Thursday, January 30, 2014

Corporate Sari revealed

This week I asked a question on my social media outlets - what does the term Corporate Sari mean to you. The answers were interesting and it seemed that we all thought within the "box" as such and made the assumption that Corporate Sari was about Asian or Indian women in particular in business.

Lets think outside the box a little. However lets understand what the Sari is or what it represents.

The traditional Indian sari, is a six meter long length of exotic fine silk fabric, hand-dyed into a rainbow of rich deep colours. It is steeped in tradition and culture.

Women wrap the Sari around their bodies, showing just enough skin to make us look sultry, alluring and sexy.

However….. the irony is, this same tradition and culture can also be an ugly burden – a burden that weighs you down.

The beautiful image created externally can often mask the ugly inequality contained inside.

I have found that In Australia we have another Sari – I call it The Corporate Sari

Look only at the outside and you’ll see the lure of reward, of position and of possibilities.

On the inside however, lurks the limiting expectations of society and the heavy hand of discrimination. And perhaps most importantly of all the weight of our own guilt and self imposed limitations.

Too often we impose a limit on what we can be and what we can achieve. We impose self-fulfilling limits, we create glass ceilings that limit our vision and our reach – and all the time we should be shooting for the stars.

The concept of Corporate Sari came about post my Vic Telstra Win. I had the opportunity to meet and network with incredible women who run successful businesses. They all have so much to offer and we all had similar experiences and stories.

Corporate Sari is a play on my Indian heritage and my Australian life.

Corporate Sari is about networking but networking with a twist.:-)

Corporate Sari is about women leaning in (Sheryl Sandberg)

Corporate Sari networking with women - women from various industries have the ability to get together over dinner and share stories and perhaps help coach or mentor someone.

Corporate Sari networking with men - I believe for changes to occur in the workplace men and women need to start networking together. So once a month we will have breakfast and the women attending will invite a "bloke" to attend with them.

Corporate Sari youth - women in business today are paving the way for our daughters and sons and it is important we network with them and pass on the experiences, coach and mentor

Corporate Sari will evolve and I look forward to evolving with it.

My message to every woman is wear your beautiful sari. Wrap yourself in its beauty, the richness, colour and its possibilities.

Your Corporate Sari allows you to be different, vunerable, smart, driven, successful and enables you to aim to have it all.

Our face book page is called Corporate Sari, I look forward to connecting with you and please share this with your friends.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Abbot claims we are at war with people smugglers

Late last week, Mr Abbot, on the Ch 10 Wake Up Program, compared stopping the asylum seeker boats to war. He also claimed that releasing information to us; the Australian public would help the people smugglers and put asylum seekers lives at risk. That he would only be satisfying our idle curiosity on the issue.

I have never heard such bullshit rhetoric in all my life from an Australian Prime Minister. Firstly Mr Abbot I don’t just have idle curiosity on this issue, rather a deep concern for the asylum seekers who are desperate people risking their lives and the lives of their loved ones to come to a country that they hope will provide them with the freedom they want.
Secondly we are not at war! We are not at war with another country or with people smugglers and making such a reference takes away from our soldiers, who are placed into actual war zones by our leaders. Places where bombs go off indiscriminately Mr Abbot, where real live bullets are shot at you and every single day you run the risk of being killed.

And here is the irony; it is from these very war zones that many of the asylum seekers come from. The war in Afghanistan was declared post the 9/11 attacks; a war we got involved in and lost 40 Australian lives in. The invasion of Iraq in which we participated in saw 4.7M Iraqi’s displaced.
Thirdly I am not sure how transparency on the number of boats actually arriving would in any way shape or form help the people smugglers.

There was a time when we knew the number boats that were entering our borders, we knew how many lives were lost, we knew the truth behind “children overboard”. Now we have no transparency, just what Mr Abbot and his team decide will satisfy the so called idle curiosity of their constituents.
When are we going to have leadership in this country that tackles this issue, works to find solutions and stop using scaremongering tactics?

Let’s have a look at some facts: (source Amnesty International, Australian Govt)

·         As per the 1958 migration act it is actually not illegal to seek asylum in Australia even if you arriving by boat.  

·         There are 1.1 refugees in Australia for every 1000 people. So guess what they are not taking over the country and our jobs or homes

·         In 2013 15800 asylum seekers arrived in Australia by boat. Every government in power never really makes public annual figures on the actual number of people who arrive and the public assume it must be in the hundreds of thousands.

·         Centre link benefits for a refugee single mother and an Australian single mother is $611. 90. Centre link benefits for an asylum seeker is $0.00

·         The number of refugees who arrive by boat who are terrorists is 0.

·         In 2013 90% of asylum seekers who arrived by boat were deemed to be genuine and those that arrived by air, who are released into the community with no detention, were almost twice as likely to be rejected as refugees.

·         Asylum seekers who arrive by boat make up less then 2% of Australia’s annual immigration

·         At any given time in Australia we have close to 60,000 who have arrived here legally and have overstayed their visas deliberately. Asylum seekers may destroy their passports however will work with our authorities as they wish to legalise their status.
There are so many misconceptions around this issue and perhaps we idle Australians need to take some time to hear stories from people who have risked their lives, given up everything and made the hardest decision ever, to leave their country of birth, spend years making their way to a country that will hopefully give them the freedom every human on this planet is entitled to. For those of you who are interested follow this link to hear some stories.

The issue of asylum seekers who arrive by boat became an election issue last year and by all accounts from the rhetoric we heard I would not blame you for believing that thousands of illegal boat people are swamping our shores and taking our jobs.

Last time I went for a walk on a beach in Australia I certainly wasn’t run over by asylum seekers desperate to get to centrelink and recruitment agencies.

Indonesia is used as a launching point and the local Government has made it very clear that sending boats back to them is not acceptable.
Since 2001 almost 1400 asylum seekers have drowned (that we know about) and if we start sending these leaky boats back more will die. Mr Abbot these deaths do not sit well on my conscience, even though I am not directly responsible for sending them back, they are dying on your watch and we voted you in.

I don’t want to read stories such as the 20 meter fishing boat that sank in June 2012. According to reports they made 16 calls for help over two days, they begged to be rescued but no one went because the boat was deemed to be in Indonesian waters and we handed the responsibility back to them. 102 on that boat died. And over the years asylum seekers continue to drown because neither the Indonesians nor the Australians will take responsibility on who will conduct the rescue operations.
My concern is that if the current government is not open and transparent on this issue how many more people will drown that we will never know about.

I certainly do not claim to have the solution however sending boats back isn’t working; putting people into detention centres for significant period of time isn’t working. Surely we can process people quicker and rather than detention centers that are expensive to maintain and have a number of social and health issues we can look at community integration programs that have been proved to work better?
We have the right to protect our borders but do we protect it at the cost of innocent lives. Remember 90% of asylum seekers were granted visas to stay here in 2013.

The issue of asylum seekers, regardless of how they arrive into this country, will never go away. I want our government to have a humanitarian view of this matter, stop using it as political leverage or scaremongering Australian public, work with public and private sector to develop solutions.
Maybe I am far too much of an optimist however I cannot believe that a country such as ours that has the wealth, the talent, knowledge and leverage cannot find solutions that may not solve the issue completely but will go a long way towards it.

I don’t want the Prime Minister of this country making statements such as was made last week. Instead I want to hear empathy, sadness, anger, determination that this is an issue we can resolve and sending boats back is not the solution.
I know a number of you may not agree with my view point and I accept that. I am a migrant to this country; I came here by choice and actually married to ensure that I maintained my residency status.

However I was born in Fiji, a country that has had political unrest and what if after the first coup  there was persecution that my family and I needed to escape from. What if I too ended up on a leaky boat and begged for the Australian navy to rescue me and my children and no one came. None of you connected to me today, reading this very blog would have known me, I would have simply been a statistic, drowned at sea while trying to enter Australia illegally.
From a pure humanitarian view point, we need to find a way through this issue. We will never stop the boats; that is the sad reality. However we can stop people drowning. Given that 90% of asylum seekers processed in 2013 were granted visas tells me that majority of the people on these boats are genuine.

I believe we can become more focused on solutions  than what we currently are and personally I don’t want to be seen as an intolerant and selfish nation.

We all know that wonderful song by the seekers - We are Australian-  there is a wonderful chorus in this song

There are no words of comfort that can hope to ease the pain
Of losing homes and loved ones the memories will remain
Within the silent tears youll find the strength to carry on
Youre not alone, we are with you. We are Australian!

We are one but we are many and from all the land on earths we come, we share a dream to sing with one voice, I am, you are, we are Australian

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sense & Sexuality - boardroom to bedroom

I was at dinner the other night with someone who I had only just met; sharing a goat curry with vegetables when I got  asked a question that at first irked me, then however intrigued me and in my usual diplomatic style I managed to hide what I felt that to get to the bottom of what he meant.

The question was “do you use your sexuality and sensuality in the workplace to get what you want”?
Interesting question isn’t it? Firstly I wonder how many male leaders get asked that same question. I would take a bet and say perhaps zero. Here was a man who by all accounts is smart, articulate, works well with women yet he felt the need to ask such a question.

My initial response was to lash out with the usual rhetoric about why do men feel the need to sexualise women however I held back on this and remained charming and calm as I wanted to get to the bottom of why he would ask such a question.
He is in a senior management role and someone who works closely with women and has as I understand female bosses.

His answer ,on why he thought I would, was based on the following; I work in a male dominated industry, I am strong, smart, quick witted and these would be qualities a number of men would find attractive and that apparently I come across as very sexual.
Clearly I nearly choked on my goat at the last comment. Interestingly he had never seen me in a work environment and yes perhaps over dinner, with a male, a woman can come across as sensual and sexual.

My rather calm response was that no, I do not use my sexuality or sensuality in the work place to get what I want. It doesn’t work that way in leadership. No matter how good you look if people don’t buy into your message or the journey you want to take the business on then they will not follow you or go on the journey with you.
Rather perhaps what I have learnt and am learning is that to lead a business you have to do so with heart and passion. That you need to bring yourself to the business; people need to connect with who you are and you are able to show vulnerability.

You must truly believe that you can make a difference to the businesses, the people and the industry; I explained to him that I know people connect with my energy, my passion, I can communicate at various levels, that I paint a picture and take people on a journey.
I can get people to commit to projects like Random Acts of McGrath, Free Hugs and Walk a Mile as these are acts that come from the heart.

That my work in Fiji over the last 13 years proves that I truly believe I can make a difference at many levels and my passion and commitment to causes.
Ultimately however I love what I do and I love the industry I work in and the people I work with.

I am reading a fabulous book called The Radical Leap Re-energised by Steve Farber and in it he writes that extreme leadership is what is required right now and he challenges leaders to live up to the following ideal:
Do what you love in the service of people who love what you do

He also writes that there are four words that describe extreme leadership.
These are love, energy, audacity and proof.

I believe I can make a difference, the work I do in Fiji is driven by this, the coaching I do with agents is driven by this, the work I do with other women in and outside of real estate is driven by this belief.

So I think or hope I answered his question, no most women in leadership do not use their sexuality and sensuality in business to achieve what they want, however if their love, passion, energy and audacity for what they do is seen as such then perhaps we (women) have two choices.

We need to accept this and keep doing what we do because to change the behaviour would not be seen as extreme leadership.

Or we spend a lot of our time defining,reviewing and assessing our behaviour and language and run the risk of becoming poor leaders who people will not follow, or want to be lead by.

Many women in leadership roles who are strong, confident women often run the risk of being seen as pushy, bossy, ballsy, selfish, vain and god help us sexual.

Check out the latest Pantene ad re this very issue.

However my question is that if women can bring extreme leadership to their businesses based on love, energy, audacity and proof it will be a wonderful mix of heart, passion, confidence and results.

What will we be labelled then I wonder?