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Lean in

While there are many women both in and out of the Australian Public Service (APS) that don't hesitate to seek out and grab opportunities when they arise, a growing body of research shows that women don't always put themselves forward as willingly as men often do. The reasons for this can be various.
Perhaps they don't think they are 100% ready, they may not feel supported at home to take the plunge or they over-attribute the capabilities of others going for the same role. Whichever the reason women, it's time to step up and lean in.

Don't just rely on the system

The Australian Public Service has comprehensive recruitment and recognition processes. They are based on merit and designed to assess an individual's skills, capabilities and achievements. Yet, they are just one side of the equation. The other side is you. How you sell yourself, how you draw attention
to your achievements and how you convey confidence in your own ability to get the job done. The system can't do that for you. And let's not forget, the man next to you applying for the role or promotion is putting together his own side of the equation, often not holding back.

Here are some tips in putting yourself forward:

  1. Don't shy away from praise. Accept credit where credit is due. Thanking the person for noticing always helps.
  2. Actively seek opportunities. Women are less likely to ask for opportunities than men are. Putting an ear to the ground or joining a network can reveal a whole range of prospects. Then it is just a matter of putting your hand up alongside everyone else's.
  3. Speak up. Men can sometimes take up the airtime and leave little room for other perspectives to be heard. Don't be afraid to speak up first in meetings. Have confidence and back yourself, don't leave your comments until the end of the meeting when research shows they are less likely to be noticed.

Don't settle for less

Gender conditioning over the years has meant that women often settle for less than they are entitled to and put the desires of others before their own. Being the traditional carers often feeds into this mentality and whilst our society wouldn't function without its carers, it is important to not confuse
the role of the carer with your career aspirations.

Do your research. Find out what opportunities are available and the paths people took to get them. Importantly, don't bend to the expectations and prejudices of those around you. Understand your value and be brave and confident in showing what skills you have to offer.

Communicate effectively

You still have to work hard. There are no short cuts here. Leaning in is about effectively communicating your hard work. Try the STAR method:

  • Situation. Briefly describe the context
  • Task. Describe the task you were given or even assigned to yourself
  • Action. Explain the action you took. Here is the bit where you highlight your role in the achievement.
  • Result. Don't forget to finish the story with a happy ending. Managers are all about the result – can you meet the needs of the department? Can you connect the task with the objective? What where the tangible benefits to the group as a result of your actions?

Sheila Wellington

Institute for Women's Policy Research

If you lack the courage to ask your supervisor for something, then the answer is always 'no'. What's the worst that could happen?

It's ok to lean out when you need to

Raising families, caring for loved ones or simply needing to take some time out for a while isn't a bad thing. Both women and men should feel supported at work to take time out, request flexible work arrangements, or choose a different path.

What's important is that you have the courage, opportunity and confidence to step up when you choose to.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018