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6 tips to harness female talent and create the next generation of leaders

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There is an ongoing debate in Australian business about the need for more female leaders.

Confronted by the lack of leadership development opportunities for young women in the workplace, Sarah Liu decided to do something about it.

In 2012, Liu, who is also the founder of Gemini3, founded The Dream Collective, in order to encourage employers in Australia to shift their approach from focusing on the senior executive level towards developing entry-level talent.

“Australian corporates need to fast shift their approach from focusing on the senior executive level to turning their attention to the pipeline of young female talent coming through their doors,” Liu said.

“Businesses should be investing in the entry level career-women because these frontline professionals are the nation’s next generation of female leaders.

“By not investing in frontline leaders, Australian corporates are essentially stifling the gender progression conversation in the workplace.

“The number of women in the bottom ranks is disproportionate to the number of women at the top, and this is not a standard we want for Australia’s business landscape.”

The Dream Collective now operates in Sydney and Melbourne, and plans to launch in Singapore and Tokyo by the end of 2017.

The startup has also partnered with Vodafone, Coca Cola Amatil and Facebook, to produce a micro-documentary series that champions successful female Australian business leaders.

Here’s Liu’s 6 tips on changes Australian businesses can make today to start employing young female talent in the workplace.

1. Reverse mentoring

Shifting from the traditional top-down approach, businesses can facilitate cross-generational understanding and give entry level talent a voice through reverse mentoring, where fresh eyes help senior executives. By equipping business leaders with a more diverse perspective, the reverse mentoring model allows companies to build a more collaborative culture and become more effective in engaging and advancing the career growth of high caliber, emerging talent.

2. Invest in talent based on aspiration, not just track record performance

Businesses can yield stronger results for their teams and bottom-lines by re-evaluating their attitude and approach to hiring. The bias to evaluate and identify ‘talent’ based predominantly on track record performance is problematic and leads to companies missing out on quality potential. The talent mapping process should focus on the talent’s aspiration, potential and ambition, as to not discount those who haven’t had the opportunity to establish a solid track record yet.

3. Create specific learning and development opportunities

It is important at the early stage of careers that emerging talents are given the opportunity to build a broader business perspective, beyond what they have access and exposure to day-to-day in the workplace. This includes gaining access to both internal and external executives, as well as peer-to-peer networking opportunities.

4. Create a “board” with early-mid career constituents

Businesses can create the equivalent of an executive board but with emerging talent, and put pending business decisions to both the “real” board and the younger board. The value of this sort of initiative is in comparing the decisions and outcomes reached by both and learning about the different considerations.

5. Create opportunities that expose young talent to the executives of the business

Senior leaders can create opportunities to have emerging talent shadow executives for a day, to gain exposure to a higher level of the business. This not only gives younger talent valuable insights into the management levels of a company, but it also significantly builds their confidence levels.

6. Start budgeting for your frontline leader’s career growth and learning and development

In corporate Australia, for every $10 invested into senior leaders, less than $1 goes to early-mid talent. There is no disputing that senior leaders make a huge impact in business, but early-stage talent make up the majority of the workforce and need to be supported to thrive as early in their career as possible.

The Dream Collective micro-documentary series will premiere in Sydney on July 12.

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