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Celebrating Women at Brother International Australia

08 March 2023
Corporate News

During the month of March and in observance of International Women’s Day, we celebrate the strides made by women in the workforce and their contribution towards breaking down barriers and paving a way for future generations of female leaders.

At Brother International Australia (BIA), three leading women – Dorothy McDonald (Head of People & Culture), Jade Coote (Head of Marketing) and Leigh Murray (Head of Finance and Supply Chain) - exemplify what it takes to be successful in the dynamic and evolving technology sector.

At BIA, we are dedicated to creating an environment that celebrates women, their achievements and talent. To further demonstrate this commitment, we’re delighted to present our Q and A session featuring Dorothy, Jade and Leigh.

From embracing innovation in new roles to changing the face of corporate diversity, these three leaders bring a unique set of perspectives that open up exciting opportunities for business partners, customers and team members alike.

Tell us about your background working in technology/leadership

Dorothy: I have been a People leader for over 20 years in a variety of industries that have included professional services, manufacturing, graphic arts, telecommunications and business solutions. In all these industry sectors I have participated in the evolution of business operations due to the rapid growth of technology and the impact it has on the way we work. My journey as a leader with Brother commenced in 2016.

Jade: I have worked in marketing in the wider tech industry for much of my career; covering B2B, B2C, lifestyle, etc. and they’ve always been traditionally very male dominated industries. I remember a very first sales and marketing conference I attended as a junior in the marketing team and being the only female in attendance. I remember being the first female in my company to be given the opportunity for part-time employment when returning from parental leave (and being provided with support and development opportunities following this). I also remember being in the Executive Leadership Team (ELT) at a previous company and was the only female voice of the group. I am extremely proud to have helped make this path a little easier for other females coming after me.

Leigh: I’ve worked across several industries as a senior finance professional in both permanent and contract roles. This has given me the opportunity to witness a range of different ways of working, both from a business process and management-style perspective. In developing my leadership style, I try to replicate elements of leadership which I’ve observed and personally experienced that had effective outcomes. I do believe that leadership is a learnt skill, structured learning is valuable but ultimately, it’s the real-life situations or ‘runs on the board’ which allow you to iterate and continually develop and enhance your leadership style.

As the industry has evolved, what changes have you noticed for women?

Dorothy: There are more opportunities within the technology sector for women than there was 10 years ago. We are seeing greater recognition and acknowledgement of the achievements of women leaders through professional bodies and thought leadership. Women leaders are being heard and are guiding, influencing and paving the way for the development of future leaders.

Jade: Fast forward and I am now surrounded by and leading a group of intelligent, passionate and creative females of diverse ages and backgrounds (and equally as intelligent, passionate and creative males) within my team and the wider BIA business. I also feel fortunate that we have two incredibly inspiring females (who are featured in this article), that make up 50% of the ELT at BIA.

Leigh: Women have always been part of the tech industry – think back to the significant roles women played in breaking codes at Bletchley Park during the Second World War and the brilliant African-American women working at NASA during the space race – the difference now is that there is a greater aperture (and simultaneously more accessible media content) on the value women bring to leadership and business. There has been improvement and more opportunities for women as forward-thinking companies recognise this but there is still a long path ahead.

In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up leadership roles in the future?

Dorothy: Why … because they bring a different perspective to the table, they think differently, tend to be more empathic, are good at collaborating and problem solving, and they are under-represented in leadership roles.

Jade: Having a conversation with my 11-year-old son on why some females are treated differently; gender pay gap, not acknowledged for contributions, not offered the same opportunities, and in some countries still to this day not being allowed to go to school or vote, his reply was simply “WHY?”. While progress may sometimes be slower than we hope, having meaningful conversations with our leaders of tomorrow, today, who simply get it, will ensure we have more to celebrate each year. Or in fact, nothing to celebrate at all because it becomes the norm rather than the exception.

Leigh: Gender balance introduces diversity of thought. Bringing people with different skills, life (and career) experiences and broader perspectives together to understand a problem results in fewer assumptions being made and ultimately a better solution. The more diverse the group, the more innovative the solution. The same can be said for inclusion of all marginalised groups, not only women.

What advice would you give to women looking to progress their careers in tech?

Dorothy: There are many different departments that you could work within a tech organisation to enable you to progress your career. Within the organisation, actively look for opportunities to join a project team, develop a personal learning and growth plan, discuss with your leader where you would like to see yourself in three to five years. Self-development; keep up to date on industry trends, grow your industry network, attend conferences and seminars, be open and willing to embrace all learning opportunities that may come your way.

Jade: Personal development and training can be the bridge that takes you from ‘business as usual’ to true innovation. Investing in yourself through continued learning via formal or informal channels (there are many!) is the best advice I can give for keeping pace. It not only gives you additional tools and skills, but confidence and motivation to progress.

Leigh: I wholeheartedly echo both Dorothy and Jade’s comments and would add that, at the risk of stating the obvious, ownership and responsibility for your career progress ultimately rests with you. Skills can be taught and learnt, attitude cannot. Take initiative and be proactive, keep (respectfully) asking the question “why?”, don’t settle for the status quo. Finding ways to work smarter does not always equate to necessarily working harder. Ask your leader for a ‘seat at the table’ in appropriate meetings to facilitate learning through observation. Lean into change and disruption, learn to become comfortable in the uncomfortable. Finally, actively work your network!

As a leader, how do you lift women up and promote female innovation in the Brother workplace?

Dorothy: In my role, I act as a mentor and coach to all our leaders both male and female. One of the challenges many women face in the workplace is the lack of confidence in their abilities. I encourage each of them to step out of their comfort zone in a supportive inclusive environment to have a voice and facilitate opportunities for them. It often surprises them how empowering it is.

Jade: I try to do what I can, with what I have, to challenge and change the mindsets of our current and future leaders. Listening, encouraging, supporting, being their biggest cheer squad and providing that safe space to do all of the above.

Leigh: I strive to remain as authentically ‘me’ as possible; I’m the same person whether I’m sitting at a boardroom table or a dining table. The adage that ‘actions speak louder than words’ rings particularly true for me; by being transparent, supportive and inclusive as a leader, my aim is to create a psychologically safe environment for my team to excel as well as learn from opportunities where things may not have worked out as expected.

What is the most important message you want to send out to women thinking about their careers?

Dorothy: Look for a career that interests and energises you, know that career paths take many directions and as you continue your journey there may be career opportunities that you have not thought about or may not exist now but will in the future. Learn and embrace new skills as this can open up new career opportunities.

Jade: It’s far too easy to look at someone who has achieved great success and glorify their achievements – instead we should perhaps consider the number of times they’ve ‘failed’ before they even saw a fleeting glimpse of success. What comes from failure is resilience, adaptability and growth. Don’t be afraid to try something new and know that your ‘failures’ are making space for something much better in your life.

Leigh: As we navigate the new norm of living and working in a post-COVID world, concentrate on developing your soft skills. The need for distilled and clear communication is at the heart of how we engage as is the ability to work well with others. Effective teamwork, adaptability and interpersonal skills are key to progressing your career regardless of the industry you currently find yourself in.

What prejudices have you faced throughout your career?

Dorothy: The first time I sat in a room full of male leaders (it was some time ago) the atmosphere changed when I entered, conversations stopped and everyone turned with that quizzical look ‘what is she doing here’.  Being the only female leader in a sizeable organisation during that period of time meant you had to find your own way to be accepted as part of the executive team and you were expected to convince them you deserved to be there, which at times was tiring.

Jade: There have been times, leading large multi-national marketing functions within male dominated industries – that I have had to work harder to be seen, heard and respected and not be viewed as the “head of the crayon department” – true story!

The path forward

Dorothy, Jade and Leigh have identified key issues concerning gender equity in business, particularly the tech industry. On behalf of BIA, we are grateful to all three of these amazing female leaders for taking the time out of their day to give us greater insight into their experiences and perspectives.

Although strides have been made in securing more opportunity for women, there remains so much untapped potential for their contribution. With initiatives and measures being introduced to foster meaningful opportunities for women, the path forward seems bright.