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Women Leaders Programme:
“The inspiration I was looking for”
Head of Human Resources & Office, Leonardo Australia
Past participant of Women Leaders Programme
Rachel Woodhatch is a Senior HR and Change Executive presently working within the Aerospace, Defence and Hi-Technology sector within the ANZ region with Leonardo as Head of HR and Office. Her corporate career spans more than 10 years in people leadership positions, across a diversity of global organisations and sectors including: Aviation, Mining & Resources, Engineering, Automotive, IT, Medical Devices, Health, Sales and Marketing.
Dual Australian and British by birth, Rachel completed her Commerce and MBA studies across Australia and the United Kingdom, beginning her career in London working in Hedge Funds and Retail in the early 2000’s. Her passions in management, health and sunshine brought her back to Australia, where she took up her first HR assignments within the Resources sector with Alcoa and Iluka Resources. Over the last decade, Rachel has predominantly supported global organisations in need of transformation, governance and change, including restructuring businesses, implementing new HR, WHS and Office functions, transforming and educating HR and senior leadership teams, setting up new regional subsidiaries under private equity backing and driving new business ventures and growth via merger and acquisition activity. Rachel says that she “has always been drawn to a challenge and is inspired by the fast-paced dynamism of smart business strategy, ethical governance, transformational leadership, and working in high-performance corporate environments with smart MDs and CEO’s which allow her to do her best work and add tangible value to organisations”.
A seasoned and successful leader, Rachel nonetheless acknowledges many of the difficulties that women face in leadership, especially in what is still very much a “patriarchal business world, especially at the C suite and Board level”. “It is hard to feel truly accepted as a woman in business, especially if you are petite, attractive and feminine, as well as competent, well qualified and smart”. “I feel that many women think they have to behave in a masculine way to fit into the corporate world and be seen and cannot show their true femininity; and this is a view I do not share nor have never subscribed too, as I see our feminine essence as women an asset and potentially very powerful to reaching our best potential as business leaders as well as promoting greater diversity in business and supporting other women”.
In the early phase of her career, transitioning to more senior roles was often fraught with sexism, harassment and ageism – from women and men alike, both at peer and senior levels. As a result, Rachel has learnt to be far more selective about the opportunities she embraces, including the Directors, CEO’s, MD’s and Board’s she engages with. “I’m very careful now to focus on the values and vision of an organisation and its senior leadership, to ensure there is a good ethical fit alignment to my values and that the organisation and its leaders genuinely care about their product, service, people, customers and business health, including their growth, profitability, social, environmental and governance responsibilities”.
“Throughout my career I have worked in predominantly very male-dominated sectors and industries, sometimes and very often, the only women in the room or on a leadership team so you do become very conscious of your visibility as a female which can be quite a powerful role to inspire other women in your organisation and or industry – I am very aware of this now and see it as a privilege and part of my future purpose to promote the diversity and inclusion (DEI) of smart and ambitious women in an organisation.” This is now very much my purpose and legacy as a leader, partner, daughter, sister, future mother and female”.
Working in HR and global businesses as a Senior Leader, Rachel has had the fortune, she says to support DEI across a range of efforts; from mentoring and coaching other women towards promotion and defining progressive hiring and talent management policies, to benchmarking pay and addressing unconscious biases within organisations. “Being a woman in a STEM or tech based sector comes with a real responsibility to raise awareness of bias, including cultural bias, and demonstrate the need for women to be represented, especially within Engineering, Automotive and Aviation sectors”. “I’ve worked hard in my professional career to get things like unconscious bias and cultural training, mentoring and coaching for women and men in place so that organisations can promote greater inclusivity across gender equality and pay equity, as well as promoting the acceptance of disability and difference in organisation to promote and strengthen internal thinking and problem solving capability across all levels within an organisation as this should not just be for senior leaders, graduates and mid-level managers also gain good value from this to create real transformation and progression.”
Fighting the good fight till now and standing up resolutely for the promotion of greater equality and progression in business as a fourty something professional female, Rachel Woodhatch recognised she was in need of “inspiration” to enable the second half of her career; a realisation that in 2022 led her to the Women Leaders Programme at INSEAD
“I was also looking to benchmark my leadership capability next to International talent at a C-suite level as I had exhausted this in the ANZ/APAC region”. “The INSEAD programme ticked all of these boxes.” “The actual learning experience exceeded all of my expectations, she says. From enabling her to reembrace her personal professional vision and determine concrete next steps to securing new and invaluable insights into her own leadership style, the programme was as “reenergising” as it was “inspirational.”
“The INSEAD coaches and cohort of women on the programme were incredible and this will constitute a network of smart accomplished women that I will have for life”. “Professionally I feel inspired and reenergised”. “Personally too, I feel more balanced as a human being, as the programme equipped me with amazing work and life tools to use into my next phase of leadership to be more impactful and I am thoroughly looking forward to what this may bring”. I wish I’d had this kind of knowledge at 20, but to discover it at 40 will make me a better professional, partner and human being.”
Rachel is confident coming out of the programme that change is needed and inevitable if “smart, qualified, competent, accomplished and beautiful women” continue to come together to share the issues they face in organisations, in work and in leadership to be truly respected and accepted. “We are ready and primed for brilliance, and the programme was just the inspiration and stepping stone that I was looking for and truly needed – it was a gift that I will continue to reflect upon and always treasure.”