Suzie Veitch talks to Business in Heels CEO Lisa Sweeney about the future of technology for women and the organisation’s upcoming virtual Leadership Summit Women in Technology.

Lisa Sweeney, CEO of Business in Heels, was recently recognized as one of 2021’s Top 50 Small Business Leaders by Inside Small Business.  We asked Lisa what Business in Heels was doing differently to bring women into the future of technology.

“We are all about community and supporting women in business,” Lisa explained. “It was a team effort with many of our team and Mentors going out of their way to help others. A pivotal change has been the implementation of virtual events including coffee connections, mentor mornings and the Summits.”

Lisa said one week they were meeting in person, the next week they were doing virtual hugs and toasts. From the minute COVID hit they realised the confusion, isolation and fear would all be a problem.  Immediately the team acted and launched a series of virtual events. They took the time to ring people they knew who had been majorly impacted and invited them to join.

Transformation occurred through conversations that ranged from “what’s your favourite chocolate bar and why”, to sharing “the best piece of advice you have ever been given”. Along the way, there was laughter and fun, new businesses have been born and people got a much-needed escape from home schooling. All were better for the interaction.

Mentor Mornings were pivotal for many. With a team of 80 plus Business In Heels mentors, they reached out to hundreds of distressed business women. For many it was a life saver. One example was Carolyn, a business owner of a large wholesale luggage business. She was “so embarrassed that she had ended up in this situation” and felt COVID was her fault. “As a single mum she was struggling to deal with a huge problem alone,” said Lisa. “She had millions of dollars in luggage stock in her warehouse, a team of 10 and no forward orders, all cancelled with COVID. Mentor Mornings allowed her to process, discuss and gain a different perspective on her business enabling her to accept the situation and take much need action. Today she has been able to leverage her relationships with retailers to pick up new business with the shifting market.”

What’s next for Business in Heels?

Now an expert in running large scale online events, Business in Heels is launching a Leadership Summit for Women in Tech. “It’s hard to be what you can’t see”, said Lisa Sweeney. “Our Leadership Summits are aimed at showcasing amazing role models across the industry, with keynotes from Julie Bale, CIO Energy Australia and Cherie Ryan, MD Oracle. Our hope is to inspire up and comers in the tech industry.”

Why tech?

To date, Business In Heels has held Summits for Law, Insurance, Finance and Marketing championing the gender pay gap, problems women face in career advancement and culture. “Given that women are still underrepresented and underpaid, doing a Summit for women in technology was a no brainer. Just take a look at the statistics,” said Lisa.

  • According to the Stem equity monitor The proportion of women working across all STEM-qualified industries has continually increased from 24% in 2016 to 28% in 2020.
  • The gender pay gap is: highest in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services at 25.3%, according to WGEA

Toxic cultures, bullying and inability to advance their careers have been cited as some of the key issues beyond the gender pay gap and pipeline issues in a report by the Professionals Australia Organisation. On the summit day, a star-studded line-up of panellists will discuss candidly these issues and showcase what they have done to be successful. The Panel discussions are hard hitting and insightful.

It was a revelation to those in the law industry just how widespread “panic attacks” were for women having to front up in court. “It is one of many such issues that a not really discussed that leave the sufferer feeling less than competent and that’s why we love doing these Summits” said Lisa.

Is there anything else – secrets you’ve learned along the way – you’d like to share with us?

“Don’t get frozen by indecision, have a go. You won’t always get it right, but you will be recognised for your enthusiasm.”

“Learn to trust and rely on others. You need to find mentors, advocates and teammates who have your back. My favourite quote: If you want to go fast go alone but if you want to go far go with others. Do what you say you are going to do.”