The SheStarts program is taking us all together on an amazing journey of discovery and conversations, starting with some of our fantastic supporters. We were lucky enough to get some time with two inspiring women in leadership roles at ANZ this week: Estelle Vorster, General Manager, Technology Corporate Centre, and Carina Parisella, Senior Manager of Strategic Engagement. We asked them about their thoughts, experience and perspective on leadership, technology and innovation.
SheStarts: Carina, Estelle; Can you tell us a bit about your life and leadership journey?
Estelle: I’m fortunate to have enjoyed a happy childhood, with my three brothers – even though we relocated relatively frequently, we were always together. Having always had a love for mathematics, my career started as teacher and lecturer in Algebra, Partial Differential Equations and Mathematical Statistics. Since then, and for the past two decades, I have been privileged to be entrusted with various leadership roles, based in 9 different countries.
Carina: I’m a mother of a cheeky but incredibly caring 6 year old boy – so one of my most important roles is ensuring balance between my home and work. When I was younger I wanted to be an actor/filmmaker/singer and somehow change the world. I studied Professional Communication at Uni with a focus on media/tv production and got a part time job working in corporate banking . This is where I fell in love with H.R. – by accident! It was working with people, building strong relationships and helping empower people to have a voice that really excited me. Since then, I’ve worked in a number of HR and Communications roles – all with the intention to empower, educate, engage and build relationships that solve business problems and give back to our community. Given my love for the Arts, I try to bring a creative edge to everything I do.
Q: What are the benefits of women in leadership?
Estelle: This may not be the answer you’re looking for here, but believe me, men & women are more alike than we often care to admit. Having said that though, I’ve found women leaders in general tend to be a bit more nurturing by nature – a boon in people focussed roles.
Carina: There’s countless research on the topic about women in leadership contributing to successful outcomes.
I think the real answer here is that it’s not just about women in leadership – it’s diversity of thought that counts.
Diverse teams. People from all walks of life. Different skills and experiences. Different cultures and religions. Different abilities and personalities. This is what counts – these are the ingredients of successful teams.
Q: What are the challenges we need to overcome?
Estelle: Pipeline, particularly in tech – this is why we’re channelling our energy to support initiatives which restore focus on STEM in schools, e.g. iCreate Lab, GGG4IT, Robogals, hosting work experience weeks for our local schools etc. Next step is to align our targets with actual pipeline.
Generally, diversity has been thought of mostly as relating to gender – we need to transcend this idea with a broader view, to include all facets of diversity i.e. ageism, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, abilities, experience etc.
Our customer base is diverse, and if we are to meet their needs, so should we. When we look at diversity through the eyes of the community we serve, we aim to mimic this also within our own organisation, to ensure a representative and balanced perspective.
Carina: I think often we can be our own worst enemy. And I think that the majority of society want to see people succeed and do well. I know from my own personal experience, that I am my own worst enemy at times. We’ve all read the stories about how women will not necessarily apply for a new role because they don’t meet every single one of the criteria. However it is more likely for men to take the ‘wing it’ approach! We need to back ourselves more and stop getting in the way of ourselves. And we can’t just blame others.
Q: Why do you believe in SheStarts?
Estelle: I’m truly excited by this wonderful initiative, and on multiple fronts – not only are we supporting our local entrepreneurs, we’re also enabling ourselves to provide our customers with more end-to-end services. With collaboration being our key enabler to jointly develop compelling solutions that make banking easy, inherently simplify the technology landscape, and to work as part of an ecosystem.
I want women like me, like my sister, my mother, my best friend – to have opportunities to see and fulfil their potential.
This is a program where any female with a great idea can do that. You don’t have to be tech savvy or have all the answers. For the woman who’s sitting there thinking they can’t do this, I want to say to them, yes you can, and we will help you and guide you through it. All you need to do is believe in your idea and how it’s going to make an impact – and others will follow!
Q: What are some of the stereotypes that we need to break?
Estelle: OK, three only?
- Myth 1: Men’s lack of emotional awareness.
- Myth 2: Women’s lack of financial acumen (and reason;)
- Myth 3: People with ASD are unemployable.
Carina: That we (women) don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t need to act more like men or be seen to be powerful and 100% confident all the time to succeed.
I think vulnerability in this business goes a long way.
Being kind and genuine is incredibly important. And as a society, we need to stop thinking that power and control is the only way you can succeed.
Q: What is your number one piece of advice to women on breaking through?
Estelle: Without wading too deep into the sea of platitudes…
We really are responsible for our own happiness. Nobody owes us anything, so let’s make our own magic. If you feel uncertain about attempting something – think: a ‘no’ you already have, and a ‘yes’ you can get.
Like my mom used to say: ‘always ask yourself: what is the worst that can happen?’
Carina: I saw it in a Ted talk recently; there’s been countless examples of success when this happens… Believe in yourself, in your idea – share that belief, people will come on the journey with you. The quote went something along the lines of “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it!” – that’s stuck with me for a long time – and I’ll always come back to it. Ask yourself “why!”
Q: What are the greatest leadership qualities you see in women around you?
Estelle: Authenticity, empathetic, transparency and selflessness. Again, witnessing these inspiring leadership qualities across gender.
Carina: People who are kind, authentic and genuine. People who are passionate about what they do and empowering others to have voice.
Q: Tell us a little about the Tech Engagement Committee (TPEC) and why it’s important.
Our People = Our Magic!
At our core, we humans fundamentally all desire to be understood, valued and accepted to varying degrees. While businesses have recognised this important need for quite some time, it has been largely overshadowed by the natural pursuit to generate profit. Equipped also with Shayne’s insights on the power of diversity of thought, we transformed from hosting a monthly women-oriented speaker series, to an inspire and invigorate speaker series, including everyone, and represented by an eclectic list of interesting speakers featuring, athletes, neuroscientists, sound engineers, entrepreneurs, etc. And launched an all-inclusive speed mentoring series, well received by both the mentors and protégés.
As part of our drive to foster a culture of giving and greater diversity of perspectives, we have become proud sponsor of our first spectrum program – we are also the first customer-facing corporate in Australia to create career opportunities for our neuro-diverse community, through recognizing the unique capabilities that people with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) offer.
We’re extremely grateful for all the fantastic support we have from changemakers like Estelle and Carina. We hope their journeys and perspectives give a few more women the inspiration to take that next daring step with their impactful, technology-enabled idea. You never know unless you try!