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Tips for successful leaders this Women's Day

Tips for successful leaders this Women's Day

Jane Merrick has a high-profile career, a driven group of people in her team she embodies success for, two little kids who look up to her as a role model, and at the end of the day, the ability to smile while she gets things done.

And the question is, how does she do it?

Celebrating International Women’s Day today with the theme Be Bold For Change, we’re commemorating how far the world has come in acknowledging equal rights for women in the workplace and in life, and how far it still has to go.

In this spirit, we had a chat with Jane Merrick, General Manager - Marketing and Customer Experience at IAG.

Having a remarkable career across some of the biggest companies in the country, Jane joined IAG in 2009, working in different roles across brand management and consumer insight and progressing to become the Head of Marketing in 2014, then GM in 2016.

Jane generously offers advice from her own experiences for women and men to have successful careers that positively impact people and organisations.  

What are some of the things you've learned that could help women to advance their careers?

Always say yes to opportunities, even those that scare you.

These are the experiences that will usually take you out of your comfort zone, where you then grow.

Have you ever had to overcome any gender-related roadblocks in your career? If yes, how did you overcome them?

I have certainly encountered the "boys clubs" before.

But I realised pretty quickly I could never be part of that, or compete, so I chose to focus on what I was good at, and developing relationships in the way I could.

I strongly believe great work and effort will be recognised, regardless of gender.

How do you think equality for women in the workplace has changed over the years?

Equality is not just with gender, it should be across all areas of diversity and inclusion, regardless of race, sex, culture or background.

We still have a long way to go to get real equality; however, I think there is now a greater visibility of the challenge, and focus on organisations to be actively doing something about it and proactively address the issue.

What are the traits that make up a great leader?

Three things: Integrity, empathy and authenticity make a great leader. 

As a woman who has been in a number of leading roles, what are some of the challenges you've faced being in charge?

Making tough decisions which impact people you care about is one of the hardest things to do.

This can include difficult conversations, confronting and challenging situations you may not have been in before, and then leading people through the change.

What keeps you motivated and drives you on a daily basis?

I have two small children; I want to be a strong and successful role model for them.

Furthermore, I love working with a great, talented team and seeing us all achieve success together.

How do you manage stressful situations?

I work out a release mechanism - whether that's through exercise, talking or working things through with a helpful friend or colleague, and then trying to step back and look at things rationally and removing emotion - sometimes easier said than done!

How has your confidence grown throughout your career?

Confidence grows with a greater acceptance of who you are, and how you can contribute, knowing your strengths and your areas of opportunity.

Embracing challenging situations is crucial, and being OK with not knowing everything, because nobody does.

What does work-life balance mean to you? And have you achieved it?

I do not believe in the term work-life balance - I believe in life balance.

I try to balance everything as much as possible, recognising sometimes, there are occasional swings to either side, but it all works out in the end.

And be disciplined about where you spend your time, to ensure you have the right amount of focus on you, work and your personal life.

What are some things you'd like to see improved for women in the workplace?

A few things actually. We need broader acceptance of flexible working options.

It’s also essential to have an increased level of child care support from organisations to make return-to-work easier after having children.

And we need more women in senior management, especially at CEO and board level.

In December 2016 there were only 10 female CEOs in the top 200 20 ASX listed companies; that’s an imbalance that needs attention. 

Do you have any advice for women who are starting out in their careers?

Everyone has imposter syndrome and thinks there is someone better who can do the role - but most likely, that is not the case.

Accept that YOU are the best person for the role, and embrace the uncertainty.

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