means to you, not what others tell you the perfect picture of balance looks like. Discover what makes you feel relaxed, zen and in your happy place, and make time for that thing in your everyday life.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
We’ve done so well and after spending the majority of the last two years working as the only female in a male dominant office, I’ve never felt more empowered, included and heard. Keep being the most authentic you because the opportunities that come from that gender aside has never been more available to us than in this generation.

Sarah Calverley, Talent Sourcing Lead — Asia, Microsoft

Sarah Calverley International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
You can only be a workplace hero if you are bringing your whole self to work. If you try to hide or cover a part of your true self to fit in, you are not going to be using all of your true superpowers to make the world a better place. This is truly the best career advice I’ve received because for many years in my career I tried to fit in with what my manager was like, and what my team was like and it didn’t help me to progress or use my most productive passion for diversity to help others.

What’s top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
For you to feel like you have things in balance you need to pay attention to all aspects of your life and make sure you are recharging your energy to keep performing at a high level. That said, my top tips would be:

  • Become super intentional around your energy management (fill up by recharging as well as output)
  • Prioritise impact activities. Identify those big rocks in your role that are most impactful – don’t let the small stuff or the invisible work take up your previous energy
  • Be brutal about automating, nominating others and saying no as often as you can
  • Schedule time for yourself, to recharge and to work on your own dreams – make this scheduled time non-negotiable as it is a commitment to yourself

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
While we have come a long way, there is still a much further way to go. We’ve been talking about this for years and years in Australia, and yet still today there is a severe lack of balance for not just gender but culture, race, disabilities and Indigenous people on boards and in the workplace. We can change this by implementing targets, and company cultural transformation. Leaders have the biggest role to play in ensuring their teams and companies are truly diverse – don’t let them off the hook.

Every single one of us has a very real responsibility to ensure the workplace around you represents the world we live in, and that’s roughly 50% female. Figure out what you can do at your work to call this out and change the gender balance to bring more equity for all.

Laura Ford, Senior Director Sales – Growth, Indeed

Laura Ford International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
A mentor and very good friend of mine once told me to “run towards the scary stuff” and she was right. Career acceleration normally happens when you immerse yourself in something difficult, stormy or challenging. It is normally during these times that you learn the most about yourself, which then enables personal growth and development.

There isn’t a leader out there who knows it all, or hasn’t gotten something wrong (or very wrong!) I work hard every day, to remind myself that failure is a part of the learning process and that failure, while not enjoyable in the heat of the moment, often proves to be the most transformative positive initiator of all, if you know how to exploit it and learn from it. As long as I’m failing forward, I’m OK with it.

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
Let’s just take a moment and acknowledge that achieving a healthy work-life balance is hard. For me, there is no easy answer, but what I have learnt during the first 15 years of my career is that you have to listen and watch out for the signs and recognise when the balance has shifted.

It’s all too easy in today’s world to lose sight of the important stuff or take people for granted. If you’re ever in two minds about taking that special trip away with your partner to refuel and re-connect, or heading off for some solo ‘me time’ or a terrifically expensive weekend of yoga and massages (that you don’t think you can afford) remember this: Money comes back. Time doesn’t.

As my partner always says: “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said: ‘I wish I spent more time in the office.'” Say yes to listening to yourself and others and finding a balance.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
We all understand that men and women are different on many levels. They learn differently, their approach to work and how they prioritise can also vary. That said, they can also be very similar if not the same, regardless of gender. I am in a same sex relationship and let me tell you that while our gender is the same, we are very different people! I believe the mistake we can all make is presuming that we understand what another person wants or needs, and that often we don’t actively listen to understand. A gender doesn’t tell us these things, a person does.

My best tip…. keep talking about it and listening to one another. Collaboration is king: many different minds working together are better than one. Isn’t that the whole point of diversity of thought in the first place?

Gabrielle Dolan, Keynote Speaker, Educator and Author

Gabrielle Dolan International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. And this was about much more than your clothes. It’s about your mindset, your attitude, your leadership. Show people you are capable of the job well before you get it.

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
Schedule the activities that are important to you in your diary. I make sure all school holidays and other planned family holidays are blocked out for the year. I also block out the kids’ birthdays so I am not travelling. I have my gym sessions blocked out in my calendars so it doesn’t fill with other people’s priorities such as a meeting that could easily be an hour later. It’s not about being inflexible. Sometimes I do have to skip the gym for work, or run training sessions during school holidays. But if it is not in the diary, all those planned, work-life balance activities will suddenly be all work and no life.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
We have come a long way with the gender balance, but there are still opportunities for improvement. The solution needs to be multifaceted—such as quotas (if necessary), providing additional training for women to be successful in male-dominated industries, changing recruitment processes to ensure we remove unconscious biases, helping people identify their blind spots when it comes to gender diversity (and they are blind because they are very hard to see) and creating a culture that supports ALL working parents.  

Associate Professor Lan Snell, Faculty of Business and Economics, Macquarie University

Lan Snell International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
The three most important tips I’ve learnt and/or received would be:

  • Know what you are good at – what is your point of distinction, your signature?
  • Always invest in learning
  • Nurture and develop your network

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work/life balance?
Regular exercise. I run or go to the gym for mental release and focus, as much as for physical health.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
I think we are moving in the right direction on this, although would like to see more structural changes. I do think that we should address diversity in a broader sense than gender (cultural, age, cognitive, etc.) and contrary to what many people believe, I think it’s entirely possible to push for change across multiple fronts. People in leadership should reflect a broad representation such that people can see what they can be.

Zoey Banks, Head of Talent Attraction and Diversity, CBA

Zoey Banks International Women's Day - Indeed Blog

What’s the best career advice you’ve received?
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” I dream big, ask for everything I’d love to have even if it’s utopia and leave it to others to negotiate me down.

What’s your top tip for achieving a healthy work-life balance?
As a working mum I’m not entirely sure I’ve achieved a harmonious balance, but I’m doing my best. For me, it starts with having leaders and a work environment that support flexibility. Without Commbank’s iFlex program and supportive approach, life would be really challenging.

To best achieve a work-life balance, I do a nine-day fortnight and usually work from home at least one day per week. I think what has been most impactful is what I focus on; I realised I can’t be involved in everything and nor should I be. I make sure I’m there for the things that matter, whether that be family or work, and I try not to sweat the small stuff. I’m particularly lucky to have such a talented team and I trust in them to do what they do best.

We’ve come a long way, but what are your thoughts on how we can achieve a more gender-balanced world in the workplace and beyond?
I agree, we have evolved a long way, but that there is still plenty of opportunity to be better. In Australia, we’ve got some catching up to do with parental leave policies. Europe leads the way in this space and we could benefit from a similar approach. I believe corporates have a role to play to empower men to embrace flexible working better, so they can be more active in their home lives; in turn this may start to shift the dial on equality. Meanwhile, if someone has figured out a way to ease a working woman’s mental load that would be awesome!

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