IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Karyn McLean

March 11, 2021

Disclaimer: Please note that all commentary and opinions provided in this interview are those of the individual and not the organisation/company they are employed by. 

What does “choose to challenge” mean to you? 

Choose to challenge resonates strongly with me. We as a society, and women more specifically, need to challenge the status quo more. But, I think that we need to do this in a different way than we have done for the past 20 years of my career, and the 40 years before that of my mother’s career, and the 20 years before that of my grandmothers’ careers. Instead of continuing to examine the problem in or of the status quo – focusing on assessing the flaws in our systems that prevent equality, including the who and what and why, or continuing the never ending discussion of how we can fix the flaws – we need to focus on the WHEN. When are we going to have equal opportunity? When are boards, management, MBA class intakes going to be representative of the communities they serve and profit from. And we should not accept step up goals – 20% in 5 years isn’t good enough. Nor should we accept decade long timeframes. This isn’t something that needs to be eased into. We are ready for it now. That is what Choose the Challenge means for me – stop asking why and how. Start asking when. 

What is one lesson you learnt the hard way? 

I was advised early on in my career by a well-meaning boss that titles didn’t matter. He was wrong. Titles do matter. Especially if you are a woman. One of the easiest barriers to put up to keep people away from the table is that they are ‘not senior enough’ or they are ‘not experienced enough’. The proxy for that judgement is title. So, if someone ever tells you titles don’t matter, fight harder or walk away. If they really want you, a company will make the title happen. 

What is one thing women don’t talk about enough? 

Ambition. Women don’t often have conversations amongst themselves, or with bosses, recruiters or their network about their career ambitions. It feels uncomfortable to say “I want to be”, “I want this much”, “I want to manage”. It feels aggressive. It’s perceived as aggressive. But it’s not. It’s a basic statement of your frame of mind, your plans for the future, your confidence in yourself. And if you aren’t having conversations about where you want to go, how can you ask for help to get there? How can someone offer you help? So it is a sliding slope. If you are not being open and transparent about where you want to go, you can’t engage others to help you get there. We need to stop that. We need to get to a point where it is normal course to have these conversations – no judgement, no shame, only simple transparency.

Click below to read the full edition of IWD2021 #ChooseToChallenge: Female Leaders Across The Globe.https://indd.adobe.com/embed/bb2678fd-fafb-4e5f-b57b-bbe97612e7cf?startpage=1&allowFullscreen=true