Skip to content

Category: Women and Careers

Imagine. Daydream…then follow through. See possibility, be bold, blossom.

This week I am inviting you to upload the PDF’s below and learn a little more about me and my heart’s work – Enlighten Education.

Who are we? What to do we do? Why does it matter?

I am very proud of both these articles. The first, “Creating Shiny Girls: moving beyond Bratz, Britney and Bacardi Breezers” was featured in the latest issue of the always excellent official journal of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

miller.pdf

The second, “Close to the Heart” was a case study included in the 2008 annual issue of Ms Entrepreneur Magazine. I feel honored to be included in this high profile publication alongside some very creative and savvy women. Other women profiled in the lanuch issue include Carla Zampatti, Sarina Russo and this year’s Telstra Australian Businesswoman of the Year Leanne Preston.      

ms-entrepreneur-2008-magazine-scanned.pdf 

954919_mirror_dream.jpg

Enjoy.

Success – It’s all about eliminating the wrinkles and getting the right wardrobe – NOT!

cover-23.jpgI do not buy womens’ magazines. I gave up that self-destructive little habit some time ago. I got sick of the nasty after taste ( “I really am not coping as well as insert celebrity Mum am I”? “Wow, I had no idea I could / should loose 3 kilos by next week!” “Maybe I do need to update my wardrobe”…)

However, on a business trip last week I decided to dive back in for the flight and picked up a copy of “Vive”, a magazine promoted as being aimed at “Women Who Mean Business.” 

What sage advice for business women was included in the 128 pages?

  • 15 different types of wrinkle creams were advertised – yep, I counted – including the $930 La Prairie Pure Gold featuring “finely ground 24-carat gold” WHY gold ??? Just because we can?  
  • Seven of the fourteen business women profiled were either in the cosmetic / beauty industry or in fashion – including a  four page feature story on the stylist for channel 7 Kelly Smythe. She sounds a talented, hard working lady but the story seemed to be implying that the main reason channel 7 is rating well is that the stars now all dress “for success” and that Kelly is there to “keep a check” on how they all look. Surely there is more to success than just the right pants suit?  Another full page profiled an ex-supermodel, Carla Bruni, whose main claim to fame seemed to be that she “once dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.” The magazine claimed there was more to her than just her love life – but if so, why mention it repeatedly? 
  • The fashion spread featured a model that must be no older than 15. She was obviously very young and physically almost pre-pubescent. Flat chested, all long, gangling limbs, shown wearing a 70’s inspired playsuit and enormous retro wedges in one shot – oh how “Career Gal”. And if the Editor knows her readers are older (and by the looks of all that anti-wrinkle advertising they are targeting over 35’s) what is this spread hoping to achieve other than making their readers feel inadequate?     
  • The recipe section ( you won’t see this in boy’s own BRW) featured silly, fiddly Hors d’oeuvres (what career women has time to whip up “Mulloway and caviar tartare”? “Iberico ham and quail egg tarts”??). I particularly resented the guilt loaded implication that crackers and cheese were now a definite no no and that even “risotto balls are considered passe.” Blimey – don’t come here for nibbles then.   

Oh look I could go on and on…and don’t even get me started on the tokenistic story buried up on page 114 on what Feminism means today entitled “The F-word” – mmmm, me suspects this may be a revealing little Freudian slip.

The F word that came to mind for me when reading this magazine was … frivolous.

So if it is not all about the clear skin, clothes, and the oh so modern meals – what does it take to be a successful businesswoman?

I do not profess to know all.Despite my deep love for children and years of experience teaching and designing special programs for adolescents, I will never be part of the “Mummy Mafia” who know it all about child rearing. And despite my business qualifications, years of working on improving business performance, and enlighten’s recent Award as AUSTRALIAN Small Business of the Year for Children ( Ohhh I have been dying to get this achievement out 🙂 more in a minute! )  I do not think we are perfect by any means. We just do the best we can on any given day.

However, I do think many of the ways in which we do business work well – not only as they are founded in best practice principles, but as they utilise our natural capabilities as women. I thought it appropriate to share one of these learnings here.

 HOW DO WE DO BUSINESS?

 dsc03642_edited.jpg

We are transforming options for women.

“Women can and must help run the world…women, a natural resource should be mined for energy.”

Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project

In the majority of cases, women are still the primary caregivers. We appreciate the needs of working mothers; in fact, we are working mothers! Important considerations include working predominately during school hours, allowing time off in school holidays, and having flexible meeting times eg: after 8pm when the children are (hopefully!) in bed. We also choose to support other women in business and use working Mums who have started up their own “at home” enterprises wherever possible  – Steph’s Design for graphics, Jennifer Lugsdin for PR / Media, Judy O’Connell for blogging brilliance, Tanya Mc Grady for Taxation… 

Significantly, within enlighten we have also embraced what is unique and harnessed traditional female qualities; women are skilled in effective communication, empathy, and the ability to build relationships. Women are also passionate about the welfare of all children and feel a particular affinity with the plight of adolescent girls.

see-jane-lead-9780446581592.jpgIn the very interesting book “See Jane Lead”, by Dr Lois P Frankel, it is argued that many innate female qualities make women highly effective in the workplace:
“There is a new generation of employees who reject hierarchical leadership and respond to behaviors and characteristics that women have been traditionally socialized to exhibit. Employees, volunteers and children want to be muscled less and influenced more.”

Yes. YES! I believe much of my success is due to may ability to network and influence AND I also deeply resent being bullied – who doesn’t? In recent times I have had my own run ins with business bullies. Often bullies will claim that their behaviour is harmless, just part of “hard nosed business dealings.” I don’t buy into this approach.

This does not mean we have to succumb to the child like desire to be liked by everyone. Tough decision may need to be made, and although some women find it hard to be assertive, setting boundaries will ultimately earn you respect and may even get you promoted (“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is another fascinating read by Dr Frankel). However, threats and power games destroy what might potentially be very positive, mutually beneficial relationships. 

Business is all about building meaningful relationships. With clients, with colleagues, with other service providers. Leadership development guru Sally Helgesen has gone so far as to declare women’s skills in building relationships and webs of inclusion as the “female advantage.” My business partner Francesca and I are both passionately in love with our business and when others see this, they fall in love with it too.    

I will be forever grateful to the men and women I admire who have also fallen in love with enlighten and supported us with our work. I thanked many in my previous entry after winning our State Award but want to also mention the wider network I have established that is so valued.

Clinical Professor David Bennett AO,  Head, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, National President, Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare, Dr Michele Beal, Stress Management Specialist, Greg Byrnes, Program Director 2UE radio, Jenny Lewis, CEO, Australian Council for Educational Leaders, and of course last, but by no means least, Precedent Productions, The Commonwealth Bank and all the other major sponsors of the Australian Small Business Awards who have just made enlighten the Australian Small Business Champion, Children’s Services.   

 2007-11-04-1758-13_edited.jpg

Champions!

As mentioned in a previous post, Enlighten Education were Finalists for the NSW / ACT  Small Business of the Year, Children’s Services.

The Awards, hosted by Precedent Productions and sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government, celebrate the achievements of the 1.88 million small businesses in Australia. We were incredibly honoured to be a finalist in these prestigious, national awards and were just thrilled to have WON!

dan-and-fran-on-stage.JPG

In our speech Francesca and I acknowledged the many clients schools who have supported us, and the thousands of beautiful girls who have joined us in schools and held our hand on this Enlighten journey.  

enlighten is  championing the rights of young women and ensuring our girls are empowered to respond with intelligence to the changing world around them. “

I was just flabbergasted when it was finally announced that I was also the NSW / ACT Small Business Champion Entrepreneur of the Year! Oh my! Official Press Release

Winning such an incredible Award has made me stop and reflect on why I have been so driven by this work. I thought I would share some of my motivators with you here… 

The heart connection.

When I was two years old I was badly burnt; I received third degree burns all down my right arm and neck. As is often the case with burn victims, I also suffered two major secondary infections – german measles and the potentially life threatening golden staph.

Growing up, my feelings of inadequacy due to this scarring were quite overwhelming; I was a bright, popular and ambitious young girl but my main preoccupation was with my scars and how best I could hide them from the world.

 me.jpg

And as we choose to believe we are less because of how we look, and our inability to conform to a perfect image, we become less.

In my adult years as a teacher I explored ways in which I might come to terms with my burns, indeed in many ways teaching forced me to come to terms with them as I was now a role model – if I could not accept myself, how could I possibly ask my students to accept themselves?

I became aware of the importance of a dialogue around gender and identity, and of the urgent need to help girls come to terms with the mixed messages about beauty they were being bombarded with. Although the scars I had to accept were more obvious, so many girls carry scars of their own.

With enlighten I have created a platform from which I can question, encourage and spread love, light and laughter.

The head connection.

One of the many things that I love about enlighten is the fact that we celebrate diversity and recognise that women are many things; our workshops focus on the girls as consumers, friends, students, budding career women …

I too see myself as the sum of many parts. Whilst I definitely connect with this work on a profoundly personal level, if I am being entirely honest part of my motivation for creating enlighten also emerged from my compulsive desire to innovate and create – I am most stimulated when involved in designing and leading new projects and in seeking creative ways around problems. I also find the business sector enormously stimulating – hence my desire to undertake post-grad. study in business management.

I am also a person with firm beliefs and a strong sense of justice; I have always had a strong interest in gender issues and in empowering young people to reach their potential. For me, enlighten has provided a fabulous opportunity to combine my skills in innovating and promoting with my own personal passions.

Both the desire to be a successful manager and a change maker are equally as important to me. I have always approached my work with a commitment to quality and have been at times quite hard on myself (and perhaps Fran) in my pursuit for excellence. Yet what other way is there? I believe our young people deserve more than just good intentions. This underlying approach to my work also partly explains why enlighten was never established as a non-profit. I think it needs to be good enough to be highly valued in the market place; I did not want to rely on hand outs. I have seen too many programs that have been funded externally become complacent, inflexible and more focused on quantity than quality.

The hand connection.

Nothing drives my success quite like seeing the faces of the girls we work with (they literally transform – from looking tentative and perhaps even dejected to shining).

For me, there is no greater motivator than simply being with my girls – all my girls – the teenage ones we work with in schools, and my amazing staff.

danni-and-her-entrepreneur-of-the-year-trophy.JPG

I would like to publicly acknowledge here all the friends, family and colleagues who have nourished and challenged me – intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

Much love and respect (in no particular order!) to all the enlighten girls – my “Amazons”- Frantabulous ( enlighten’s co founder and my partner – how can one girl be so yummy? I could not have possibly selected anyone better to share this all with) , Sonia ( Program Director, Victoria) , Storm ( Program Director, Queensland), Jane (Program Manager, Adelaide) and the NSW “dream team” – Mel, Kellie, Lucinda, Monica, Nikki, Donelle and my scrumptious “Admin Angel” Christine.

Thanks to all our client schools and particularly to those women in leadership I have been blessed to developed a real friendship with – Ann, Amelia, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Sarah…

My former managers and colleagues in the Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Parramatta, who had faith in many of my ideas and allowed me to innovate – I shall always be equally as proud of what I achieved by founding the Lighthouse Project ( a youth mentoring program for at risk students, now coordinated by the brilliant Melinda Phillips) and “Project E”, a program developed to foster entrepreneuralism in young people and show them that enterprise is about adding value, not just making money. I was so blessed to have worked in an inspiring environment and with people of enormous integrity: many, many thanks to Leo Keegan, Cathy Smith, Magda Quinlan, Kerry Stirling, Mick Bezzina and Kevin Jones. Dreamers all. 

Gratitude too to my TAFE colleagues Rob Hart and Anne Ford, and to Barry Calvert, Jennie Rudder and Vicki Clark. What fun we had growing Lighthouse and seeing her shine! Hundreds of young people have literally been saved by this amazing program and the beautiful mentors who commit to acting as role models for young people who are particularly vunerable. I am so proud to see Vanessa and Melinda continuing and indeed expanding on this work. 

Love to my family and friends – you know who you are. 🙂

   

Women and Success – Daring to Shine

  • I want to share with you some very exciting news – enlighten education has just been short listed as a State Finalist in the Small Business Champions Awards, Children’s Services Category.

These Awards are hosted by the Commonw814218_silhouettes.jpgealth Bank and the Australian Government and are the largest and most prestigious national awards for small businesses. Judging is made based on an assessment of our performance in key areas including the services we provide, our commitment to our clients and the local community, the results we have achieved (business growth, external awards, recognition given by industry experts etc) and the ways in which we develop and motivate our staff. We are all exceptionally proud of this achievement and optimistic that we may take out the Award when the announcement is made late October. Fingers crossed.

I have also, much to my surprise and delight, been listed as a Finalist for Small Business Champion Entrepreneur.

The entire award process has got me thinking about some of the personal qualities one must have (or, conversely, the qualities that need to be developed) to achieve professional success. Recently, enlighten has been contracted by the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) through Vocational Education and Training to run a series of customised Career Gal programs for girls in Years 9 – 11 in ten Western Sydney schools. The DET Project Coordinator (Vicki Clark) agreed that in addition to our standard careers program for girls ( the program focuses on identifying the skills required for success in the modern workplace, examining issues relating to women and careers, resume writing, entrepreneurialism etc) we should deliver our core body image workshop. The rational behind this was that unless girls can move beyond their all pervading concern with body image and poor self esteem, they will not be able to reach their full personal or professional potential.

When in Victoria recently for the annual Alliance of Independent Girls School Conference, I was fortunate enough to hear American Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project and President of the Ms.Foundation , speak on why women can and must help rule the world. I think she best sums up the importance of offering a body image component to our Careers Course when she states, “ Have we closed the gap in politics and in business? No – there is a host of barriers – cultural and emotional, societal and historical that keep women from getting traction. We must deal with these perceptions…one of our major problems is that we don’t think we have a problem.” Deborah Rhode, expert on gender equality at Stanford University sums it us thus: “Many traits traditionally valued of women (humility, passivity) also perpetuate women’s inequality.”

Until we can get the girls to see that they can do, be and desire for more – and that in fact it is ok for them to not only develop their skill sets, but actively promote their achievements, they will not engage with the changing nature of work.

I ran the first of this series of events at a Penrith High School last week with their Yr 9 girls. The results were fantastic and their comments reinforce the importance of a holistic approach towards career development –

career_gal.jpgI thought it would be boring and just about careers but we did self esteem stuff too and that made it really fun and made me feel positive about the whole day and my future. Larissa

I really appreciate everything you said. Thanks for today as I learned I CAN be what I really want to be and that I am a beautiful girl. Mel

  • I thought it would just be a person talking about careers and nothing else which would be boring but Danni caught my attention and it was all interesting. I learned the media changes things, to feel good in my own body, that girls have a lot of insecurities but really we can do it! Writing a resume that shows we have skills and are confident is really important. Today was FUN! Anon
  • All of it was truthful and amazing. I learned everything from how to treat people with respect to achieving the right strategies to get the job I want. Reegan
  • Ok – today was life changing! AMAZING! I learned I am beautiful, unique, and I can put my skills together and write a resume and get good career advice. THANK YOU DANNI.Chelsea
  • The lady Danni was amazing and had a massive impact on my whole career, you’ve got to work for what you want. I will. Jacoda
  • Aim high, respect life and each other, be positive. All the facts today were true and meaningful. Kaylah
  • It was really effective. I learned how to write a good resume, the skills workplaces are looking for, to have confidence in myself (as I do have skills!) and to think positive. Melissa

Whilst we are all aware that a positive self esteem is a desired employability skill, perhaps we need to more actively support girls in developing this before we try to get them interested in articulating their other skills in a resume or in a mock interview situation. Indeed, this capacity to recognise and articulate our talents and achievements is a skill all women in the workplace need to develop.

Whilst studying towards my MBA we examined gender differences in the workplace and how they can impact on recognition of performance:

There is certainly evidence that gender differences in self-assessment generalise to the work situation; Lindeman et al (1995) found that female staff in a sales and marketing company were less likely to overestimate their performance – which was measured objectively – than were males… In the context of feedback processes, Wohlers and London’s (1989) study of self-awareness in managers showed that female managers tended to rate themselves lower than their male counterparts and lower than their own bosses rated them… Higher levels of feedback might reduce the false confidence of some male managers and increase the self-efficacy of some of their female counterparts. If this turns out to be the case, then 360 degree feedback will have proved to be a very significant process in the evolution of organisations, the development of their effectiveness and the enhancement of equality. ” (“The implication of research on gender differences in self – assessment and 360 degree appraisal.,”Human Resource Management Journal., London, 1999., Clive Fletcher.)

team-2007.JPGThis external recognition of our work does therefore, mean so very much on so many levels; it models for the girls we work with that we are not only proud of what we do, but prepared to put our hand up and say we do it well! As Marianne Williamson (a wonderful writer on spirituality and women’s worth) so eloquently states:

“There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you…and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence liberates others.”

May you all continue to shine – and seek opportunities that allow others to see you are large. XXXX

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar