Career Woman

Stepping up: Why women need to put themselves forward for the top jobs


According to the New York Times, there are more men named John running large companies than there are women in the top job. What a statistic. Proof, really, that the glass ceiling is merely cracked; not even close to being broken.

Isn’t that a downer for all the young women today? In fact, talent management firm Saba and, conducted a study which found that young women are increasingly losing their ambition to secure high-level jobs. This issue has been referred to as the ‘aspiration gap’.

So, what’s the solution?

Women have a duty to step into leadership roles, not only because we are capable and competent, but also to demonstrate to younger generations that it can and should be done. Hopefully, young women will look at those high on the corporate ladder and think to themselves ‘she’s no different to me, I can definitely do that’.

We are the champions

Growing up as the daughter of Greek immigrants, I never dreamed that I might be a CEO one day. My parents stressed the importance of education, but leadership was not something that I had even considered until much later in life, when a female boss who mentored me and championed my ability, set me on the path to leadership.

I, like many women, am not great at self-promotion. However, my boss did for me, what I couldn’t do for myself. She informed everyone of the outcomes I had achieved and she made sure that I had a seat at the table. Before leaving her role, she ensured that I was part of the Executive team, making me more visible and giving me access to networks and experiences which I had not previously had.

As my experience and confidence grew, I realised that I could dream more, learn more, do more and become more but none of this would have been possible if not for the belief of my manager in me.

Aspirations in stats

In my current role as CEO of State Schools Relief (SSR), I am the first female in this position since 1930. It is quite remarkable, that in all of these years the position has only ever been held by men. The Board, which is predominantly made up of women and men who champion women, saw a different kind of leader in me; one who might do things in ways that hadn’t been done before.

My 16-year-old self or even my 23-year-old self didn’t think that a girl like me could be a CEO. And it seems that’s still the case for many young women. According to a report done by Deloitte, millennial women have lower aspirations to secure top jobs, mainly because they have less confidence in their leadership skills. The survey found that just 47% of women aspired to take on the top job in their organisation compared to 59% of men. On top of this, just 21% of women gave themselves a ‘strong’ rating when it came to their leadership skills. This is supported by a report conducted by McKinsey and which found that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 79 women are promoted. In Australia, while a recent survey conducted found many millennials believe men and women make equally-effective leaders, it found that women are twice as likely than men to leave a job because they didn’t feel they had a future at the company. Problematic to say the least.

Join me in arms

Here’s what we can do collectively.

It is my mission to tell young women of all ages, that they can aspire to be leaders. We need them to know that leaders are not a special breed, that have not gone to particular schools or come from the stereotypical privileged background, with all of the benefits that it brings. We need to ensure the young women of today understand that anyone and everyone can grab that top leadership position and thrive in it.

Remember, I am just a woman who is passionate and experienced in a particular field, and it is my passion that has driven my success. The more we normalise leadership, and the more rich and diverse role models who exist, the better it will be for the generations to come.

It only took the belief of one woman to show me what was possible. Imagine what thousands of women in the top job could do.

About Sue Karzis

Sue Karzis is the first female Chief Executive Officer of State Schools Relief, a Victorian based not for profit organisation that supports the needs of financially disadvantaged school students by providing them with new school uniforms, footwear and educational resources during times of vulnerability. Since her appointment, Sue has propelled the charity to record numbers of impact, assisting over 56,000 financially disadvantaged Victorian school children in 2018 alone and has set the goal of positively impacting 70,000 underprivileged Victorian school children in 2019. Under her leadership the not-for-profit has distributed items exceeding $5M, widely promoted SSR’s own independent uniform label, Students Choice, established the SSR Ambassador Program, worked with 180 schools who have donated approximately $124,000 through a range of school based fundraising activities during the 2017/18 financial year and collaborated with a range of corporate sponsors including Bank of Australia and Bank First, which has enabled SSR to impact 83% of all Victorian state schools during 2018.

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