Today’s inspirational and exceptional leader featured in our “Inspirational Female Leaders” series is Ali Sherry. Ali Sherry works in HR and is passionate about gender diversity. She has over 20 years’ experience in the human resource field across a range of industries including mining and energy. Ali is known for striving to improve HR processes to benefit organisations and their people. Her vision of leadership sees a balance between male and female perspectives, and that is one of the goals she is working towards. Ali Sherry is also a mentor for the Executive Women Australia’s Matching Mentor Program.
- What are some of the highlights in your careers?
There have been many highlights over the years, however most recently, a highlight was securing federal funding to run a joint Indigenous Pre-Vocational program. Seeing the successful results of disadvantaged indigenous participants securing apprenticeship places is very satisfying and worthwhile.
Other highlights include:
- Working as HR Director with Currie & Brown Australia in preparation for an IPO or takeover; this was a great challenge over a 2½ year period.
- The fun days of recruitment/HR consulting managing an amazing and successful team at Hamilton James & Bruce – they had great team synergy and culture.
- And of course, my first Board of Director’s appointment, which is to RSPCA Qld.
- What have been some of your key challenges?
I have the constant juggle that any working mother understands – that of balancing a household, a husband, 2 children (now independent young women) and 2 dogs. One of the biggest challenges for me was the volume of school holidays vs. working annual leave; thank goodness for supportive grandparents!
Flexibility is the key to successful working arrangements. Sadly, however I am currently finding in this tighter market that flexibility is disappearing which results in the loss of great women from our organisations.
- What or who made a difference in your career?
I am very fortunate to have 2 great influences personally – my mother and oldest sister. My mother completed secondary school and university in the 1950s to study Pharmacy when there were only 2 other women in the course. Mum always taught us the value and importance of professional and financial independence. My sister Ann is an extremely successful CEO who always makes time to help her family and friends; “ask a busy person” as the saying goes. She has always given me great advice, emotional support and guidance on my professional journey.
I am very lucky and acknowledge my supportive husband, who is happy to do his 50% at home and listen, guide and provide a balanced perspective.
- How did you overcome any barriers?
Positivity, persistence and perseverance – no barrier is impenetrable. You just have to work out why it is there in the first place and work out a way around it.
- What are some key learnings about working with men and overcoming any unconscious biases?
Actually, I quite enjoy working with men and if required, assisting them to realize the commercial benefits of removing their unconscious/conscious gender bias. I also believe insightful leaders are equally successful whether male or female.
I often see organizations espousing support of gender diversity and the behaviors that are completely opposite or passive. The key is keeping the conversation open and being vigilant in identifying and eliminating lazy stereotypes if you want to counter gender bias and take advantage of your full talent pool. This has to be a leader led.
Serious organizations need to invest in training so their teams can recognize unconscious bias. This is what will help start the change process.
- How do you manage work-life balance?
2 words – take-away! Crunch time is always when I have been running late and the inner pressure is on.
I also try and take 2 two annual leave blocks a year (a break each 6 months) to spend with family. This keeps you refreshed.
- Any advice for future female leaders?
Find a great female and male mentor; this helps keeps perspective and balance. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Be passionate, brave and take some risks. And always keep your sense of humour and enjoy the ride.