AFG Venture Group Dispatches

Corporate advisory and consultancy in Australia, South East Asia and India.

Lindley Edwards featured in Ernst & Young ‘Women in Leadership’ report

March 8th, 2013

As part of Ernst & Young’s Women in Leadership series, E&Y spoke to some of Australia’s successful and inspirational business women who have made a difference in their chosen fields and in their communities. The full series is available at http://www.ey.com/AU/en/About-us/Our-people-and-culture/Diversity-and-inclusiveness/Women-in-Leadership

Lindley’s interview is below:

Lindley Edwards

You don’t have to be a part of the executive team or a CEO or a director to make incredible changes, we can all make changes for the better from where we stand.

1. What is your current position and how long have you been in the role?

I am the Group CEO of AFG Venture Group. We do mergers, acquisitions, divestments, fund raising, licensing, joint ventures and strategic financial work. We have offices in India, Thailand, Singapore, Myanmar and Indonesia. We are bridging multiple cultures, multiple wisdom systems and multiple time zones. Flexibility, open mindedness and the ability to deal with complexity, ambiguity and to find connection rather than difference is critical.

Looking back, my key career dot points are I got started with a job in a bank, I went to University as a mature age student and at 26 was headhunted into Macquarie Bank. I then went to Citibank and ran a division that was bringing Asian investors into Australia. After this I set up my own business Venture Group that ended up merging with AFG.

2. Do you think that women ‘play it safe’ and don’t take risks in regard to their careers?

Women who have their own businesses usually have a higher success rate than men, (research backs this up) but the majority don’t go onto to be big businesses – they stay small. There are circumstances to contain the size of a business but I feel more women should be confident in their ability to be able to create larger enterprises. You don’t have to go out and risk the world but there are times when you can risk more and should.

My view is we shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes. The idea is to make as many mistakes as you can but make them early and quickly so they can be treated as part of the process and in an iterative way. We need to be able to say that this hasn’t worked, here are the reasons why and then move on.

3. Have you faced obstacles during your career?

Not really. My career has been so unorthodox. I have a view that if a road is blocked, then there must be another way around – another way to get there. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Every wall is a door”. I believe this and the difficulty is only the capacity to see the door so we can walk through it.

You don’t have to be a part of the executive team or a CEO or a director to make incredible changes, we can all make changes for the better from where we stand. But that is a decision that we all have to make – will I be part of the solution or continue to be part of the unsatisfactory status quo. If you’ve reached a point where you really feel blocked, and feel that you are not being appreciated or valued, then I think it’s time to move organisations or roles.

4. Have you had mentors and role models who have been part of your journey?

In regard to mentors, I always look for people older than me who I believe in and who I like and respect. I particularly am attracted to older people who are not only leaders in their field but who also have a sense of humour, who are joyful and who have a spring in their step. There have been and still are incredible women creating incredible change in the Australian landscape – so we can all add to that work. There’s incredible generosity of spirit that mentoring requires and if we have received the benefit of mentoring I feel we must ‘pay it forward’.

5. How can women overcome the barriers they may face in their careers?

One of the things I really support is to reveal who you are. When you reveal who you are, people will start to understand you and you can more easily play to your strengths. There is a cookie cutter version of what it is you do – accountant, banker, lawyer – whatever you are – and then there’s your version – and if you can, I recommend sticking to your version. I agree with Oscar Wilde “Be yourself, everybody else is already taken”.

I believe we need to be cognisant of our language – the stories we tell ourselves and tell others about us. My observation is that sometimes the language we use to tell our stories is not very empowering. I think we need to be quite powerful in saying I’m here, this is who I am, this is what I do and you are lucky to have me working for you.

6. What is your definition of success?

My definition of success is a lot broader than work; it means to have a place where you feel at home in the world, where you feel connected, where you know this is where you belong, where you are making a difference, where you are loved. So it’s not about what I achieve, it’s actually about who I am and my connectedness.

7. What do you think Australian organisations should be doing to better attract, retain and promote women?

A lot of it is just acknowledging the importance of diversity because to me diversity is beyond the male/female. Organisations must embrace diversity as our stakeholders that we are serving, the customers that we are working with, the shareholders that we are representing, are the same as the general population. What we have to do is make sure that our internal structures are mirroring society.

The situation where organisations are serving a market but are not consuming or behaving like that market is astounding to me. We need to be putting diverse people from the market around the boardroom table in order for the organisation to be effective and successful.

8. Do you have a view on gender targets and quotas?

I agree with it as an interim solution. My view is if you want to create a change, this is an effective temporary change mechanism to get more female voices around the table. We need to create change and targets and quotas are a good mechanism as any to create that change, so let’s just do it and see what happens.