Women with Edge: Just What Makes Women Succeed?

New Zealand Management, April 2006 | Go to article overview

Women with Edge: Just What Makes Women Succeed?


If Women in Technology's recent panel discussion to mark International Women's Day is anything to go by, the blueprint for success includes a type of steely determination, coupled with a "no regrets" philosophy and plenty of self-belief.

Six "Behind the Lipstick" panel members, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, were initially asked to define their achievements; their challenges and what they thought the future might hold.

Robyn Kamira, a Maori women's advocate and the founder of Paua Interface, said while she didn't have a single defining moment regarding achievements, she had three insights to offer.

Have an opinion. People won't always agree but if you are in a position to speak, have an opinion. But you also have to know when to speak up and when to shut up.

As a business person, an IT person, a woman, a Maori and a single parent, "you will experience criticism ... and I have come to the conclusion that it comes with the territory ... toughen up and keep your eye on the ball".

If a door slams shut; it probably means you have to climb in the window.

Slingshot founder Annette Presley said her greatest achievement had been establishing CallPlus in Australia from a start-up to a multimillion-dollar company, along with the company she has now built in New Zealand. Her advice: "Feel the fear and do it anyway." "Keep going no matter what." And finally: "You can have it all, just not all at the same time."

The Prime Minister Helen Clark noted that in listening to the panel they all displayed positive attitudes and loved what they did.

She was most proud of being able to lead her country. Being PM was, in fact, being at the top of her profession.

Marie-Ann Billings, CEO of Estee Lauder, was proud of her achievements as CEO particularly as she had come from the training and development field.

"Traditionally in my organisation, promotions come from sales and marketing. But if you have the ability, the desire and the passion, you can get there."

Fashion designer and entrepreneur Annah Stretton felt her greatest achievement was the independence she had gained to do anything and the ability to reinvent herself.

Valerie Fogg, information services director at Simpson Grierson, said the key lesson she had learned in difficult times was to remain calm and think through any problem. The one way to deal with stress is "don't panic" and if times get tough, maintain your integrity.

As for challenges, Annah Stretton led the charge in noting that she had no regrets saying that if you make a mistake you have to look at how you could have done that differently and not dwell on it.

Robyn Kamira felt that every mistake, when looking back, became a blessing in disguise and when life does get too much--keep on going. Success, she says, is about tenacity, determination and a type of stubbornness.

Marie Ann Billings said that in taking over a new role, it was important to have confidence in yourself and to act with conviction; to be true to yourself.

Practically, she said, it paid to take notes of meetings, conversations and phone calls.

"Early on much information will come your way and it is invaluable to be able to refer back."

She also noted that it was good to promote yourself. New Zealanders and women tend to be too quiet about their achievements.

As for what they would be doing in 10 years' time--Helen Clark said no one could be PM forever and "who knows what I'll be doing ... I might be riding a bike in Tuscany or walking in the Himalayas. Whatever I do, I do with a passion and there are so many things I want to do.

"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today." Essentially, said the PM, get on with life, while you have got it. …

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