Welcome to our Beyond Recruitment Women in Leadership series, dedicated to the journeys of women in leadership across New Zealand businesses. There’s currently a lot of discussion around women not being in leadership roles, not joining the executive ranks or not serving on boards. We’ve found however, that there are so many stories to share of women who have done well in leadership, and so many organisations that are running fantastic programs to allow women to grow in leadership roles.
Our first interview is with ANZ General Manager Shared Services, Keren Roberts. We celebrate her path through leadership and take note of her insights for young women looking to find their way as leaders.
An Uncertain Beginning
Keren began her career uncertain of where she wanted to go. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I looked in the paper at the situations vacant and saw lots of jobs in technology and thought, well okay technology is clearly going to be the future.”
Keren’s intuition quickly set her on the path towards management, and eventually leadership. “Technically, I look back and my first opportunity to lead a team was when I was reasonably young, perhaps 25 or so. But I don’t really feel I was leading at that point, I was managing. Cutting my teeth on leadership and the management of teams.” It wasn’t until Keren was given the opportunity to lead a larger team that she began to realise what qualities were behind a good leader.
Get Comfortable with Curiosity
Keren’s biggest piece of advice to women looking to become leaders is that the earlier you start to learn what it means to be a leader, the better. “Read as much as you can, take advantage of interviews like this or also contact senior leaders that you are aware of…and just be curious about their careers.”
“I don’t feel I started really learning and understanding it until a bit late, and sometimes I think it would be good to have had the experience I have now 20 years ago. So get into it as early as you possibly can.”
“When I talk about being curious I say to people, go have a coffee with people in your organisation or peers in a different job to you. It might feel a bit awkward but people generally love to talk about themselves.”
Keren also says that it’s important to not shy away from conferences and interviews. A leader who avoids opportunities to practice public speaking can miss out on practicing an important skill as well as building their networks.
A Controversial Question
Building a career or raising a family is a controversial question that many women face throughout their career. Keren reminds us that it shouldn’t always be a choice between the two. With support at home and at work, both can be done together.
“To have a career you don’t have to work 70, 80, 90 hours a week” Keren highlights. “Many organisations are starting to realise that diversity is really important. Having a group of people that are all of similar ages, races or genders puts you in danger of groupthink.“
“It’s very hard to innovate and be creative as an organisation and really challenge thinking if you don’t have diversity around the table. And that’s one of the things women bring.”
Keren went on to discuss whether New Zealand is doing enough to foster women leaders, “It does still feel like that there are many organisations in New Zealand that haven’t really worked out that diversity means they’ll be more profitable and more successful in the future.”
But when it comes to how women can embark on their own journey through leadership, Keren thinks self-belief is key.
“Don’t wait for their executive committee to put a program in place, you can do it yourself.”
A huge thank you to Keren for taking the time to talk to us and share her journey, insights and advice.
Watch this space for the next edition of the Women in Leadership blog series, and if you have a great story you’d like to share, then feel free to get in touch.