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CEO Sally Moyle on the challenges facing women in leadership

07 April 2017

Care Aust Sally Moyle

Sally Moyle (SM, above) has been working on gender equality her whole career: at the Australian Human Rights Commission for 10 years, then the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly in AusAID) and now as Chief Executive of international aid organisation CARE Australia. Ruby chatted to Sally about her experiences as a woman in leadership. Here are her reflections.

What challenges do you face as a woman in leadership in the development and aid sector?

SM: Discrimination and harassment still exist – of course - but generally, the barriers women face to equality in the workplace and in leadership are those unconscious and structural barriers that are more difficult to see. For example, we work in a long-hours culture, and with women still bearing the bulk of the burden of unpaid work, this is definitely a structural barrier to women’s advancement in the workplace.

Research tells us the workplace still bends towards the male perspective. A culture is created by the aggregation of small practices and communication styles in a workplace. Individually, they may not amount to much, but together they can erode women’s confidence and create a powerful culture of exclusion. No matter the industry you’re in, being a woman and a leader, you really have to back yourself and trust your instincts. We must call out workplace practices with confidence and stick together, and we need to operate with confidence and step forward when opportunities arise.

Do you think women network differently to men, and if so, how?

SM: The best networking happens because you like somebody – you can’t force it. I network because I want to know someone – it’s about friendship and women tend to do that pretty well, particularly with other women. In fact, we can gravitate towards each other because sometimes we can still be like islands in a sea of blokes.

I don’t think men realise how daunting the workplace can be for women. I once had a male boss who found himself for the first time the only man among 120 women, and he was unsettled by that! He said: “We’ve got to get some more men in here!” And I said, “Do you get it now? This is how women in professional life find themselves all the time!”

What do you bring to your new role as Chief Executive of CARE Australia?

SM: As Chief Executive of CARE Australia, I am leading one of the most effective aid and development organisations there is. I’m enormously proud to be contributing to fighting poverty and social injustice, especially with an organisation that is seriously prioritising gender equality. I have 20 years’ experience working on gender issues and in development.

We know we won’t end poverty without making a more equal world for women and girls, men and boys. So much entrenched poverty is caused by the inequalities faced by women and girls on many levels; from missing school, eating less food in the family when food is scarce, and not having opportunities to learn the skills needed to earn an income or find a job. This is why I’m so pleased that creating a more equal world is at the very foundation of what CARE does.

In October, Care holds its Walk In Her Shoes fundraising campaign. Walk in Her Shoes is a flexible walking and running challenge, raising funds for CARE Australia’s work overseas. Register here for more.