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Bright bank ideas

18 December 2013

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Senior Westpac female leaders (above right) met for lunch recently to celebrate with respected Financial Times journalist and leading London communications head hunter Heather McGregor (above left), aka Mrs Moneypenny.

Hosted by Director of Women’s Markets, Larke Riemer, lunch got off to a flying start when the one male guest in the room, Brian Hartzer, Chief Executive, Australian Financial Services, was asked to introduce Heather. (Pictured below, left to right: Larke Riemer, Heather McGregor, Brian Hartzer)

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Heather is an old friend of Brian’s and her work, especially around diversity, is close to his heart.

The hot topic for lunch was careers advice for ambitious women.

Getting the best out of people and, in fact, the best people is something Heather believes in and is, as Brian pointed out, one of the central tenets of Westpac’s business strategy to create, through diversity, the very best company in the world. So the meeting and eating made great sense.

Well known to Ruby members (her columns appear regularly on the site), Heather is also a regular at the Edinburgh Festival for her stand-up comedy, appears on her own UK TV program Superscrimpers, flies planes, shoots and cooks game and is married to an Australian who now coaches county cricket in the UK.

In Australia to celebrate the Festive Season and to fly around the country in a Cessna 205 she’s renting from Bankstown airport (at $300 an hour, we were told), Heather pegged her careers advice to her own career and life stories, relating those back to her book Mrs Moneypenny’s Careers Advice for Ambitious Women (Penguin 2012), which Ruby noticed has been read and reviewed on the dust jacket by Jeanette Winterson for The Times.

“I thought I would tell you a little about the book, mainly so you don’t have to read it,” she said jokingly, going on to say that she hoped she would be able to show us just how acting on what you observe works for others in their lives and careers, as well as your own, can have fabulous consequences.

There are 10 tips. However, the first two seemed critical: knowing your own Human Capital and Social Capital. The first revolves around ‘what you know’ – things you can demonstrate on your CV. These, says Heather, are the basic building block of any career.

The second is about your networks.

“If you want to achieve your goals in life, you need to be both good at what you do and good at building relationships with people who matter,” is Heather’s tip.

“I don’t believe in using networking as a verb - or that, as women, we need quotas to achieve the top roles. You build a network to support you to do the things you need to do to progress your career and life. Networks are not just for the social value but for how they can support you.

“I am part of the 30% Club – Growth Through Diversity, which aims to increase female representation on boards in the UK, and which targets Chairmen to get them to look harder for candidates, especially for the women who are there but are not as visible,” explained Heather, who then went on to describe how she hoped the tips she had in her book would go some way toward meeting the demand the 30% Club was creating.

Other chapters in the book include the importance of ‘learning to say no’ and ‘to feel guilt only when it is actually appropriate’.

This is not just a book about what Heather has experienced - or what she’s learnt from other women she has come across. There are practical exercises at the end of each chapter to engage the reader in doing something about their career and putting the advice into action.

At the end of chapter two, the one on social capital, the homework includes setting a goal of meeting someone new and staying in touch with them at least once a month. In chapter five (the one on ditching useless, non-restorative guilt) the homework for ambitious women includes: working out your priorities and seeing if they are in synch with each other.

Humorous quips and light hearted banter aside, there was some pretty solid stuff to walk away with and think through.

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