Money & Career

THE ICONIC’s 5 Female Executives Share Their Best Career Advice

And the biggest challenges they've faced as women in the workforce

Fact: THE ICONIC is our go-to for last-minute fashion finds, be it the sandals you need for tomorrow’s wedding or the blazer you simply can’t go to tonight’s big event without. But one fact most of us don’t know about THE ICONIC is just as amazing as their insanely fast delivery: five of their seven senior executives are women.

If there’s another major business with more women than men at the top, we’re yet to hear of it. To mark Equal Pay Day, we quizzed THE ICONIC’s leading ladies on the secrets to their success, plus the setbacks they’ve overcome as women working at a senior level.

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Mia Barry

Mia Barry, Chief Financial Officer

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I received was to be curious, be courageous and be authentically you. Believing in yourself and aspiring to greatness will help you create your version of success. Do not be limited by others’ expectations; to lead you need to be true to your values and your leadership style. 

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman at a senior level in the workforce?

One of the biggest challenges I faced earlier on in my career it was finding my voice – how could I influence as both a leader and as an individual? Over time I developed my approach to influence and what I discovered was that my natural curiosity and active listening style was my greatest strength when working with others. When people work together without ego, and with a desire to learn and achieve, great things happen. Through developing trust, strong working relationships, and clarity in goals – influencing flows both ways.   

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Anna Lee

Anna Lee, Chief Operating Officer

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received many pieces of advice over the years and the common theme is that achievement doesn’t happen overnight. You must practice and master a wide range of skills, and that requires resilience and perseverance. It won’t be smooth sailing every day, but you can’t let those bad days hold you back from your long-term goals.  

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman at a senior level in the workforce?

At THE ICONIC, we’re fortunate to work in an environment that truly supports gender equality and allows people to grow and develop their careers. Last year I had the opportunity to move into my current role after 20 years in finance – that was rather scary and exciting at the same time as changing careers is a big step. That has tested both my intellect and mental strength, but I’m a bit of a magnet for challenges! 

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Mareile Osthus

Mareile Osthus, Chief Category Management Officer

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

The most useful piece of advice I received was basically on day one of my career, and that was: Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen yourself. I truly believe that having an idea of what you want to achieve in life (whether you know the answer now or not) is the key driver for all our achievements in the end. The impossible is sometimes possible, you’ve just to have the drive and determination to start somewhere.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman at a senior level in the workforce?

I’m lucky enough to have never had any specific challenges in the workplace directly related to my gender. This might be controversial to say, but I believe when you start thinking about having challenges because you are a woman, you are at risk of facilitating a divide. Everyone I’ve ever worked for – man or woman – believed in my potential as a person and not as a woman, and I have the same philosophy. I realise this may not be the case for everyone, but having confidence in yourself is the starting point of overcoming any gender discussion.

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Nicolle Strauss

Nicolle Strauss, Chief People And Culture Officer

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t stay too long in a job or a company if you are unhappy or are not being valued to your full potential. You’ve only got one life to live and the world is a big place, so go find the right opportunities. I know easier said than done because you need to have incredibly strong internal belief, supportive friends, families, networks, social and economic circumstances to do this, but anything is possible if you stay true to what you really want.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman at a senior level in the workforce?

“Being looked over for opportunities, assuming I wouldn’t be interested or have the time/drive for bigger roles because I have a family. In saying this, I’m thankful that I’ve been lucky enough for this to be a rarity as I have received incredible support throughout my career, but it’s certainly a challenging experience when you do face such issues.

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Zoe Ghani

Zoe Ghani, Chief Technology Officer

What is the best piece of career advice ever received?

I’ve been lucky enough to receive great advice from great people throughout my career. One example that comes to mind, which ended up being a key turning point and common thread in my leadership journey is that it’s all about the people and not the tasks we are trying to accomplish. What I have learned is that you need to hire and retain amazing people, and through that create an environment where people can flourish. You need to provide people with clarity and the right tools, while helping to clear obstacles from their path, so they can come up with the best ways to accomplish both their professional and personal goals.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a woman in senior level in the workplace?

When I first started in the working world, I was really reserved and found it difficult to share my thoughts and ideas openly. In my first leadership role I realised quickly that holding back is not going to get you anywhere. I realised that if I didn’t speak up – especially if a lot was at stake – a great idea might go untried, my team’s perspective may not be taken into account or an important priority would be affected. Over the years I have come to focus on sharing my views because as you move into more senior roles, so too comes greater responsibility of speaking up. I have established my own way of doing this – for me and in most situations it’s about listening first and then sharing my thoughts, and especially the thoughts of my team who may not be in the room. I believe better ideas are born from healthy debate between different people with different views. It is also healthy to ignite a conflict conversation when a topic is not being discussed when it should be. So speak up and be heard!

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