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Wise Women Will Save The World


When we discuss gender equality we tend to focus on the female perspective; how women are still underrepresented in decision making roles within the workforce and are still on the trailing side of the gender pay gap. However we don’t often mention the male perspective and what men are doing to minimise patriarchy values within our society.
This is a mistake as examining the male perspective, is just as important in achieving gender equality. After all equality cannot be created without ensuring both genders have a voice and the same stake in society.

One individual that acknowledges this and is doing his bit to end patriarchy is Australian Comedian Graeme Bowman. Lucia Osborne-Crowley from ‘Womens Agenda’ reports on his efforts below:

For Bowman, watching his wife Jennifer go from being a stay-at-home mum to a Masters student, then a Masters graduate and then an artist, was profound. His perception of her empowerment and the struggles she faced along the way made him realise for the first time just how damaging the patriarchy is to society.

Bowman started seeing evidence of this everywhere, and understood why fighting for women’s participation and gender equality is so important.

“No matter what I saw or read about, I just kept coming back to this idea – the idea that the patriarchal system is the fundamental problem at the root of so many things,” Bowden claimed.

So Bowman decided to do something about it. He founded and created an online community called ‘Wise Women Will Save the World’, which aims to empower and support women and encourage the open and sensitive discussion of issues important to women and girls.

More recently Bowman has also decided to take on patriarchy through satire. Along with his wife Jennifer […]

Women As Leaders



On the 27th of February this year, VM Learning launched its first program of the year; the successful and incredibly popular ‘Women As Leaders’ program, which VM have been running since 1993.

However, despite being over twenty years old the program is still just as relevant. According to the not-for-profit research organisation Catalyst, by March 4th 2015 24 (4.8%) of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies were held by women. Furthermore, 19.2% women held board seats and 25.1% of women are holding executive/senior-level management positions. This in contrast to the 45% of women that hold labour or basic level positions in the same company (Catalyst. Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies. New York: Catalyst, January 13th, 2015).

While it cannot be denied that these statistics have improved over the last ten years or so (in 1998 11.2% of women held board seats and in 2008 15.7% of women held board seats) Catalyst noted that at this current rate of growth, it would take over 35 years for the number of female corporate officers to match the number of male officers, despite a relatively even ratio of male and female workers in labour or first level positions (Catalyst. Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies. New York: Catalyst, January 13th, 2015).

These figures indicate that there is still much progress to be made in order to create a gender balanced workforce in terms of both high levels of management as well as entry level positions. Furthermore recent reports have also revealed that companies with gender balanced boards were better equipped to oversee corporate actions and ensure corporate citizenship standards were met; two aspects which build stronger and more sustainable companies (McKinsey & Company. Gender Equality. 2007-2012.)

Clearly it has never […]

A Celebration of International Women’s Day



In honour of International Women’s Day being held this Sunday, we wanted to provide further information into the background of this auspicious day; its significance, its history and its relevance in the 21st century.

While the broad description of International Women’s Day is a day to ‘celebrate women’s achievements’, the purpose and significance of the event is so much more. On the 8th of March, thousands of events ranging from political rallies, business conferences and government activities are held around the world to not only celebrate female achievement but to also unite, network and mobilise for positive change.

These events were first observed in the United States on 28 February, 1909. The Socialist Party of America designated this day in honour of the 1908 garment workers’ strike in New York, where women protested against working conditions. From there, The Socialist International meeting in Copenhagen, established a Women’s Day in 1910, to honour the movement for women’s rights and to build support for achieving universal suffrage for women. This proposal was greeted with unanimous approval by the conference.

As a result of the Copenhagen initiative, International Women’s Day was marked for the first time (19 March) in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland in 1911, where more than one million women and men attended rallies. In addition to the right to vote and to hold public office, they demanded women’s rights to work, to vocational training and an end to discrimination on the job.

From 1914 to 1918 International Women’s Day also became a mechanism for protesting World War I. Women held rallies across Europe during March to either protest the war or to express solidarity with other activists.

Since those early years, International Women’s Day has assumed a new global […]

A myth or an achievable reality?



The Oscars came and went this week in a blur of glitz, glamour and political statements. While politics and the Oscars are a more unusual pairing, this year politics was as prominent a theme as the off-white frock, with actress Patricia Arquette’s politically charged acceptance speech a particular highlight.

During her speech, Arquette drew uproarious applause from the audience for her plea for equal rights for women in the United States of America: “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America”.

While her comments (especially those made backstage after Arquette’s speech) have come under scrutiny from particular members of the public, it cannot be denied that her speech and the resulting media attention surrounding it, has ignited the gender equality debate.

Some have argued that Patricia’s speech was unnecessary. Fellow actress and conservative pundit, Stacey Dash was quoted saying “I didn’t get the memo that I don’t have any rights”. Furthermore, American author and social commentator Suzanne Venker, argued the issue of gender equality in itself is pointless. “The problem with equality is that it implies two things are interchangeable – meaning one thing can be substituted for the other with no ramifications.

But being equal in worth, or value, is not the same as being identical, interchangeable beings. Men and women may be capable of doing many of the same things, but that doesn’t mean they want to. That we don’t have more female CEOs or stay-at-home dads proves this in spades.

This doesn’t mean that men can’t take care of babies […]

What Makes A Good Leader?


We all know how difficult it can be to lead; to lead a business, lead a sports team and thanks to recent media scrutiny, lead a country.

As the media paint the picture of instability and speculate who will be our prime minister in 6 months you can’t help but wonder… if our country’s key politicians are facing difficulty with leadership within their own party, what hope do the rest of us have in leading successfully?

While leading a country arguably relies on greater resources than leading any sort of team, it can be argued that a great leader requires fundamental principles and qualities that remain constant no matter what situation you’re in; leading a country, a sports team or even your work team.

One of these fundamental principles is Emotional Intelligence (EI). EI is an umbrella term coined by David Goleman in his ground-breaking work of the same name. It encompasses many tried and proven ways of improving human relations. It’s revolutionary because EI’s structure provides a simple, natural understanding of complex human issues. It also provides a pathway to skills that can enhance the way you live, love, play and most importantly work with other people.

Emotional Intelligence is a crucial element in achieving great leadership because leadership is all about human relationships and consequently anything that improves relationships will enhance leadership. EI has proven itself not only in enhanced work relationships but with a direct flow on effect to the bottom line.

EI includes five interlocking elements. It starts with Self-awareness, the old Greek advice of ‘Know Thyself’. The rationale here is if you don’t know yourself, you will not know the effect you are having on those around you. For example, if you don’t realize […]

Valentines Day Blog:

Here at VM Learning we often talk about developing the H.E.A.R.T of your business and many of our clients may be wondering what H.E.A.R.T has to do with a training and development company. In the wake of Valentine’s Day, we thought now would be a fitting time to discuss why matters of the heart are so integral not just to VM Learning but to any healthy organisation.

Literally, the acronym H.E.A.R.T refers to the values of Honesty, Empathy, Acceptance, Respect and

Trust. Symbolically, it represents all that gives life and maintains rhythm, warmth, circulation, connection and unity. Bringing the two together, we believe that these values are what determine the health of any organisation; the ability to have an open flow of communication, to have genuine encouragement, support and acceptance within the work team and to have all aspects of the system flourish with fresh ideas and inspired action.

The concept  developing the H.E.A.R.T of your business was first coined over 25 years ago, when we first started to deliver dynamic training and development programs to individuals and corporate organisations. During these 25 years VM have focused on highlighting the importance of combining H.E.A.R.T with intelligence and technical skill within an organisation, as studies have show

n that these key concepts help to motivate employees and further their engagement within the company.

For example, a British research company conducting studies in workplace

happiness from 2002 to 2009 found that employees that trusted their executives and colleagues were 50% more likely to be engaged with their work than those that didn’t feel they trusted their colleagues.  Within this same study 63% of participants who didn’t feel respected claimed they would leave their organisation within two years.

These are important statistics as employee […]

The Flames of Conflict




With the New Year, there often comes an opportunity to approach processes in a new and fresh way, especially within organisations. However this change and the excessive workload that stems from this change, can result in an increased number of ‘conflict bushfires’.

The VM Group is regularly invited into organisations where these conflict bushfires are raging or are just about to spark.  Consequently, we thought we would share with you some of the basic insights and strategies an organisation can put in place in order to transform their conflict into cooperation.

As we all know, prevention is always better than a cure and we encourage developing preventative strategies rather than reactive ones, so that organizations can divert resources away from firefighting and focus their time and energy on more important business goals.

Our main message is that, while conflict is a fact of life, it need not be a way of life. Conflict is inevitable in the context of diversity.  We all have our own goals, values, approaches, and personalities which can often be completely at odds with our colleague’s values, approaches, personalities or even perceptions of ‘the facts’.  It is these differences that inevitably lead to conflict. Subsequently we need to know how to deal with conflict and use it constructively.

Conflict tends to follow a downward spiral through five stages:

Stage 1 Accusations and Threats

Stage 2 Expansion

Stage 3 Generalisation to the entire relationship

Stage 4 Plan and plot

Stage 5 Spread

During the downward spiral of conflict, psychological changes happen. We start to use selective perception—we see only the `bad’ in the other person and are blind to the ‘good’.  We generate a self-fulfilling prophecy; we are usually not treating the other person very well (e.g. we might be approaching […]

Sexist? Who, Me?


Over the last four years or so, a research tool has been capturing the attention of not only social psychologists, but a significant portion of the general public. This tool can assess how closely people’s brains link concepts such as items like “black and bad” or “women and passive” and can consequently reveal subtle forms of discrimination amongst participants.

It’s called the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and focuses on how closely and quickly our brains can link or categorise various words and images. The idea is that most of us identify words and images more rapidly, when they come from closely related categories than when they come from un-related categories. For instance, if you associate librarians with intelligence and boxers with violence, you can probably tell in a split-second that synonyms for intelligence like ‘smart’ and ‘brainy’ relate to the dual category ‘librarians or intelligence’ and synonyms for violence like ‘aggression and hostility’ relate to the dual category “boxers or violence”.

Many social psychologists believe that these cognitive associations lead to “implicit bias” (the attitudes and stereotypes that affect our understanding) which can then lead to subtle forms of discrimination.

In the case of sexual discrimination or gender bias, recent research in America using IAT tests revealed that gender bias was present and furthermore influenced aspects like voting and female leadership within the workforce. Students at Stanford University who lead the study found that when participants followed instructions to sort images rapidly, the average person found it easier to pair words like “president”, governor” and “executive” with male names and words like “ secretary”, “assistant” and “aide” with female names. This finding indicated that these participants had a lot more difficulty associating women with leadership.

The students argued […]

Empathy: The fundamental skill for connecting with others



Empathy is often described as the ability to put oneself in the shoes of another person. Some people argue that as much as we try to do this, it can be a challenge if you have never had a similar experience. Certainly this is a valid comment but like any other aspect of effective communication it is possible to learn the skills of empathy if truly committed. We all have imagination and the ability to listen and depending on your intention it is possible to understand another person’s situation – their perspectives, emotions, actions (reactions) – and communicate this to the person.
Empathy is an Emotional Intelligence (EI) competency. In the field of Emotional Intelligence, Goldman’s original framework consisted of five dimensions:

Self- Regulation
Relationship Management

Why bother developing Empathy?
Empathy is critical for leadership
Research has shown that what employees want is to feel like their manager listens to them. When leaders really listen, using empathy to understand what the person is thinking or feeling without trying to offer solutions or strategies to solve their problem this is when people feel valued. Empathy creates safety and when people are free to be themselves, they are much more likely to be motivated and productive.

Empathy enables shared team learning
Without empathy, people tend to go about life focused on what is happening for them. Without empathy, team learning is simply not possible. Each of us has differing perspectives and if we cannot move from our own perspective, we fail to truly learn and to share. Without taking a moment to listen, it is easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. This often leads to misunderstandings, bad feelings, conflict, poor morale and even divorce. People do not feel heard and importantly not […]

Bridging the Gap