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11 Mar 2020
03-March 2020

International Women's Day 2020

  • Victorian Comprehensive Cancer Centre
Women in Collaborative Leadership

To mark International Women’s Day 2020, the VCCC hosted a special Monday Lunch Live lecture with senior leaders from across the alliance to discuss the qualities needed by leaders in collaborative environments to drive innovation and culture change.

The VCCC lecture theatre was filled to capacity and many tuned-in online to hear from VCCC Chairperson and Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University, Professor Linda Kristjanson AO as well as alliance member CEOs; Dr Sue Matthews of The Royal Women’s Hospital and Dr Shelley Dolan of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, accompanied by Associate Professor Kylie Mason, VCCC Cancer Education and Training Advisory Committee and Sophy Athan, Chair, VCCC Cancer Consumer Advisory Committee. 

Leaders cast a long shadow – walk the talk 

Keynote speaker Linda Kristjanson, addressed the questions: How do we define good leadership in the 21st century and can women guide us into a new era of positive, inclusive leadership?

A 2019 report in Forbes; Why Women are Natural Born Leaders maintains that once women land leadership positions they excel - often surpassing men - because they have developed ‘soft skills’ necessary for effective leadership. Traits like empathy, communication, and listening are qualities that serve women well when in management positions. Professor Kristjanson proposed that leadership traits are not necessarily gender-specific and that the ability to motivate individuals and teams around shared values is a more-likely success factor in inclusive leadership.

Sounding boards not gossip circles

All the women on the panel advocated for women to seek out safe sounding boards; “The people who enable you to be a better version of your professional self.” Kylie Mason encouraged women to look around for other women who have the potential and experience to assist.

Work on your elevator pitch

It is also about knowing what you want and what you want to say, says Sue Matthews. It is worth planning your ‘key messages’… what it is that you stand for and what you want people to know.

As leaders we also need to be able to identify the talented women in the organisation, says Shelley Dolan. “Women don’t necessarily think about putting themselves forward, so it is worthwhile seeking them out and supporting their confidence to make that next step.”

The group was keen to point out that women don’t have a monopoly on caring.

“The times we live in have been characterised by the managerial acronym VUCA,” said Linda Kristjanson, “Short for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Antidotes to these distinct challenges may involves traits that are transparent, open and inclusive, warmer and more compassionate. But let’s not align these wholly with women; to do so is potentially risky as it could relegate them to, ‘women’s business’ rendering them less effective or important.”  Shelley Dolan stressed that ‘kindess can be strong’ and there doesn’t always need to be total harmony saying, “In a relationship where there is always 100% agreement – one is not needed.”

“In a relationship where there is always 100% agreement – one is not needed.”

Equity, diversity and humanity

Sophy Athan drew out equity, diversity and humanity as signposts for leadership – as well as the capacity and courage to undertake practical planning, “You need to plan today for tomorrow’s future.”  

Perhaps one of the attributes of creating positive bias for women in STEM – or aspiring to leadership, is that it may prompt a reflection of where a negative bias exists in the first place. Affirmative action agendas and quotas are useful change agents but still, where women represent the majority workforce, such as in healthcare, there is still more to be achieved.  

View the full event recording.