Break the Glass Ceiling with Freya Kristiansen
A great deal has been written about the pathways and barriers to women’s advancement into leadership positions. Concepts such as the glass ceiling, concrete walls, sticky floors and career labyrinths have received significant attention in research and media. The recent advancement of women into key leadership roles in business, higher education and government are signs of change.
But the journey isn't the only challenge for women leaders. In fact, research shows that once in a leadership role, female power-holders are seen as less legitimate than male power-holders and experience unconscious bias, microaggressions, sexual harassment and discrimination.
That's why Natasha Johnson of Geocon and Freya Kristiansen of Capital Lend (both in male dominated industries) came up with the Women Empowerment Project - an evening to speak openly and celebrate the accomplishments of women in the business world.
But before the networking begins and the cocktails flow, the Shaker sits down with Freya to discuss what she hopes to achieve at the 13 February event and why the project is so important?
Before we discuss your upcoming event, tell us a bit about yourself. Are you a Canberra girl and what brought you to Capital Lend?
I am a born & raised Canberran, I grew up on the southside and went to school at Daramalan College. I have been in the finance industry ever since I was able to get a loan myself and am very passionate about educating women on personal finances. I spent the first 6 years of my finance career working in car dealerships – a very male-dominated industry. I’d finally hit the ‘glass ceiling’ and realised that I wasn’t going to get any further so departed from my employer to launch my own brokerage. We’re coming to our second year in operation now and business is absolutely booming.
I’m also a seasoned property investor myself, purchasing my first place when I was only 20, I’m now 28 and looking to close on my fourth property.
In my spare time I do a lot of volunteering for charities supporting women & animals. I have three Pomeranians myself (they are a handful!) and I’m working on a blog ‘The Finance Lady’ and online program which I intend to roll out in the next 2 months that will educate women on important issues relating to personal finances including, the gender pay gap, superannuation, financial abuse & it’s link to domestic violence as well as how to get out of debt and recharge your personal finances.
For those of our younger demographic, what do brokers do and what are the benefits of having one?
I think it’s really important for people to start investing in property at a young age as I did, and my goal is to bridge the gap between the unknown and deliver information to our younger demographic in a no-pressure format that they understand. At Capital Lend we are working on developing an e-Course to be launched in the second half of the year – The First Home Buyers Academy that will bring all the information that first home buyers need into the one space in a communication format that they work best with.
Brokers play a very important role in the buying experience, we can bring you a vast range of knowledge and an un-biased opinion of all the banks & products that are available to you. Most importantly, at Capital Lend, our service is free to the consumer. You participated in last years CEO sleepout. Why did you decide to take part and what was it like?
I participated in the CEO Sleepout last year to raise awareness and an understanding for why some people in Canberra become homeless. I believe that it is a very complex issue that isn’t very well understood by the majority. We are lucky to have a roof over our heads, especially in Canberra, recently announced as the most expensive rental market in Australia and so I think it’s important to not take that fore granted and to give back where you can to help those less fortunate than yourself. The sleepout itself was very confronting any eye-opening, I never realised just how complex the homeless situation was in Canberra and how important it is for local businesses to step up and do their part to fix the issue. Most of the time these (homeless) people aren’t looking for a handout, they want an opportunity to be re-introduced into society. A chance to work, or to feel a part of a network.
This is Capital Lend’s first Canberra event, what themes will you be covering?
This event is all about supporting and empowering women to make a change in their personal or work life. We will be addressing important issues such as the gender pay gap, opportunities for women in the workforce, superannuation, financial abuse & domestic violence and much more.
I think that a lot of issues we are covering are faced by most women, however they aren’t acknowledged or addressed. We’re hoping that our event will shed light on these issues and give women the empowerment that they need to take action. We’re really looking forward to this event becoming a regular thing and would love to create a network of like-minded women that can support each other.
Why do you think it’s so hard for women to climb the corporate ladder? Is it a matter of culture, opportunity or conditioning?
I believe that Women have a hard time putting themselves forward and promoting their accomplishments in the workforce. We’re much more maternal – generally putting anyone else’s needs before our own which can mean that we’re either too scared to put ourselves forward for opportunities or forgotten about due to our lack of self-promotion. In addition to this we deal with stereotypes, younger females are usually given an expiration date – not promoted because they might want to start a family soon and exit the workforce, or perhaps not strong enough for a management role due to their different personality style or emotional vulnerability.
I myself have experienced this first-hand – coming from a male dominated industry where my peers were paid the same amount as me to do less work, and promotions were given out based on gender rather than skill. It was very hard to climb the corporate ladder and I found my achievements needed to be much larger-scale than my male counterparts to be noticed. I had to be strong, to put myself forward and to not be discouraged when I was turned away or refused a promotion. Eventually I was in a position generally reserved for middle-aged males and even then I had to fight tooth & nail to keep that position, constantly having to prove I was the right person for the job. Eventually it got the better of me, I was so tired of constantly having to prove myself that I left to take control of my own destiny and create my own workplace where I promised myself Women wouldn’t be judged or have to go through what I went through ever again.
What do you hope people will walk away with from your event?
I hope that I can inspire at least one lady to make a change in her life for the better – be it to ask for a promotion or a raise at work, or to make steps to improve their financial situation. I hope that we can give all women the confidence that they need to improve their situation, or the education to ensure they make better decisions in the future.
Why do you think it’s important to encouraging women in male-dominated industries to persevere?
Absolutely, I think that we need to support and encourage each other. We are their equals and spend too much time putting each other down instead of rallying together and supporting one another.
Can we expect more events from you?
Definitely, we intend to make this event a regular thing and would love for other women to share their own experiences and take the spotlight.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
I’m really excited for our First Home Buyers Academy launching second half of this year, I think that it will be a game changer for my industry and am really looking forward to seeing it implemented by the younger generation.
If we're sitting here a year from now celebrating what a great year it's been for you, what did you achieve?
I hope that our First Home Buyers Academy has become a huge success and a household name within the ACT. We’ll also look forward to seeing regular self-development nights and programs in place for financial improvement and education which we are rolling out to schools and women as we speak.
If you're looking for an evening of fun, free drinks and an opportunity to learn and be empowered in an unpretenious and unfiltered environment the Women Empowerment Project is for you! We can't wait to see you there!
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