Women are winning in different fields, but we need to celebrate these wins, tell their stories, and make them more visible if we want to accelerate the push for diversity and inclusion, says the leader of New Zealand’s biggest bank.
According to Antonia Watson, CEO of ANZ Bank - New Zealand, a lack of confidence, fear of judgment, and fear of failure remain the top hindrances in most women’s bid to thrive and climb up the ranks in their chosen fields, an indication that much work is needed to create more inclusive spaces.
“It’s been said celebrating another person’s success will never rob you of your own. If we want to accelerate change, we need to celebrate achievements, shine a light on positivity and tell these stories – often, loudly, and proudly,” she said.
ANZ’s 2021 study about women in sports reveals the importance of strong support, recognition, and equal opportunities in enabling success among women. This means it takes the whole community, not just fellow women, to shatter gender bias.
“The findings of this report show a need for companies of all shapes and sizes to step up. Employers have an opportunity to use their influence and leadership to celebrate and champion our Kiwi women in all fields,” Antonia said.
Diversity and inclusion may sound daunting concepts especially when trying to apply them in the workplace, which is usually dominated by men. But the ANZ study discovered areas where any organisation can start.
Role models and support system
Role models play a huge role in boosting the confidence of women in every field, may it be sports or business. The same ANZ study shows that family, friends, and community leaders are main inspirations for nearly all successful women in sports.
In the world of business, this translates to leaders who can “walk the talk” when it comes to providing support for women. Leaders who openly voice out their support and create concrete policies, along with empowerment programs, could be key to building a diverse and inclusive workplace.
These leaders act not just as role models and inspiration, but also strong support systems that women can rely on when they are doubting themselves. Having vocal leaders will keep women engaged as they take on the long and winding road to personal and career success.
Recognition and encouragement
As simple as it may sound, the small act of recognising the success of women in the workplace is one good way to boost their confidence and enable them to go higher in their chosen field. And it’s not just recognising the win from afar because it’s about celebrating their wins together.
According to the study, successful women in sports felt most supported when there are people who provide their transportation, when important people show up in their games, when they have financial support for much-needed gear, and people they value celebrate with them.
In business, this could translate to creating policies that support women in terms of their unique needs, protecting their rights, providing much-needed equipment and benefits, and celebrating small and big wins with them, like promotions, birthdays, and other personal achievements.
There is a need to make the success of women in different fields more visible if we want to have a diverse and inclusive workspace. The ANZ research shows that “increasing visibility and celebration of female success is a highly motivating factor in encouraging other women to participate.”
The study suggests that normalising women champions in any field has the power to create a snowball effect for women who may lack the confidence to force their way to success in a male-dominated environment.
“At the centre of the research findings is the idea that visibility is important: ‘If you can see it, you can be it.’ We need to be optimistic and celebratory in our encouragement,” said Watson, who herself climbed up the ranks by having a strong support system and role models who champion her victories.
“I encourage you to join us in standing beside the girls and women in our lives and champion them daily in big and small ways – whether it’s a gentle encouraging hand on their back to guide them forward into a new opportunity, enabling them to give sport or other activities a go or being their biggest fan cheering from the sidelines,” she added.
Watson, who has 30 years of experience in financial and professional services across four countries, has been a vocal leader who aims to create sustainable and inclusive spaces in the industry. Her passion for inclusivity, diversity, sustainability, and gender equality keeps her going as a leader.