International Women's Day: Andrea Stevenson

This week we’re celebrating our female leaders with an International Women’s Day series. Today we hear from the bright and brilliant Andrea Stevenson – one of our Hawke’s Bay directors.

Time to read: 4 mins

"We could all be happy in a wide range of careers, but we need alignment in our values and need to work for people we can trust and respect."

Baker Tilly Staples Rodway Hawke's Bay Human Resources director Andrea Stevenson 

I had the privilege of growing up with some great role models who demonstrated first-hand that woman can have and do it all.  

Foremost is my mother who, prior to having a family, had been a sergeant major in the Australian Army Corps. Another early and incredibly inspirational role model was Anne Fulton – one of my postgraduate guest lecturers and also one of my first employers. Anne is now an international guru on career and talent development with her company Fuel50 but at the time she showed me how to balance being a great mum, building a company, prioritising health and fitness, and being passionate about all one does (including running marathons).

I fell into the field of psychology, possibly somewhat by accident (although I’m sure it was all part of Someone’s plan!). I spent my final year of high school as an exchange student in Sweden and psychology was a school subject on offer. Not being able to speak the language, it was the only subject I worked on to translate into English.

I’d always been a watcher of people. I loved non-fiction self-help books and as a student spent far too much time watching Oprah Winfrey strategically probe the psychology of her various guests. I fell in love with organisational psychology – the psychology of people at work – their personalities, what motivates and drives them and what engages them. Long story short, here I am as an Organisational Development Consultant.

I married at the end of my Masters degree, fortunately to a man who had had good female role models in his life. We had both lived overseas prior and were keen to now focus on work, career and house. I have somehow navigated raising four children along the way, working in part-time contracting roles when they were very young – it kept my foot in the door but meant I had a ball of a time as a young mum. I look back fondly on those times – I had awesome friends, frequented Wellington cafes, we hosted loads of dinner parties (back when the kids were in bed by 6.30pm!), but mostly, I am thrilled that I took the time to enjoy my children.

Life becomes more serious as we get older – we move as a working mother from physical demands to emotional demands, be it with work or children. Finding a good balance in what works for you is vital. As women we are hard on each other – how we look, what we wear, being too career focused, not being sufficiently career focused etc.

You have to be really clear on your own values and what is important to you, not the person next to you (although your spouse can sometimes worth listening to!). I have worked to have a clear understanding of my values – of what I am willing to compromise on and what I am not. This is helpful as a working mother. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle of eating, sleep and exercise can never be underestimated. What a lot of people don’t know is that 80% of serotonin (the feel-good hormone) comes from the gut, so if you are struggling at least get that piece right.

Exercise and gardening give me a clear head. I love to get tasks done, but can just as easily curl up with a good book or watch a good movie. Sometimes we need that. I have adopted the question to myself (ask it hourly even) – “Am I doing what I should be doing right now?” – and sometimes blobbing on the sofa is exactly what I should be doing!

Key learnings:

  • Hard work compensates incredibly if you are not naturally high in IQ
  • It’s not so much about what you do, but why you do it and who you do it for – we could all be happy in a wide range of careers, but we need alignment in our values and to work for people we can trust and respect.
  • Have a faith. Whether you like it or not, we are spiritual beings and believing gives hope, joy and encourages us to focus on others. Positive psychology shows that altruism is a key point of difference in the lives of happy people. Get involved and do something for others (aka “love thy neighbour”) – it works.

A final thought from me in terms of leadership is that you are never there (if you think you are, then you are most definitely not!).  Keep growing and developing.  Embrace your own learnings and those of others but don’t forget to enjoy the journey on the way.  An ode to Miley Cyrus – it’s about the climb. 

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