WOB women: Wise words and leadership lessons

WOB women: Wise words and leadership lessons

If you’re in need of a little New Year inspiration, encouragement and some friendly words of wisdom to give you a kick-start on your board and leadership journey, who better to hear from than women in the amazing WOB network?

Over the years we have had the privilege of talking to and hearing from many inspiring women. So here are some tips from WOB members on how you can progress on your board journey, lessons they have learned along the way about leadership. 

On networking

In my experience, most women don’t like networking, or they don’t think they do. They see it as false and artificial, particularly the introverts among us. My advice for the business and corporate women who are driven by results, is to treat it like a task. Put it in your plan, diarise it as an action and commit to it monthly or bimonthly. It’s important for your career and external experience, but you also learn a lot in that kind of context. Even if you don’t like doing it, recognise its importance. 
Maree Taylor, Women on Boards mentor

Keep meeting and networking with other people. They can challenge you in a positive way and may see things you take for granted. I've met some amazing people through Women on Boards. Having feedback from other people who have experience is really helpful and Women on Boards is set up very well for that.
IT specialist Sharon Dickson, award-winning Diversity Champion, Transformation CIO, and beekeeper. 

Networking - always focus on what you can offer rather than what you can gain. Be patient, sow the seeds. In my experience, a genuine interaction can bear fruit 6 or 12 months after the initial conversation.
Jane Crombie, Board and Governance Specialist

Most board opportunities arise through organisations and people you've already worked with or know before, so if you're thinking of starting your board journey, don't start by applying for board roles cold, reach out to people you know and let them know you're interested in taking a step in the governance role and which sectors you're interested in working in and why and see what the world throws back. 
Marianna O’Gorman, Climate Risk and Governance NED

On mentors

Mentors can be your secret weapon. They can coach you through challenging scenarios, identify knowledge gaps, and help find suitable positions. Ideally one will become your champion, promoting you for roles within their network. 
Jane Crombie

I have taken inspiration from women leaders around me who contribute in a professional and voluntary capacity. I have also been encouraged by the amount of female and male professionals I work with who have discussed their own personal experience and pathways to board roles and made helpful suggestions for my own path.
Lelde Smits, Australian Shareholders Association Chair and global financial journalist

On leadership

I truly believe that leadership is about leaving people better than when you first met them. 
Stephannie Jonovska, Bluescope Manager Finance Transformation


As leaders, we need to relax a little and give more of our whole selves in our roles. If we don’t, we risk alienating a huge portion of people and won’t genuinely reflect our society as it is at present.
Annette Ruhotas, Civil Engineer and ESG Social Expert

On reaching out

Work out what you want and then communicate it confidently. It’s something that hasn't come naturally to me but that I've had to hone as a soft skill over the years. It’s about not being afraid to say: ‘This is the opportunity that I'd like to go after, can you help me?’ I don't think you can expect your manager to be a mind reader and know what you want.

I think some women might be a little bit embarrassed about saying that they want the CEO role or they want to run this department. But more and more I'm learning that you should be clear about what you want.

Also, be aware of your strengths and your weaknesses and surround yourself with a team of people who do have strengths in different areas. 
Fiona Lawrie, Officeworks Senior Sourcing & Quality Strategy Manager

Talk to people. One of my positions has come via word-of-mouth. I went through the formal interview process, but it was through the Board’s contacts that I was approached. I’ve learnt that not all roles are necessarily advertised and therefore, networking in person and online is critical. 
Kathryn Brown, Chartered Accountant and Professional NED

On joining a board

Do your due diligence — speak one-on-one with the CEO or CFO. Find out who is responsible for people and culture, and operations. Meet your prospective board colleagues — ask why they are interested in you? And also attend a board meeting in advance of joining — see the board dynamics firsthand (obviously sign a confidentiality agreement). 
Michele Adair, Community housing provider CEO

I think my biggest hurdle was my lack of self-belief. Like a lot of nurses, I didn’t think I had much to offer beyond bedside care… Everyone has something to offer. Start with what you’re good at and already know. 
Justine Burg, Clinical Nurse Specialist, AHPRA Board Member and avid folk dancer

  • Read more tips and succes stories from Women on Boards members here.