Know that your role as a leader (of any gender) is to show people the way, then get out of the way and support your team members to authentically thrive and be the best they can be.
I had the pleasure to interview Megan Dalla-Camina. Megan is now an award-winning entrepreneur, women’s mentor, business and leadership coach, speaker and bestselling author. Her latest book is Simple Soulful Sacred: A Woman’s Guide to Clarity, Comfort and Coming Home to Herself (Hay House). She lives in Sydney with her son, and travels the world with her work.
Thank you so much for joining us Megan! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Asoften happens, it has been anything other than a straight line. I grew up as a creative person (actress, dancer, writer) and always thought I would end up living in LA doing those things. But after a few interesting things happened after performing arts college and into my early 20’s (serious illness and a car accident being two of them) I ended up in corporate America (GE). It led to an 18 year career as a marketing director, the head of strategy for one of the world’s largest technology companies (IBM), and gathering decades of experience in gender diversity, leadership and women in business. I also had a life altering burn out, became a single mother, completed two Masters degrees (one in business and one in wellness and positive psychology), did half a PhD in women’s leadership and power, and a fusion of other studies in yoga teacher training, wellness and business.
When I felt like I had reached the end of my corporate aspirations, and at the same time wanted to focus on supporting women in their careers, businesses and lives — as well as change the conversation on women’s leadership — it was the right leaping point for me to start my own companies in this space, write more books and build my businesses. That was 8 years ago and I’m loving (almost) every minute of it. Many of my clients are leaders in STEM/Tech fields and it’s great to still be so involved in the industry even after corporate life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?
Before I started my own companies there was that time I was head of marketing at PwC Consulting and we were about to do a multi-billion dollar IPO. We had spent six months getting ready for it, after Enron meant that all of the big accounting firms needed to separate their consulting businesses. We had built a new business strategy, new global brand, had everything ready to go in New York and dozens of markets around the world. Two days before the IPO, IBM bought PwC Consulting. I was in New York at the time, and instead of the IPO we ended up at IBM headquarters to start the global integration process. 12 years at IBM followed. It was one of the most interesting times of my career in tech, to say the least.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I think that the fusion of experience, knowledge and passions I bring in my work — corporate background, creative bent, passion for women, positive psychology, coaching, neuroscience, wellness, spirituality, feminine power, leadership, business strategy — makes for a really unique and compelling offering across my multiple business areas under Megan Dalla-Camina. For example, in Lead Like A Woman, an award winning women’s leadership program, my clients love that not only is there no other model like it that incorporates the science and experience in the work, but the way I lead their women through it brings all other aspects of my expertise and the women’s journeys through in a deeply transformative way. My background in STEM is also of significant value for clients I work with in those industries. The same happens with my business coaching clients — being able to guide them not only on business strategy but all of the holistic and personal aspects that are essential from their spiritual life to their wellbeing, is deeply profound and compelling. It’s why I love what I do so much.
Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in STEM? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?
I’m definitely not satisfied with the status quo re women in STEM. When you look at countries around the world, on average less than a third of degrees and jobs are gained and held by women. This is worse in areas like high tech which is less than 20% and as in most industries, it gets worse again the higher you go on the leadership ladder. There are some bright spots — women seem to be making great strides in Europe in science and engineering as an example — but we have a long way to go. As is often the case, it starts with education and we need girls interested in STEM fields from early school years, and greater encouragement of young women into related degrees. But we also need great change in our workplaces at all levels, from entry level to the board, if we are to attract, retain and progress women in these fields, and critically, to help them thrive in them.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in STEM or Tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?
We still have significant societal gender norms that are enforced with young girls that can lead them to believe that science and tech are not for them. This is changing, and there is more to do. Organizations and movements like Girls Who Code are creating a revolution for girls and an evolution of old mindsets, and is having a profound impact which you can see by the numbers of young women and girls who are engaged and thriving. We need more of this. Removing any gender based stigma, dogma or limitations for women in these fields will enable further progress.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a woman in STEM or Tech. Can you explain what you mean?
That girls aren’t good at math, aren’t interested in science and prefer ‘softer’ and more gender normative roles, are myths that are so old school but still so embedded in many cultural narratives. They carry through way past school years into the psyches and biases of those in workplaces who are making hiring decisions, giving promotions, progressing leaders. These forms of unconscious bias compound many other myths in workplaces for women in these fields that need to be dispelled.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
- Know who you are as a person, a leader and a woman in business.
- Be clear, transparent, supportive with your people but also have firm boundaries. Know your values and demonstrate them consistently.
- Know your strengths and weaknesses, and lead with strengths. Help your people know their strengths and use them at work — I recommend the Values In Action survey which is free and focuses on people’s intrinsic character strengths. It can be a game changer for individuals and teams. Find it at viacharacter.org.
- Help people know what they like doing and what they are good at, then enable them to do that.
- Above all else, take care of your own wellbeing on all levels — mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually. Find the right balance for you. And then help your people do the same.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
- Understand yourself intimately and develop deep personal awareness — what are your strengths, how do you work best, what do you need, who do you need to surround yourself with.
- Be clear on your vision, your mission, your purpose, as it will stop you getting lost in the weeds of the day to day that can drown you as a leader of a lot of people.
- Work out the best way to communicate with your team, and different layers within your team. Help them be super clear on the role you all play in the business mission and where they fit. Ongoing communication is one of the make it or break it parts of leadership — and two way communication is key.
- Know that your role as a leader (of any gender) is to show people the way, then get out of the way and support your team members to authentically thrive and be the best they can be.
- Most importantly — lead like the woman that you are. We have been socialized our entire lives that there is one version of success, one version of leadership, and that that version is masculine. We are slowly breaking that mold, and changing these definitions. It changes through our leadership, being authentic, supporting other to do the same. It changes through leading with a balance of our feminine and masculine traits, and helping others do the same, and changing cultures to support that. It mostly comes through authenticity in all aspects of our work and life. The book Lead Like A Woman and related work holds resources to help with this.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My first female leader when I was at GE, Jenny Castelino, is to this day one of the best leaders and role models I ever had. She showed me that you can be a strong and powerful woman, and yet still be authentic, vulnerable, and true to yourself. I was in my mid twenties when she became an influential woman in my career and life and is still one of these voices that pop into my mind with multiple lessons about how to handle a particular situation or who I want to be in the world — and more about character than anything else.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve tried to collaboratively co-create projects, work and businesses that serve the greater good. From a venture called Sustaining Women in Business; to the World Wellness Project; helping lead Male Champions of Change with dozens of CEO’s to impact an entire countries perspective of women in business; through to changing the conversation on women’s leadership through my company Lead Like A Woman; and most importantly, my work around women’s empowerment — it’s all aimed at creating a better world for women, which in turn leads to a better world for everyone. This will continue to be my purpose, and fuel my passion for what I do.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
There are so many movements I would love to create. If I could only pick one, I would create a meditation movement — specifically one focused on loving kindness meditation. I truly believe that if every single person in the world could learn to meditate — even a five-minute meditation each day — that the increased levels of consciousness, calmness, kindness, love and understanding on the planet would create a revolution of how we interact as a human race, and radically change the world. An awakening and evolution of human consciousness and potential. An idea worth triggering indeed.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
The artist is nothing without the gift. But the gift is nothing without the work. Emile Zola
I believe that we are all artists. That we all have gifts that we are uniquely positioned to share with the world. And that the world will be a better place when we are all liberated and empowered to share those gifts freely. And then there is the work required. Particularly in this age of social media, instant influencers, slick glossy success and hustle culture, there is a myth that you don’t actually have to work hard for your art, to share your gifts with the world. It’s rubbish. Really embodying this knowledge has been profound in me starting businesses, writing books, building programs and content that hopefully, make a difference. You don’t have to hustle, but you do have to do the work. You have to show up. You have to build the grit and resilience to get through the messy middle and bring your work to life. This is so important. Understanding this? Changes everything. And it’s what will help us all bring our passion and our purpose to life.
We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Such a great and enticing question! It seems like such a cliché I know, but one of the people who has had a profound influence on me, my work and my hope for human evolution is Oprah Winfrey. A private breakfast or lunch would be great thanks!