She who shares her story of…

Knives in my Back & a Dagger to my Heart!

The Story

I have worked in the mining industry for 15 years now. Made my way through the ranks in the Production team. I have worked in mines all over Australia and had a short stint overseas. I have completed Post Graduate studies and I have never said ‘no’ to an opportunity to strengthen my capability.

As the only female on the management table, I have been so fortunate to have an inclusive leader as the General Manager of the business I most recently worked with.

Yes…I am speaking past tense – I don’t work there anymore.

Having an inclusive leader was not enough to build an inclusive culture. While he was supportive of giving me opportunities, the rest of the extended leadership team were not. This became more obvious when he went on annual leave and appointed me Acting General Manager in his absence. With a conference at the beginning of his leave and a strategy workshop at the back end of it, it was going to be almost 3 months in total that I would be “boss”.  I was so excited and honoured. This was what I had been working my arse off for over so many years.

It was the worse 3 months of my life. The people, who thought a “woman” could not do it, did everything to make sure that they were right. The people, who did not care what gender the leader was, did not want to rock any boats with the majority and would go along with those who were driving the knives into my back rather than pulling them up on their bias behaviours.

I failed at that opportunity to show people I could do it, and that was mainly because I did not have a team working with me – they were working against me, where before when I was one of their peers they worked well with me as a team. I tried every technique my coaches taught me as a leader to get them on board…nothing worked. People said to my face that a man would not have made the decisions I made and that my decisions were too emotionally driven. People said I should have used my head more than my heart. My decisions were fine – it was just that my authentic self is different to the guy who had been leading us for the last five years.

When my General Manager returned he said “hey, don’t worry about it. It was my fault…I was the one that thought you were ready. There will be chances in the future. It was just too early. Don’t worry. You will get there.”

That was the dagger to my heart!

The Message

Diversity and inclusion is more than policies, programs, or headcounts. Equitable employers outpace their competitors by respecting the unique needs, perspectives and potential of all their team members. As a result, diverse and inclusive workplaces earn deeper trust and more commitment from their employees.

It is important to have the leader on board and committed to maintaining an inclusive work environment, however you need to consider the practices and systems you have in place to help it be more than just something you are practicing personally.

Educating leaders on how to accept other perspectives and the value of people being different to enhance the creativity and innovation in the workplace is important to help build an inclusive workplace

The Call to Action

Treat diversity and inclusion as a business priority.

Be alert and mindful to non-inclusive behaviours, practices and attitudes across the business and be seen to stamp these out immediately.

Proactively adjust your work practices and systems, so that inclusive practices can be embedded in the workplace and not just something accepted when you are around.

Build leadership programs that encourage the heart, inspire motivation and bring awareness to self and others.