With the themes of strength, diversity and innovation front of mind for International Women’s Day, Xero Melbourne started the day with a breakfast panel event to discuss the achievements and challenges of women in small business.
Moderated by Fairfax Small Business Editor, Cara Waters, joined by Xero Chief of Customer and People, Rachael Powell, the panel was made up of three small business owners who are Xero customers, Kim Peirce, Elena Andoniou and Tim Keith.
Culture of bravery
Kim – who came along with her daughter, Holly – quit her job as a management consultant in the oil and gas industry to launch her own range of body scrubs, Babe Australia. She and her husband now work full-time in the business and their product line is stocked across Australia, New Zealand and America.
“Even in a micro business we have our own diversity policy. Some days there are only two or three people in the office, but it’s important for us. It’s about creating that culture of bravery from the outset, and having diversity and inclusion at the forefront of everyone’s minds.”
When asked what the theme #pressforprogress meant to her, she said: “For me, it’s about coaching and mentoring; sharing information and empowering one another. That’s such an integral part of progress.”
Mutual respect the key
Elena Andoniou, co-founder of beverage company Those Girls, agreed – adding that gender equality stems from a place of mutual respect. “Once we develop that respect, women and men start to become acknowledged for the job that they do, rather than their gender. I truly believe that your gender does not define your desire to achieve. You shouldn’t let what anybody tells you define who you want to be.”
A shared responsibility
Tim Keith, the co-founder and director of Balance Now, works to support and guide business leaders on how to create gender-balanced workplaces in challenging environments.
“When I became a senior leader, I built a team around me that was largely homogeneous,” he said. “They looked and thought like me. Then as products changed, markets innovated and regions like Asia came to the forefront of our thinking, our team started to become irrelevant.
“I did a lot of research about team performance – and the overriding theme was diversity.
“But nothing happens without leaders making decisions to build equal and inclusive organisations. This is where men need to be involved because so many men are already decision-makers. Men can’t do it alone and women can’t do it alone. It’s a shared responsibility.”
Press for progress
“Creating change could be as little as waking up each morning and asking yourself, ‘Who do I want to be today?’,” said Rachael.
”Those aspirations need to come from within and, for me, they incorporate three key things. Firstly, your mindset: how you can learn to see a challenge as an opportunity. Secondly, your strengths: identify what you can bring to the table and focus on that. And finally, your self-compassion. Everybody has tough days, but if you can turn resentment into gratitude, be kind to yourself and share that around, we can all be pretty powerful.”