Women in Leadership
Viva Energy’s CEO Scott Wyatt is a WGEA Pay Equity Ambassador and a member of the Industrial Chapter of the Male Champions of Change (MCC). In early 2017, Wyatt guided Viva to set ambitious gender equity targets, aiming for 50 per cent female recruitment internally and externally each year, as well as setting a goal of 40 per cent female representation in all levels of management by 2020 and 50 per cent of the senior leadership group to be female by the same year.
Viva runs an oil refinery in Geelong and is active in supply terminals, airports and corporate offices. In 2017 it had about 1400 staff – heavily based in engineering and technical skills of which only 26% were female.
For a company that defines its purpose as ‘helping people reach their destination’, the goal was clear, and People Measures was engaged to find a path forward for Viva’s emerging female executives.
People Measures initially worked with Viva to design a pilot program with one key objective: to design a leadership program for women that did not try to ‘fix’ women, but rather work with them on the question “what does leadership look like when it looks like you?”
The pilot program had one key objective: to design a leadership program for women that did not try to ‘fix’ women, but rather work with them on the question “what does leadership look like when it looks like you?”
Based on the work of Herminia Ibarra and colleagues, People Measures looks at leadership work as identity work and in this context designed a program that explores how gender bias impacts women taking up senior leadership roles. Teaching leadership in women only groups provides the necessary holding environment to situate program topics in an analysis of gender bias and anchor women to their leadership purpose. Once aware of gender bias, women are less susceptible to its effects and more likely to put in place strategies to facilitate their leadership work. Furthermore, these women are more likely to create environments that encourage other women into leadership roles.
The Viva FLP pilot provided an opportunity for women to come together to explore what it takes for women to exercise leadership and take up authority in senior leadership roles in Australia. The program was not about ‘fixing’ women, but rather about looking at leadership through the lens of gender.
The program was not about ‘fixing’ women, but rather about looking at leadership through the lens of gender.
From pre-program discussions through to a Development Centre, four workshops across six months and regular feedback loops and development planning, Viva’s women were pushed to explore their strengths, development areas, confidence and their individual sense of leadership purpose. Participants were given live experience of challenges facing senior Viva leaders and a chance to explore how they would respond.
Four one-day workshops with an Adaptive Leadership lens covered topics relevant to female leaders, including such themes as, women in leadership, understanding personal preferences and style, values and purpose, breakthrough conversations, vulnerability and confidence, personal brand, communicating with influence and leading change. Throughout the program participants were encouraged to reflect on their performance, leadership style, aspirations and potential development actions.
Midway through the program Viva requested an expanded scope and People Measures were able to adapt to meet these changing needs.
In summary, program elements included:
- Diagnostic development centre
- Experiential exercises with ‘in the moment’ feedback and coaching
Key frameworks and concepts included:
- Adaptive Leadership
- Working with purpose
- Identity work
- Personal brand
- Strategic networking
- Face to Face
- Blended – Face to Face / Virtual
Participants reported that the program was transformational and challenging. They reported greater levels of confidence and self-awareness and were more open to feedback and having difficult conversations at the conclusion of the program. Within 12 months of program completion over 40% of participants had moved into more senior management roles.
Participants reported greater levels of confidence… within 12 months of program completion over 40% of participants had moved into more senior management roles.
Following the positive results of the pilot program, a further two groups completed the program, bringing the total number of participants to 54 over 3 years. Previous alumni of the program acted as mentors for subsequent participants.
In 2018, the Viva FLP was awarded the Australian Psychological Society’s College of Organisational Psychologists’, Workplace Excellence Award for Leadership Development and Coaching.