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General Manager - Business and Systems Transformation

Christine has devoted her career to thinking outside the square, taking risks and challenging the dominant culture. She believes that breaking down gender bias in the workplace is down to inclusion, respect and establishing talent pathways.

Woman pictured with 'break the bias' text skewed to the right-hand side.

Who is Christine Steele?

Christine is the General Manager for Business and Systems Transformation. Her role is to help our organisation improve its systems and processes so that we work better, swifter and with greater impact. It’s a challenging but exciting remit.

When you decided to pursue your current career, did you give much thought to gender?

I didn’t give gender any thought in the early stages of my career, although looking back I see it was optimistic to think that gender wasn’t a factor. Fortunately the public sector organisations I worked with during the 1990s and 2000s were at the forefront of equal opportunity and actively provided opportunity for women based on merit over networks. It’s great to see that many private sector organisations are now leading the agenda around diversity in all areas of employment.

Have you ever felt that your gender made it difficult for you to have a voice in the workplace?

There were times early on in my career where I would put an idea forward in a male-dominated meeting and have it ignored. I had to learn to be more forceful about ‘holding the space’ in meetings and to think about how I framed my contributions. I also found it difficult when my children were little and someone would decide to hold a breakfast meeting. To be considered a serious leader I needed to be there, but getting to a meeting at 7:15am created loads of challenges in my family.

Please tell us about one of your greatest female role models in life.

Two women come to mind: both at Deputy Secretary level in the Australian Government. These women believed in me and risked their own credibility to give me sole responsibility for achieving some big outcomes. They gave me their trust, which was empowering, and role-modelled the highest level of integrity, wisdom and calmness. In challenging situations I often ask myself, what would they do?

What do you consider to be your some of your greatest professional (and personal) achievements?

I am very proud of the work I did to support the aged care industry during the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria, when I was working for the Australian Department of Health. Within days of being called in to the role built and led a high-performing team of individuals who had never worked together before to assist many COVID-affected nursing homes. We worked around the clock for many weeks and what we were able to achieve together was incredible. I also consider my family to be my greatest personal achievement: my three adult children are fantastic people and I am a super proud Mum.

What advice would you give your younger self about the world of work?

You don’t need to get people to like you. If you act with honesty and integrity, people will respect you and that is more important. You should also back yourself. While you do need to consult others and consider their views, once you have made up your own mind, you should act with conviction.

What message would you give other women who might seek to work in your field?

If you do not wake up in the morning and feel excited about your job at least 80% of the time, it’s time to move on. I have never regretted changing jobs, even if the new job didn’t turn out to be what I expected. I learned a lot and then moved on. Also, you don’t always have to leave an organisation to get a new job. If you are working in a larger organisation, find out what other roles might be going outside of your immediate sphere.

How can men be more supportive of women in the workplace?

Men can ask women about their career aspirations and how they can support them: women are not a homogenous group and their goals will be diverse. Men can ensure that women are involved in decision-making and that they are a part of recruitment processes. They can also step outside of their own lived experience and challenge themselves about any preconceptions they might have about who is ready for promotion or development opportunities in their organisation.

How do you think workplaces can achieve greater success in breaking down gender bias?

Workplaces should ensure that women who are performing the same role as men are earning the same income. Most organisations will think that they do this, but the key is to look at data. What does the pay data say about women in their workplace, at all levels and across the organisation? They should also understand their recruitment data and consider how they are marketing jobs to prospective applicants – if there is not gender parity, they should find out why and make changes. Employers have a responsibility to contribute to positive change in this space. How do they define ‘cultural fit’? Is it about an agreed positive culture of inclusion and respect or is it code for ‘people like us?’ These are the things that need to be considered.

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