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Women of Influence and flexible work practices – a passport to success

03 July 2014

passports analogy for flexible work practices

We’re open for business. The 2014 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence nomination process runs from July 4 to August 10, and culminates on October 22 with a dinner at Sydney Town Hall to celebrate the 2014 100 women awardees.

As part of the preliminary judging and vetting process of what amounted to more than 500 applications last year, I know from experience how important it is to have a nomination that stands out. If you know the person and know the detail around how they exert influence in their job and at work, in the community, and personally, then you’re in the perfect position to compile the application. If you don’t feel you know them well enough and would not do them the justice they deserve, I recommend writing up the bones of the nomination and running it past the person you have nominated to get them to help fill in the story and detail. It’s a really worthwhile process for both and a number of women have said they learned a great deal about themselves and the people they admire in the process. Remember: you can always nominate yourself. The 10 categories also mean you will find a place for every woman of influence, sometimes more than one. One of the categories, Philanthropy offers some sensational opportunities. It is not all about how much a person gives financially. It is also about how much time and effort a person donates and provides to charitable and philanthropic causes and the influence they have in the work they do in the sector.

Having an influence and supporting others to grow their own influence is energising to be around and wonderful to witness in action. I can’t wait to share what this year’s nominees will bring and to reminisce and revisit our existing 200 Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence alumni. It’s an invigorating thought, which is not something I can say about the fact I am up for a new passport.

Similar to renewing my driver’s licence this piece of personal administration inspires fear and loathing - and I’m sure I’m not alone in this?

It’s not because I’m vain. It’s because the people taking the shots can be so inflexible around interpretation but they don’t, have to live with the ignominy of having to drag out a shot looking like something the ‘LAPD’ might have produced to identify yourself all around the world for the next 10 years. (I suppose ‘SmartGate’, the automated border processing system, helps alleviate the pressure, but let’s face it, your passport photo is your entrée into another country and if you were a brand would you be happy with what it said about you?)

I understand we need rules around how passport photos must look, but rigid, inflexibility gets no one anywhere. My recent experience in a local chemist, for example, was so intractable when it came to the rules I had the shots deleted as soon as I saw them on the camera screen.

I was forced to stand in front of a white background – not good with my colour hair, told I must not smile at all, and that I must remove my glasses.

Flexible workplaces

The rules actually allow for cream or pale blue backgrounds to be used, which are infinitely better if you are fair; ask for a neutral expression and your mouth closed (not laughing or frowning), which I believe leaves flexibility for at least producing something pleasant, and when it comes to the wearing of glasses, my photographer (and I use the term loosely) was wrong.

As a wearer of glasses it is actually preferable for my shot to show me wearing my glasses. Why? Because when I am using the SmartGate system, it can match me to the passport shot. The alternative is to have me stumbling through border protection half blind because I have had to remove my glasses to match my passport photo.

The whole passport photo experience brought home something Westpac CEO Gail Kelly spoke about in relation to flexible work practices and business at our recent Melbourne lunch for 500 guests. For business to get the best out of its people and vice versa, there needs to be flexibility.

Building a business around the behaviours of the majority (the people in the business doing the right thing by flexibility initiatives) is also very important. To build it effectively, you need to work through the issues, have the hard and easy conversations and want it to succeed because flexibility means different things to different people. Of course, there will be those who rort the system but "the vast majority will sort out that tiny minority pretty damn quickly."

Nominations open for the Australian Financial Review and Westpac 100 Women of Influence Awards on July 4, 2014. Nominate via