Australia's leading feminist organisation has launched a new traineeship aimed at boosting the number of young women on boards.
YWCA Australia Chief Executive Officer Michelle Phillips said the average age of non-executive board members in Australia was currently 63.81, reflecting the need for greater diversity in boardrooms across the country.
"This new board traineeship program will equip young women with the skills and experience needed to pursue board appointments," Ms Phillips said.
"Young women are the future leaders of our country. As a young women's organisation, YWCA Australia is committed to advancing leadership opportunities for young women. This program will allow trainees to learn the skills needed to effectively lead and govern companies and communities."
The traineeship, to be launched during Young People on Boards Week (2-6 March)2, is open to all female YWCA Australia members aged 30 and under. It includes the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) three-day Foundations of Directorship course, opportunities to attend and observe YWCA Australia board meetings for 12 months, and mentoring sessions with a YWCA Board Director.
YWCA Australia Deputy Chair of the Board Julia Goodall (30) said the traineeship was a unique opportunity for young women to build their communication, business and leadership skills.
"YWCA Australia is committed to investing in young women's development and providing them with pathways to leadership positions through training, mentoring and real-world experience," Ms Goodall said.
"Being part of organisations like YWCA Australia provides opportunities but it also enables young women to become part of a network of female leaders, committed to improving gender equality for women, young women and girls."
Ms Goodall said that half of YWCA Australia's board was comprised of young women under the age of 30.
"Young women bring unique skills, ideas, experience and solutions to boards. We'd like to see more boards across Australia actively aim for greater age diversity," Ms Goodall said.
Join YWCA Australia for free here: https://www.ywca.org.au/join
Question: Can you tell us about YWCA Australia's new board traineeship program?
Julia Goodall: YWCA Australia is committed to investing in young women's development and creating innovative opportunities for young women's leadership.
This program will allow trainees to learn the skills they need to effectively lead and govern in the business and community sectors.
We're looking for two passionate, dedicated young women to join the board as trainees for a period of 12 months.
Throughout the year, the trainees will attend and observe all the board meetings, join one of the board's sub-committees, receive mentoring sessions with a YWCA Board Director, and complete the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) three-day Foundations of Directorship course.
The traineeship is open to all female YWCA Australia members aged 30 and under.
If people are not already members, it's free to join and enables young women to become part of a network of female leaders, committed to improving gender equality for women, young women and girls.
Question: How do you hope to boost young women on boards with this new program?
Julia Goodall: Young people, particularly young women, feel they have to wait until they 'feel ready' before taking on a board or leadership position. But young people have great ideas, solutions and experience to bring to the table.
We want young women to see themselves represented on boards, believe that they deserve to be there and to equip them with the skills and confidence to pursue board appointments.
It's a unique opportunity for them to build their communication, business and leadership skills and to gain experience in core board skills like governance and finance. It also provides a pathway for young women into other leadership programs and opportunities.
Question: How can young women apply for the board traineeship program?
Julia Goodall: Applications will be open on the YWCA website from Wednesday 4 March 2020. Applicants will need to complete a simple online application form and upload a copy of their CV and a cover letter addressing why they would like to be part of this unique traineeship.
Question: Can you talk us through your personal journey to YWCA Australia Board Deputy Chair?
Julia Goodall: I volunteered for a number of youth-led organisations as a teenager and young adult. This gave me a great opportunity to develop and find my own leadership style amongst peers. After several years working in youth development and social impact design, I wanted to find a volunteering role where I could both contribute skills I'd learnt to causes that mattered to me, and where I could also stretch and develop my professional skills. I'd collaborated through my work with YWCA and attended YWCA events as a member on a number of occasions and always been impressed with the innovation and drive for change of the organisation.
I applied to become a director and was really privileged to be elected onto the board by the membership. The first year of being a Board Director was a steep learning curve and I was very fortunate to have my first experience of directorship in an organisation that supported young leaders through both the culture and professional development opportunities. This meant that when I was offered the opportunity to become the deputy chair, I felt honoured to be chosen and that I had both the skills and support to take on the challenge.
Question: Why do you believe more Australian boards need to actively aim for greater age diversity?
Julia Goodall: Boards make decisions that affect the lives of young people every day, yet the average age of non-executive directors in Australia is 63.8.
In recent years, the focus has been on achieving gender diversity on boards and rightly so, but age diversity is equally important, to help ensure that a diverse range of views and perspectives are represented on company boards.
Young women are both current and future leaders, so it makes sense for them to have a seat at the table and to be involved in setting objectives and designing and implementing strategy.
It also presents boards with an opportunity for cross-generational learning – for young women to learn from more experienced board members and for those board members to learn from the experience and ideas of young women.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you, as the YWCA Australia Board Deputy Chair?
Julia Goodall: The role is a voluntary one and without set hours, so there isn't really a typical day. Overall, I spend around one day a week on board duties, fitting it in around the commitments of my full time job. The role includes preparing for board meetings by reading papers that include proposals, policy and financial reviews and strategic decisions to be made, and asking questions to make sure I understand the information I need to make decisions with the board in the best interest of the organisation.
We have meetings through video conference and face to face, which involve travel to Sydney (I'm based in the Adelaide Hills) and include the formal meeting, as well as professional development and opportunities to get to know our staff and areas of work. Sometimes we need to be available for decisions or discussions that need to happen at short notice, and there are also opportunities to promote YWCA in the media and support YWCA events.
I also try to stay informed of news and media that relates to our work on safety, housing and leadership for women, young women and goals, and to promote our work through my own networks.
Question: What's next, for you?
Julia Goodall: I'm looking forward to continuing to work with our board, membership and staff to continue to reach our goals towards gender equality in housing, safety and leadership. I'm also excited to support the work of YWCA's Young Women's Council who provide leadership, insight and advocacy to the Y and to their communities. We also have lots of exciting events coming up, including comedy events around the country for International Women's Day, and of course launching our board traineeship.
Interview by Brooke Hunter