Carolyn Miller on workplace equality: how subtle changes can lead to big differences
In the lead up to AusIMM’s International Women’s Day Event Series, keynote speaker Carolyn Miller shared her insights on how Australia can work together to see gender equality succeed in the workplace.
Carolyn Miller loves seeing brands and businesses succeed. She has over 20 years’ experience as a marketing and advertising guru and is one of Australia’s top creative business strategists. Carolyn is also passionate about creating positive work environments and finding ways to make a positive change towards workplace gender equality, ideas she explored in her keynote presentation at the Sydney event on Tuesday 3 March.
‘There’s everyday cultural things (both words and behaviours) that happen that reinforce a hierarchy, I hope people walk away [from my keynote] feeling that they can subtly and, when appropriate, forcefully challenge the status quo.’
‘I hope people walk away [from my keynote] feeling that they can subtly and, when appropriate, forcefully challenge the status quo.’Carolyn Miller
Subtle changes are usually the ones with the biggest impact. Carolyn highlights the story of helping a colleague alter their language to be more positive and help set a great example for others.
‘I used to work with a very smart woman who was coming up through middle management. Before she would voice her opinion in a meeting, she would apologise. I pulled her aside and reminded her that she was respected, and her opinion was valued, and she didn’t need to apologise for giving it! She was a little embarrassed and didn’t really realise how much she was doing it – but when I mentioned that doing this was teaching the younger women in the office to do the same, her attitude just shifted completely. I never heard her apologise again for having an opinion, that was a great step forward in my eyes.’
By breaking the gender norms and creating a supportive work environment, Carolyn believes all women can progress in their careers.
‘Give women a seat at the table, listen to them, be constructive but realistic in feedback, and do not expect them to be the ones to clean up the coffee cups after a meeting.’
While we are on our way to gender equality, Carolyn acknowledges there are still important challenges to face. She believes acknowledging ‘unconscious bias’ is a crucial step, particularly in recruitment.
‘In hiring, we often look at men for their potential, but look at women based on what they have already achieved. I think recognising these patterns and expanding the job search could have a real impact on the way we look at a woman’s suitability for any position, and that smaller companies should challenge themselves to re-look at female applications to see their potential, not just their experience to date.’
‘In hiring, we often look at men for their potential, but look at women based on what they have already achieved.'Carolyn Miller
Carolyn is also aware of the importance of flexible arrangements in creating fairer workplaces.
‘Having the support of a partner and family is one of the less discussed facets of women achieving equality in the workplace – it is up to everyone to have those discussions at home as well as in the office.’
Ultimately, Carolyn hopes that the positives steps already being taken towards gender equality will lead to better and more diverse workplaces for everybody.
‘My ambition for the future is that there is a far more level playing field, where you do not get discounted because of your gender, your ethnicity, the suburb you grew up in, or the school you went to. I would love to see a world where success is viewed as the norm – not something that is exclusionary…I certainly believe that we are on our way to achieving this.’