Pulling power of sticky floor

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Career one -

Rather than the ‘‘ glass ceil­ing’’ pre­vent­ing women from mov­ing into top jobs, it could be more a case of ‘‘ sticky floor’’.

Jen­nifer Alexan­der, CEO of Aus­tralian Health Man­age­ment NSW and ACT says that in some cases women are keep­ing them­selves down: they’re not re­jected for a po­si­tion, they are sim­ply not choos­ing to go there.

‘‘ Some­times women of­ten don’t put them­selves in the land­scape,’’ Alexan­der says.

Alexan­der orig­i­nally grad­u­ated in medicine but af­ter some years as a clin­i­cian re­alised she was more in­ter­ested in man­age­ment. She un­der­took fur­ther study and in the late 1980s left her po­si­tion as med­i­cal di­rec­tor at St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal, Syd­ney, to be­come the CEO of West­mead Hospi­tal.

‘‘ I’ve found that of­ten women don’t feel pre­pared for a role whereas men will put their hand up for pro­mo­tion and are pre­pared to take the chance. If there are 10 char­ac­ter­is­tics re­quired for a job women won’t ap­ply un­less they have nine of them whereas men will ap­ply even if they only have five or six — they are pre­pared to take the risk.’’

For 10 years Alexan­der worked in­ter­na­tion­ally in man­age­ment and lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment in health un­til 2004, when she was head­hunted for the po­si­tion at AIM. She says there were a num­ber of ex­pe­ri­ences that shaped her as a man­ager. ‘‘ One of th­ese was when I found my­self ‘ act­ing up’ in a CEO po­si­tion for some months while my boss re­cov­ered from an ill­ness. This ex­pe­ri­ence taught me I could do much more than I thought, that it is im­por­tant to stretch your­self and, lastly, that it is im­por­tant to sup­port man­agers at all stages of their ca­reers in ob­tain­ing fur­ther qual­i­fi­ca­tions and skills.’’

Alexan­der points to the view of au­thor, aca­demic and speaker Jill Ker Con­way, who says women tell their sto­ries dif­fer­ently. ‘‘ Men con­quer ad­ver­sity whereas women in­ter­act with the world dif­fer­ently, they are more self­ef­fac­ing.’’

Alexan­der sug­gests ask­ing friends and fam­i­lies for feed­back and ad­vice. ‘‘ Ask them what they think are your strengths and weak­nesses — some­times oth­ers see in us what we can­not see for our­selves.’’ He­len Ben­nett

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