How often do you spend time reflecting on your life? To become the best version of yourself, it is important to know yourself. Graduate of the Diverse Women’s Leadership Program, Jeanene Williams, has experienced first-hand how purposeful your life can be when you know exactly who you are and stand by and accept that person.
In order to do so, she says, you must understand and accept who you are and what drives you – both as a leader and as a person. By doing so you will greatly benefit from your strengths, weaknesses and passions.
Born in the country town of Carnarvon in 1970 Jeanene moved to Perth in the late 1980’s to study electronics at TAFE. From there she got into computer programming and quickly moved into senior software development management roles. With extensive experience in senior leadership positions of both startup and public companies spanning Australia and overseas she knows firsthand what it takes for both small and medium businesses to survive.
In her late 40’s Jeanene came out as a transgender woman which made a huge difference to her life and allowing her to rediscover herself and her passions. It is amazing what difference it can make to your life when you no longer feel that you have to hide who you are and can express your full self freely.
Since making this change, she has received nothing but support from all those around her helping to build a passion and desire to give back to the community and all those who have supported her. As a result over the last few years, Jeanene has taken an active role in her community to improve diversity in the Technology and professional industry for all underrepresented groups, especially for women, LGBTQIA+ and people with disabilities. As part of this, she has taken on a number of voluntary roles such as Vice Chair of the Australian Computer Society’s National Diversity and Inclusion Council and won awards including Women in Technology WA 2021 Tech [+] for the top 20 women in tech and Outstanding Role Model Awards.
As a big believer in improving diversity and leading by example she has used her own personal experience and story to show others what can be achieved when you give support and understanding to those who need it.
Tell us about an organisation you’re involved with and what you’ve learnt about creating positive change?
I am currently the Vice Chair of the Australian Computer Societies National Diversity and Inclusion Council. Over the last 2 years at the NDIC we have been working to improve diversity in the Technology industry Australia wide with a particular focus on improving participation and pay for women in the industry. Currently, women only represent 29% of workers in the industry and have a 16% pay gap in the Information Media & Telecommunications industry.
What was the first step you took to build your leadership or create change?
The first real step towards building both my leadership and creating change was accepting my true self and having the courage to show it to the world. Since then I have been able to dedicate my entire self to growth both as a professional and as someone who wants change in society.
What is an important leadership lesson you’ve learnt along the way?
You must first understand and accept who you are and what drives you. Until you have done this you are just copying others and missing the benefits of your own core strengths, weaknesses and passions.
Tell us about a moment where you were really brave and why. What did you learn?
The bravest and also most rewarding moment in my life would be when I came out to the world professionally and socially as Transgender. This taught me so much about myself and released confidence, strength and passion that I didn’t know I had. It also showed me how so many people in our society care and respect those who struggle and overcome their own personal challenges.
What reflective practices help you stay resilient?
As someone who has hidden myself not only from society but also from myself, I have learnt that it is so important to look at your own motivations, drivers and fears. I always try to analyse my reactions to everyday events, particularly when I find myself making quick judgement. I like to think through what has happened during the day each night before going to bed and look at what things I may have been able to do better and if there is something I can do to improve the next day. But more importantly, the last thing I do is look at what I have done well or where I can have a positive impact. I believe that ending the day in a positive frame of mind is so important, particularly in times of stress or challenge.
What habits, mindsets or behaviours help you be the best person you can be?
Having seen firsthand how easy it is to build a shell around yourself and how hard it can be to break I make a continued effort to look at all my actions and the motivations behind them. Being honest with yourself and your motivations is hugely important in maintaining your true self identity. I try to look at all actions and decisions I make to understand what emotions are driving them and understand underlying motivation and biases. Whenever I feel that I have reacted from negative emotions or mindsets I try to look at why and how I could have approached things from a more positive point of view. This approach has made quite a significant difference to my life and has slowly grown so that it is almost automatic for me to either take a positive viewpoint on most subjects, or to work to see how the outcomes can be improved.
What’s next for you?
The changes in my life over the last few years have given me a deep desire to give back to the wider community and a passion for helping other people. Currently, I am running in the Federal election to try and bring diversity, fairness and change into our political system. Regardless of the results of this election, I will be continuing to reach out to improve diversity and acceptance for all underrepresented, marginalised, or disadvantaged groups in our community. Where this will end up taking me I don’t know but it will be a journey worth taking.
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