VIEW: Why women need to lead by example on empowering other women

Women represent a mere five per cent of board executives and 16 per cent of board members of the top 200 utilities globally. Also, some energy companies report up to 90 percent of entry level jobs being applied for by men, highlighting the multi-layered challenges of driving gender diversity in the industry.

It was this lack of diversity, lack of support for women in the industry, and lack of solutions to driving diversity moving forward that pushed Penelope Twemlow to create Women in Power.

  • What instigated the drive to build Women in Power? 

Starting a business is a big step for anyone to take as it quite often leads to a lot of uncertainty regarding the future. However, three other inspirational women and I chose to build Women in Power to pursue a passion and to close a gap in the market for the services that Women in Power provide. Women in Power aimed to fill the substantial gap in the marketplace of the significant lack of diversity in the energy and power sector and no representation for women which needed to be addressed.

Building and working in a company around something that you are passionate about means that I go to work every day for enjoyment and fulfilment rather than merely earning a wage to pay the bills.

  • Why is it important to have camaraderie among women in male-dominated industries? 

Despite steps being taken to make room for women at all levels in all professions, the culture and demands of some professions, along with women still being perceived as the primary care giver and child raiser, make it very difficult for women who have worked hard to succeed and to thrive. 

It is extremely important that women can confide in and befriend other women who have shared experiences to not only assist them to navigate various situations, but to facilitate learning and understanding from those experiences.  

  • How have your own personal experiences impacted your approach to supporting and empowering other women? 

From a very young age, my mother taught my sisters and I that we could achieve and do anything we set our minds to. She empowered us all to be the biggest and best people we can be. My elder sister has two daughters and she celebrates their self-expression, and always has done, which is empowering them to be who they want to be.

This mentality and constant motivation is the basis of my firm belief that empowered women empower other women. 

I also believe that women are all too often held to unrealistic standards – whether it be as a mother in the home, standards of beauty as displayed by the media, or their abilities in a workplace. I have experienced that during my working life and now find it very important to shut down any negativity or unrealistic standards and to promote positivity and intelligence in their place.  

Women are fighting for equal rights and greater diversity in the workplace but it is coming at a cost. Rather than seeing women as a competitor, advocate, support, and embrace them as friend, not foe. If you see unfair treatment in the workplace, or something that you would not want to happen to you, stand up for your colleague and put it right. 

We should be leading by example and setting the standards for how each of us should be treated, which ought to be no different regardless of your sex.

  • What does resilience mean to you? 

To me, resilience means knowing how to survive despite setbacks or barriers. It is a measure of how much a person is determined, willing and able to overcome obstacles to get there. Resilience isn’t about being fearless; it’s about acknowledging the fear and taking courageous leaps, rather than getting trapped in paralysis.

  • Is it important for women to show resilience in the workplace when faced with hostility or challenges due to being a minority? Why or why not?

A workplace presents a different set of stressors for both males and females, particularly in the current economic environment which is undergoing radical change due to COVID19. In this respect, it is vitally important for both men and women to display resilience in the workplace.  

Studies have shown that women are more likely to be self-critical, to neglect their mental and physical health, and to become stressed from work and family life. Given women are faced with conflicting personal, professional and societal challenges which are not ordinarily experienced by their male counterparts, or at least not to the same degree, it is very important that women learn how to become resilient and demonstrate that resilience in the workplace.

About the expert

Penelope is a multi-degree qualified professional with 20 years’ experience in strategic and operational management, project and risk management, and governance and compliance. Penelope also demonstrates people management, organisational culture and communications skills across a wide demographic and range of disciplines, including time in the Australian Defence Force.

Penelope is currently the Vice President of Operations for Churchill Coal and a Principal Consultant for WSP. She can be found commuting nationally to all State capitals, using her experience and expertise to manage various client projects and managing a national team.   

Penelope is a sought-after speaker and author and her compassionate nature and high level of emotional intelligence allow her to provide support to all stakeholders. Penelope’s work in the diversity and inclusion fields is vast, having co-founded and now Chairing the not-for-profit organisation titled Women in Power. She is also a partner and Ambassador for the United Nation Women’s Council of Australia and national Advocate for White Ribbon Australia.