Don’t tell me I can’t

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Published in May 2018 issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

It’s not just young women establishing their careers who need help to meet their potential. Female executives also require programs to unlock their capabilities, self-belief and leadership skills.

Phaedra Deckart, General Manager of Energy Supply and Origination at AGL, wasn’t surprised when Jarvis, her seven-year-old son, said that when he grew up he wanted to be a daddy. “I have fantastic support at home,” explains Phaedra. Mother of two to Jarvis and 11-year-old daughter Audrey,Phaedra and husband Kym rejected stereotypical parenting and career roles. “As I stepped up into this bigger role, Kym stepped into the stay-at-home role,” explains Phaedra.“It suits us, and I love the support.”

At work, Phaedra is also a trailblazer. Headhunted by AGL three years ago to run their gas portfolio, Phaedra was the first woman to hold that position. “I’m responsible for energy supply for wholesale markets,” says Phaedra.“We also look after all structured deals for gas, coal, electricity and renewable energy.”

Part of AGL’s success in promoting women – 41 per cent in senior leadership roles –comes from its commitment to run their Illuminate development programs, in partnership with Inkling Women. Having taken part herself, Phaedra describes it as “one of the best things I’ve ever done in my career”. A crucial element of Illuminate involved Phaedra shadowing AGL’s Chief Financial Officer, Brett Redman. “Brett gave me so much guidance and exposure to the executive team, and it’s made me a much more confident leader.” It’s this exposure that Phaedra believes is essential for women to take their careers to the executive level. “Women have a tendency to play small, we think our hard work is enough,” she says, adding women often don’t know how to step up, or have the networks. “The Illuminate program helped me to identify my strengths, and to calm my ‘lizard’voice,” says Phaedra, describing the inner critic that tells women they’re not good enough. “Illuminate gave me the confidence to acknowledge that voice, and tell it to be quiet.” Thanks to Illuminate, these days Phaedra “plays a bigger game now”. Still, she acknowledges there is a way to go in breaking down barriers to women in corporate life. “I have a network of peers across the industry dealing with unconscious bias; we need to encourage more women into these industries. AGL is doing great things in this space.”

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