For women, the shortest path to your destination may be a circle

Blog,4.02.2021

I learned the importance of mentoring women the hard way— by working in an industry so male-dominated that the nearest role model I could find was 4000 km away.

As the manager of an airline at Darwin Airport, I had very few people I could turn to for advice. Not only was I just the second female airport manager that my airline had ever had, but the environment was very hierarchical. It wasn’t the kind of environment that encouraged questions.

Fortunately, my long-distance female mentor was terrific. I was very, very lucky that she took me under her wing. She helped me not only with the technical aspects of running an airport but even more with my communications and management skills.

We spoke a lot on the phone and I shadowed her as well for a little while, at her airport. I learned a lot by watching her. I was impressed, for example, with how she managed to never raise her voice, whatever the situation would be. Even when the baggage handlers’ and the flight attendants’ union representatives were escalating during negotiations, she never let them rattle her.

Finding allies

Looking back, I realize that my colleague taught me that if you’re a woman who wants to succeed in business, you need more than competence. You need a circle of influence, you need allies. She might have been in all the way down in Canberra but she always had my back.

I learned the importance of mentoring women the hard way— by working in an industry so male-dominated that the nearest role model I could find was 4000 km away. As the manager of an airline at Darwin Airport, I had very few people I could turn to for advice. Not only was I just the second female airport manager that my airline had ever had, but the environment was very hierarchical. It wasn’t the kind of environment that encouraged questions.

Fortunately, my long-distance female mentor was terrific. I was very, very lucky that she took me under her wing. She helped me not only with the technical aspects of running an airport but even more with my communications and management skills.

We spoke a lot on the phone and I shadowed her as well for a little while, at her airport. I learned a lot by watching her. I was impressed, for example, with how she managed to never raise her voice, whatever the situation would be. Even when the baggage handlers’ and the flight attendants’ union representatives were escalating during negotiations, she never let them rattle her.

Finding allies

Looking back, I realize that my colleague taught me that if you’re a woman who wants to succeed in business, you need more than competence. You need a circle of influence, you need allies. She might have been in all the way down in Canberra but she always had my back.

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