Maritime boss encourages women to paddle their own canoe and confidently chart their course to an executive career

Women in leadership: Vi Blazevska, of ANZ, Professor Julie Steele, IWIB director Glenda Papac and guest speaker Natalie McLean, of RMS, and Delyse Del Turco at the IWIB Conference & Expo Day at Sage Hotel Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.
Women in leadership: Vi Blazevska, of ANZ, Professor Julie Steele, IWIB director Glenda Papac and guest speaker Natalie McLean, of RMS, and Delyse Del Turco at the IWIB Conference & Expo Day at Sage Hotel Wollongong. Picture: Greg Ellis.

Natalie McLean has worked in many male dominated fields in her career from working as an intelligence analyst with the Crime Commission to being a radio communication operator, strategic intelligence analyst and a quality assurance manager with NSW Police.

She has been a land titles officer with the Department of Land and Water Conservation and held many operational management positions with the SES.

Few knew of Mrs McLean’s story before she spoke at the annual IWIB Conference & Expo Day at Sage Hotel Wollongong on October 20 but left feeling inspired.

The general manager of operations and compliance branch in the maritime division of Roads and Maritime (RMS) is responsible for reducing fatalities in waterways across NSW. And she provided an example of her innovative leadership.

 “80 per cent of the fatalities on our waterways are middle age men who don’t wear a life jacket. So this year for the first time in Maritime I ran a Father’s Day campaign where I targeted women to buy their husbands a life jacket because women make 80 per cent of the buying decisions in a home. I did that through schools”.

Mrs McLean made up little coffee cups with the message and distributed 4500 across schools in NSW. It got 25,000 hits on Facebook.

She is the first woman to hold the executive position she presently holds and been the first to hold many of the positions in her career. She has worked in the NSW Public Service for 22 years and spoke about how woman can seize opportunities to advance their career.

Mrs McLean said women held about 20 per cent of executive positions in the transport section of the NSW Public Service and it wasn’t because they stopped to have children. She has three. One of the problems is women are not applying for the top jobs.

Mrs McLean ended with a quote from her grandmother that says “love many, trust few and always paddle your own canoe”.

And shared a list of of what she thinks can work for other women:

  • There is no such thing as a dead end job.
  • Take every opportunity to put your own stamp on every position and don’t let anyone define you.
  • Skills are more important than knowledge.
  • Understand your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Self reflection is important in a leadership position.
  • As is understanding how people perceive you.
  • How you behave in failure says more about you then how you behave during success. People are watching.
  • Get rid of toxic people. Surround yourself with good people in professional and personal life.
  • When you see success understand the persistence, failures, sacrifices, hard work and dedication that led to it.
  • Challenge yourself & never stop learning.
  • Don’t be afraid to show your weaknesses.
  • Women can have it all but not at once. There is a time and place for everything.
  • Leadership is important.
  • Constantly learn about your leadership and your values. Human compassion is an most important values for a true leader as is integrity and equity.
  • Take on the hard issues and don’t sweep things under the carpet.
  • Walk the walk.
  • Admit mistakes.
  • Have one-on-ones with all staff.
  • Understand the business and stakeholders,
  • Be professional.
  • Constantly communicate direction.
  • Just go for it and don’t worry about failure.
  • Be passionate about what you do.
  • Trust your action plan.
  • Don’t girl talk.

Coming soon – What the panel said at the 2017 conference day