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Connexus : Issue 43
Building your expertise and networks, backing yourself and going for it. That's the key message Julianne Plath believes women need to take to heart when they aspire to senior jobs and directorships. Plath became chief executive offcer of Railways Credit Union in 2007 and has since joined the boards of the Customer Owned Banking Association and the AM Institute. She joined the Brisbane-based credit union soon after leaving school and took a strategic approach to building her career, returning to study for an Advanced Diploma of Business (Accounting), which she completed shortly after she was offered her frst management position in the 1990s. Although she was made deputy CEO in 2003, Plath knew she was not a shoo-in when the top job became vacant and the board started to look for someone with a degree to become the credit union's new leader. Be con dent Faith in her own ability and confdence that she was the best person for the job made her push beyond her comfort zone and put herself for ward. "It was extremely hard to do. I promoted myself directly to the chairman of the time," she says. She went on to complete a diploma course offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors and had no hesitation accepting the offer of a board seat at the AM Institute and then putting herself up for selection for the Abacus (now the Customer Owned Banking Association) board. "You need self-belief and to not let other people's views stand in your way. "If you have reached the point where you can apply for an executive role or directorship, you have obviously done things right and you should back yourself." Being mentored can help you on your way, says Plath, and both male and female mentors can be useful. "It shouldn't be a gender-based thing. For example, having a male mentor, either within your organisation or outside, can help you tap into new networks and learn more about how things are done higher up the career ladder." Plath says working life at the top is challenging and requires time and energy, so women with family commitments need to make sure support networks are in place when they aspire to senior roles. It also helps to be working in an environment or industry you really care about. "If you are passionate about your work, it is easier to put yourself forward." Know your strengths There is a business case for self-promotion, says Women on Boards chair Ruth Medd. Women on Boards partners with the corporate, government and non-proft sectors to offer information, training and support to boost women's participation in career and director roles. Women need to get over the idea that promoting themselves for executive positions or seats on boards is pushy, inappropriate or selfsh. "It's not about feeding your ego," she says. "It's about improved outcomes for you and the frm if you believe you are the best person for the position." Letting your colleagues and managers know your strengths and what you have to contribute makes sense. "Build a support base by asking yourself who you need to infuence and infor m, and do things that will make others Know your strengths It takes a focused career strategy, backed by strong self-belief, to beat gender bias. BY CAROLYN RANCE Social media is networking on steriods and if you are not using it e ectively, you are likely to be missing out on new opportunities. 40 Connexus On board