Jacqueline Lehmann Vogel Managing Partner Women in Leadership International had an international career as a senior executive before she embarked on starting her own business. Driven to ‘be the change she wanted to see’ Jacqueline started Women in Leadership International to increase the gender diversity in the top leadership ranks of traditionally male dominated organisations across Europe and Australia.
She knows from personal experience the benefits that leadership diversity brings and the challenges that women in executive leadership roles face, having undertaken roles as Country Managing Director and Region Vice President in Europe and Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific for large multinationals and Fortune 500 companies.
What motivated the changes and transitions in your own career journey from global corporate executive roles with multinationals to starting your own businesses?
The motivation to start my own company was to have control over making a real change. My passion is to drive the change necessary in Australia, to make a difference and have an impact on placing women into leadership positions.
I have been most fortunate throughout my career to work and lead talented teams. However, even when you are at the helm of an organisation, the ability to make huge fundamental changes within multinational companies can often be slow. I have always been impatient and frustrated with the pace of change. If you want change you need to create it.
From your own executive experience as Country Managing Director and Region Vice President in Europe and Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, what makes an effective leader?
A good challenge. Challenges make you a better leader. Sometimes these challenges aren’t the most popular. For example, turning an unprofitable business into a profitable one. When leading a team with a big profit challenge, it is important to be clear about the vision, how you are planning to achieve it and ensuring that everyone understands. It is paramount that everyone in the senior leadership team are aligned, accountable and are fully committed to the plan to assist in moving forward in turning the vision into reality. Finally, always have the best people on board before you start the process. And make sure that they are far better than yourself!
Tell us about your success internationally in placing women into executive leadership roles in traditionally male dominated industries.
Interestingly and quite surprising to know is that we meet far more CEOs in Europe and Asia who are prepared to be personally involved in adding more women to their leadership team. They seem to be more open to embrace our company’s ethos to recruit more women for senior executive positions. This has resulted in two interesting search assignments where our company is about to place a number of very talented females with our overseas clients.
How can Australian companies increase the success of their diversity and inclusion efforts?
Gender balance is a matter for the boss. If the CEO is not becoming personally involved in making a change then we find diversity and inclusion often pushed down into HR. One of the so called ‘pink’ functions which has been struggling for years, not only to get a seat and a voice at the leadership table, but struggling to align the various HR functions with the key strategies of the business.
Most of the large organisations are now creating their own “Diversity and Inclusion” function. Not surprisingly these are often headed up by women, many of whom have an impressive track record, but often one which is too far removed from the core business. In my experience, once you create a function to address a problem that is deeply rooted in the culture of the company or even in society, it can have a negative impact on commitment. Just because a function has been created, everyone feels that it’s going to fix the gender imbalance, and the pressure is off.
Your greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge in building Women in Leadership International has been educating companies to understand that gender balance or rather the lack thereof is a systemic and multifaceted problem.
If company leaders are not coming to terms with the fact that women are just as much part of this world as males, then progress around diversity and inclusion will not happen. If we continue to question if a women’s work adds the same value as their male counterparts and that women should be equally remunerated, then we are still far away from making real progress.
A systemic problem is only getting fixed if the processes in politics, sport and in the corporate world change. This is just not happening fast enough, or not happening at all. If we believe that it’s hard for women to land that C-Level job, they face exactly the same problems when they are trying to survive in politics. Or when they start their own business, and are required to deal with these large corporations.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of what I have achieved in my corporate career and with the businesses I founded, while staying true to my personal values. I have always stood up for myself and for what I believe in. This has not always been the easiest path, where speaking my truth may have costs some career gains and business deals. However, I wouldn’t take it back. Preserving my values and speaking my truth is what makes me a proud hardworking female.
Advice for future female leaders.
Focus on your Business Skills. In pursuit for that great executive role, women are usually prepared to invest considerable time and money in their personal development. They listen to career advice and they rarely say no to educating themselves to build on their leadership skills, confidence and communication skills, to survive in a male dominated corporate world.
Throughout my career I have come across many women who are a lot more confident and present themselves much better in high level job interviews than many male candidates. They rarely lack confidence or fall short when it comes to the leadership skills. They are often much better prepared to become a viable contender for a position.
The key business skills and expertise that are vital to be considered for a high-level position are commercial skills, in-depth business understanding, industry knowledge, business and financial acumen and having achieved tangible business results. They are most often the decisive factors that tip the scales in favour of a candidate. Unfortunately, these are areas where a woman’s track record often does not stack up. So, make sure that your development focuses on those strategic business areas.
You are the female economy. Whether you are a female consumer, business owner or a woman in the workforce, you can create gender equality by choosing female led brands.
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