Recap of Women in Leadership Breakfast at Engage Sydney 2020


Bullhorn’s Women in Leadership series aims to provide a forum for recruiters to openly discuss key challenges and opportunities that women in recruitment face every day. Through these candid discussions, we strive to empower continuous improvements in the industry. The series runs in North America, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia enabling us to hear the experiences of women around the world. We’ve previously covered a range of topics, including imposter syndrome, training, developing female leaders, and flexibility in the workplace.

We kick-started the day at Engage Sydney 2020 by holding our third Sydney based Women in Leadership event in the last 12 months: a breakfast and discussion sponsored by our partners Broadbean and cube19. The focus for this breakfast was to celebrate this year’s International Women’s Day theme of #EachforEqual. We were joined by special guest panelists Jacqui Wightman, COO at Davidson Group, and Suzie McInerney, CEO at Six Degrees Executive, with the session facilitated by Catherine Carangelo, Vice President of Marketing at Bullhorn. These three amazing industry leaders discussed what the theme ‘Each for Equal’ meant to them, how to overcome unconscious bias, and how to build confidence.

Understanding Each for Equal

Each for equal.

What do you think of when you read those words? To different people, it will hold different meanings. Suzie said, “equal opportunity is something we need to strive for to achieve a more diverse world.” Equality is something we should strive for not just in the workplace but in society too.

There have been vast amounts of research on the benefits of having diverse groups, especially in the workplace. Suzie highlighted that ‘equal opportunities’ in the workplace are a key ingredient in being able to provide those benefits to recruitment agencies. For her, the ‘each’ at the front of the phrase that underpins the International Women’s Day theme this year means it’s the responsibility of everyone, including men, women, political leaders, and business leaders to strive for equal opportunities.

How you interpret the theme is up to you. The important thing is that those conversations are started and continue to happen across the recruitment industry.

Tackling Unconscious Bias

According to the Queensland Government, unconscious biases are “attitudes beyond our regular perceptions of ourselves and others and they are reinforced by our environment and experiences.” Without knowing it, unconscious bias can affect the way you recruit and work with your team by filtering the way you think.

Jacqui first noticed this when she became a mother. She started hearing questions like, “can you do that role?”. Suzie reinforced this by saying “the perception for women is if you only work for four days a week, then you must only be 80 percent committed to your career”.

To combat unconscious bias in internal hiring practices at Davidson, they turned to their data and developed a test to include in their hiring process. The test ensures their new hires will be set up for success in the recruitment industry in general, not just at Davidson. Since this has been implemented, the agency has seen “more hires who have different experiences”, Jacqui says, whereas before, they would typically search for someone from a different agency or that has an internal recruitment background.

If your agency doesn’t have the resources to implement large scale programs for unconscious bias, Jacqui urges you to pick one area to take action on to strive for equal opportunities: “pick one that will be a game-changer for your business and go from there”. It could be gender equality, flexible working options, or further training and development for your employees. Suzie says “do less, better” and set your priorities to drive momentum and practical change within your agency.

Building Your Confidence

‘Fake it until you make it’ is a mantra that many women may adopt, but both Jacqui and Suzie agreed it’s not something that they have ever tried to do. That all comes back to having confidence in their ability. They have successfully built their confidence over time, and they shared a few tips with the audience.

For Jacqui, her confidence came from having a clear picture of her role in the business. She knows exactly what she wants to achieve with her team and how they will get there. It’s also about being ‘credible’ when interacting with others for her. We don’t always have answers to everything, so Jacqui highlights the importance of being open and transparent in order to build credibility.

The thought of ‘faking it until you make it’ at work is “exhausting” from Suzie’s point of view. She realised being authentic, genuine, and vulnerable as a leader led to confidence for her. “Be comfortable within your own skin, once you feel comfortable to be yourself, your confidence goes through the roof as you relax”.

One final piece of advice from each of the panelists reflected their messages of having confidence in yourself. Jacqui said, “be yourself, be true to you”, while Suzie said “get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable”, as that feeling is how you know you’re growing in your roles. 

Want to see more from the day at Engage Sydney 2020? Check out the top takeaways from the opening keynote.

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