There has never been a more exciting time to be at the helm of an organisation that employs ambitious and strong female leaders.

The new wave of feminism that has been dominating the media, through movements like the #MeToo campaign, has brought about much needed awareness on issues of workplace sexual harassment and misogyny. It has duly earned a firm place in the dialogue and agendas of organisations across multiple industries all over the world.

But for me, sadly the dialogue has stopped abruptly short amongst an audience of women most empowered to make positive change.

As a self-proclaimed male feminist, and a leader within the male-dominated property industry, I have felt compelled to up-skill and educate myself on how to better the opportunities for all the women working in my business.

I have a genuine keenness to understand how I, as one individual, can make a small contribution to the advancement of equality, starting with my own realm of influence. However it seems the more I seek answers from my female peers on how to affect change, the greater the silence becomes.

There’s well documented evidence that shows many women still don’t feel comfortable advocating for gender equality at work. One article I read suggested that some women felt it was not ‘leader-like’ to draw attention to the uphill battles they faced professionally – that this could be perceived as ‘weakness’ and not conducive to a collaborative team culture.

After all, one of the very goals of equality is not to be singled out or to have a unique set of needs that need accommodating, but rather to excel on an even playing field. As a result, many women do not want to be recognised as powerful and successful women, they just want to be recognised as powerful and successful people within the business world. The issue this inevitably creates, however, is that it doesn’t provide an opportunity for conversation about the hardships and adversity women face to succeed in the male dominated business world we all live in.

For business leaders like myself, creating an empowered workplace can only occur when we inspire women to be freely themselves and encourage them to have an open voice. If only a small minority of women currently have the courage to bring this topic to the attention of their managers, change will unfortunately come about with great delay.

Even with the prevalence of female empowerment in the media, journalists aren’t offering leaders like myself practical solutions. Sure, the topic is frequently spoken about and the impactful headlines are there, but I feel that it is the day-to-day cultural and environmental nuances that we need direction on.

Managers are expected to have the answers, and to be inspirational leaders - yet if the women in our own networks, organisations and communities are not speaking up about the details that are affecting their ability to succeed, our capacity to bring about positive change can only extend so far. I need the women around me to share their stories, and tell me how to keep doing better.

I recognise that it may be perceived a controversial request, to ask a group of people who have been discriminated against, underpaid and oppressed, often at the hands of powerful men, to now put their needs on the table and tell me how I can improve. But the reality is, I have not lived a day in a woman’s shoes – I don’t know what you don’t tell me, as aware as I try to be and as much as I attempt to self-educate on this issue.

I have spoken in the past about how much I value strength and power in vulnerability. Any woman bold enough to voice her needs to help me become a better boss is, in my eyes, both powerful and successful, and should be recognised as such.

I urge women to keep the dialogue going with their leaders, but more importantly, I encourage my male counterparts to open their minds, and to invite open conversation, so that the powerful stories of a courageous few don’t fall on deaf ears.

Let’s make today, International Women’s Day, the day we become strong enough to show our sensitivities; the day we become truly powerful in our vulnerability; and the day we demonstrate the confidence to really listen to the women in our lives.

Are you vulnerable enough, strong enough, and confident enough to listen to the women in your life?


I’ve taken the lead and reached out to three inspiring women I know and respect who have succeeded in male-dominated industries, to seek answers to some of the questions I have around female empowerment. Keep reading below for the full interviews.


1. Maria Lucas

Maria is a qualified dental professional in the private practice and corporate space. With over 15 years experience, she has integrated her skills with some of Sydney’s best high profile practices and achieved success from both a clinical and managerial perspective. Her professionalism and commitment is noticeably reflected in her delivery of care, stringent planning and business acumen. Maria has also aligned herself with a global dental consultancy agency that assists business owners to fully understand the challenges they face and the unique innovative solutions imperative for success and growth. She has given back to the community through volunteer initiatives and earlier involvement in the rural dental and medical space. Outside of healthcare, Maria has a personal passion for property and investment. Her commitment to growing a diverse portfolio continues to lay the foundation for independence and business growth.


What are some of the challenges that you believe still lie ahead for today’s generation of women?

There is still a growing movement of men who still find the word “feminism” confronting and this will continue to the be the biggest hurdle if men aren’t encouraged to open up and discuss what it is they are really afraid of. Some men still feel threatened by educated and successful females and the obliviousness to gender and what it really represents will continue to feed the challenges that lie ahead.

There is an ongoing challenge with issues such as maternity leave, career opportunity and having a family, managing and implementing consequences of harassment, and pay discrepancies. Women are still struggling to be on par with their male counterparts and unfortunately gender can land first position before qualification acknowledgement. Additionally, many women still feel they’ll become a reputational hazard if they associate themselves with gender equality.

Where do you see that men in leadership could benefit from having a more female team around them?

Studies have shown that females in leadership teams have beneficial effects, which flow back into business and its growth and development. This is because gender diversity in a leadership pool brings about lateral thinking, varying experience and a greater scope of thought and perspective. All these key elements give rise to open communication, which help to fuel one of the biggest factors when it comes to propelling a business forward; problem solving and innovation.

I believe women are incredible creatures when it comes to organisational behaviour, collaborative efforts and deepening perspectives when dealing with conflict resolution. A gender diverse board of leaders is an essential part of implementing change and challenging the current status quo.

What are some of the frustrations you’ve personally faced working towards your current level of seniority?

Before I learnt and developed the skill set to deal with intimidation and assertiveness, I countlessly dealt with gender barriers when it came to discussion around pay and legal requirements. In my earlier years, I vividly recall being advised that I didn’t have to worry about my compulsory superannuation payments, as that was something a “male” will take care of for me in future. At the time, I wasn’t verbally equipped to challenge that comment and my opinions were constantly secondary.

Fast forward to the present, experiences like these have shaped my dialogue, confidence and ambition to fight for my own personal worth. However, there are still times when that is exactly what it is, a fight! A fight to prove that a) I don’t have an invisible time frame around my career as I’m a female and b) what I can and have done to the growth of the businesses I’m involved in.

What is one practical thing that you think men can do to improve equality and open up greater opportunities for working women?

Endorse the truth! Unfortunately men need to stop believing that by being nice is enough. It’s as though if they don’t partake in bad behaviour then their actions can’t be disputed. The sad reality is that when fellow women point at bad behaviour it can still be labelled as overreacting, or worse hysterical. It needs to be called out and squashed by our male counterparts as well.

Men need to develop a greater awareness of being open to connection and vulnerability and realise it’s not a weakness to their masculinity. They also need to understand the long-term damaging effects of an androcentric environment and I urge all men to assertively stand up for their female colleagues when they face inappropriate commentary and discourse.

Describe what a perfect world would look like for the next generation of women?

The next generation of women are still entering a world that is heavily imbedded in patriarchal systems. Collaboratively, we need the foundations of the future to be laid down now. A perfect world would give rise to an inclusive economy; pay parity, more flexible working conditions surrounding the issues of early parenthood, adequate and affordable childcare and, an environment free from harassment and so-called misinterpreted behaviour.

Women must be made to feel comfortable discussing gender equality in the work place so our male counterparts can also be further educated. Individuals and organisations that continue to recruit for the right qualities, challenge assumptions and advocate for each other’s rights in a harmonious and respectful way will help to create and develop this ideal world.

It’s a concerted effort by both women and men and I believe this is the only way we can continue to enhance our paradigm shift towards true equality.


Chloé Oestreich is a coach, facilitator, and speaker.
She works with leading organizations and coaches CEO’s and senior executives internationally to help individuals present with confidence and conviction. By making her clients aware of the habitual patterns that undermine their authority during business interactions, Chloé develops a tailored strategy that enables leaders to be mindful of their presence.Whether focusing on content, body language, non verbal communication or voice, Chloé helps individuals make an impact and leave positive long lasting impressions. Currently splitting her time between London and Melbourne, Chloé helps individuals and teams achieve greater confidence and clarity in business environments through leading development programs and delivering keynotes to global businesses including Macquarie Bank, KPMG, Pacific Brands, COX and McCANN.


I have never been able to relate to the majority of women. Sexual harassment, inequality in the workplace, feeling the need to prove myself as a woman…these have never been barriers to success for me, and I feel incredibly lucky!

I cannot comment on competitive corporate work environments, nor can I make a judgement on whether I’m being paid less than my male colleagues, because I’ve never worked in these environments.

Being the founder and CEO of a now global consultancy, I know that my experience isn’t universal.

This is about sharing my personal experience as a female executive coach, and entrepreneur living and working in Australia and across Europe.

I’d like to believe that my gender doesn’t affect the way people perceive me in the workplace, and that I’m taken on my own merit. Every professional relationship I’ve earned, I’ve built with integrity, strong values, professionalism and through hard work.

Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t lived a charmed life! The road hasn’t been easy and I’ve hit at least my fair share of bumps along the way, but I have never defined myself by my wounds, my failures or low points in my life.

Empowered by my mother at a young age and being exposed to a variety of cultures and ways of life on a global scale, I was incredibly fortunate to grow up receiving unconditional love and having a female role model to look up to, who instilled in me that I could do anything.

Testament to this was my first job at Aldi, which I proudly acquired one Saturday morning during school holidays, marching into the supermarket and demanding a job. In exchange for wage, I promised to stack the soup cans like no other, and boy was I good at it!

Moving to the other side of the world for love at the ripe age of 21 to start my degree all sounded romantic until I ran out of money. “Tough luck” my family said (smiling), waiting in anticipation whether I’d return back home to Germany- less than 42 hours I found a job in a bar, mixing cocktails and waiting tables.

I recognize that this has given me the courage, confidence and creativity to take action, ‘create,’ and be self-sufficient, and I’m utterly grateful.

My mother and past generations didn’t have the same privilege that I’ve had, and every day I’m grateful to her and women like her for fighting fights so that I haven’t had to.

So, what would a perfect world look like for the next generation of women?

Cliché as this is, today is an exciting time to be alive as a woman. The #MeToo movement is just one way in which women are saying ‘enough’; whilst it’s disconcerting to hear fresh accusations almost daily about men I look up to (and we must be careful not to turn this into a witch-hunt), it’s truly fantastic to look forward to a world where women will never be asked to sacrifice their integrity to follow their dreams.

Now more than ever do we have the opportunity to step into the limelight- and we must take action and choose to shine.

I’m still not seeing equal representation on panels, or many women having the fearlessness to be heard in leadership discussions and this must change, and the ‘putting our hand up to speak on a subject matter’ must come from us.

I wouldn’t be the first person to write about what we need from men to promote equality. I think that something we need to talk about more is what we need from women to allow other women to thrive.

Large-scale surveys and academic studies still show that women prefer to work with men; a 2009 study published in the journal Gender in Management found, that although female study participants did believe women make good managers, “the female workers did not actually want to work for them” as “women seem to cut down women.”

I find this particularly sad, as; surely, women in the workplace have it hard enough? We need to empower and believe in each other. We’re so severely under-represented at the top that there’s space for all of us!

Our job now is to take the momentum of the current zeitgeist and convert it to structural changes in culture and society. We need to equip women with the necessary tools, so they can feel confident and be heard.

In my work I see women systematically undermine their authority in the public realm. Whether this be by falling into low status poses when they stand up to present, or speaking with weak voices followed by upward inflections, I’d like to see this change, empower others, and work with more women than men.

It’s like the rising tide; when we succeed, we succeed together.



Alex Skurrie successfully co-created Mister Fly, a luxury children’s wear label in 2015. Her business and family have continued to grow over the years and not only is she a busy mother of three, but Mister Fly is now stocked in over 230 stores in 18 different countries.

What are some of the challenges that you believe still lie ahead for today’s generation of women?

1. Equality in job roles and pay grades between men and woman in the workforce.

2. Retaining women in the workforce post children. I believe that we need to do a better job of supporting woman in returning back to work. Businesses are losing talent due to lack of flexibility, working conditions, support, cost of childcare.

3. Old school mentality of the man being the breadwinner and the woman staying home looking after the children.

4. Self-doubt of returning to work after having children.

Where do you see that men in leadership could benefit from having a more female team around them?

1. Females can provide a different perspective on issues/situations within the workforce.

2. Emotional intelligence.

3. Compassion and empathy.

4. Females are known to be very good multi taskers.

What are some of the frustrations you’ve personally faced working towards your current level of seniority?

1. In my previous role as a fashion buyer it was a very female dominant industry however the senior leadership was mainly men. Change was happening but there was still much more improvement needed. Now running my own company with my business partners, we haven’t faced these difficulties as yet due to the size of our company. Our directors consist of two woman and one man so we are already changing the mould!

What is one practical thing that you think men can do to improve equality and open up greater opportunities for working women?

1. Flexible work hours - working from home, early morning, late nights…

2. Job sharing or working part time. Real part time roles, most women need to do work on their days off.

3. Senior men take on flexible hours too, leading by examples from a man’s point of view.

4. Better communication about woman in the workforce.

Describe what a perfect world would look like for the next generation of women?

1. I would love to see more companies offering a greater paid maternity leave to support working mothers. Upon returning to work there are needs to be more flexibility.

2. Can do attitude that we can be an amazing mum and have a career!

3. Offices to be more family friendly, eg kids rooms, a safe place for the child that needs to be taken in to the workplace.