Successful women do not mimic successful men

Alison Pullen interviewed by Sarah Maguire for Macquarie University’s The Lightouse.

Interview with Prof Alison Pullen, Macquarie Business School. Video produced by Macquarie University.

Transcript of interview

The perfect profile of a woman to be successful is not to mimic a successful man. Young women today have seen their mothers work through the system. They see the challenges. They see the discrimination. They see the consequences in relation to work-life balance for those women that want to have careers and raise families.

What’s the answer? I think there are many answers, but I think we need to stop looking at women to fix the problem. And we need to start looking at the organizational barriers that prevent women wanting to be part of that organization.

The main hindrances in organizations are:

  1. Structurally, organizations need to address lack of diversity in various parts of the organization
  2. They need to address cultures that are sexist, misogynistic, racist and act as barriers and fuel people to exit in the organization.
  3. The ways in which managers lack the skills and experience to manage discrimination in the organization.
  4. The responsibility for improving diversity in organizations need to move from the HR department through all parts of the organization.
  5. We have to say to people that when discrimination exists, we have to call it out.

Kamala Harris’s appointment to vice president of the United States of America is ground-breaking. She’s a first. She’s an exceptionally skilled person for the role. It sends signals that times are changing.

Young girls need to see women working and advancing on their own terms.

Women who become very successful, like Kamala Harris, are authentic. They are true to themselves. They know who they are. They exude confidence.

What we see on the Vogue cover is… There are debates around why that cover for such a significant achievement. I preferred the one they didn’t use because I thought it was standing of a first woman Vice-President. I thought it was more glamorous. But here I am stressing what society expects.

Role models are essential for young girls to see themselves in places where they haven’t seen themselves.

Julia Gillard has been an important role model for women in politics and in organizations more broadly. Kate Blanchett is a fantastic role model for the arts. Sports stars are very important for young people in terms of young people seeing sports because they see the skills that you need to stay focused, to be resilient, to get back up when you’ve been knocked over, to keep persevering, to keep an eye on the prize.

To every young girl watching this, my call for action is to:

  • Think about who you are.
  • Focus on what you want.
  • Make a plan to achieve where you want to go.
  • Find the resources and the people to help you get there.

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