Cheryl Pearce - A bridge too far

Running time
1 min 52 sec
Date made
Department of Veterans' Affairs


Portsea, we had two females right to the last week were going to fail their course if they couldn't do a traverse rope, and that is going up the rope and across the rope. So they didn't have the upper-body strength to get themselves from the vertical to the horizontal. And if you thought about that now, would we ever failed someone nearly after 12 months of training because they could not physically get themselves from a vertical to horizontal? And you look back, and you sort of... How we found reasons to opt out. How we found reasons to ensure people didn't succeed, versus the other way around. Is how do we create an environment for them to exceed?

And I take that through my junior years, was everything was how could we find ways to fail you versus enable you? And really, as I look back in that first decade, it was really tough. It was about trying to fit in, trying to hold onto your femininity, but not lose it, but allow then to just fit within the team. And we didn't used to have leadership training when we went through. You learned by you'd have commanding officer hours. You'd have conversations around it, but it was about what you saw. It wasn't a theoretical approach to leadership.

I spent a lot of time trying to be more, what I'd call back then, an alpha male leadership. Very stoic, very authoritarian style of leadership. And it wasn't naturally my way. I could switch to that, but my style was quite different. So I spent that first decade trying to find mentors or people that I could be more like, and that was that alpha male. Because it didn't naturally sit... I didn't naturally fit that sort of personality style or that leadership style. And I sort of think about it now and I reflect back, and if there's one thing I wish I did do was really embrace that diversity, embrace my differences, but the environment didn't set it up for that. We do now. We're very much about an inclusive and diverse work environment in most places.

I would still say there are pockets where you need to fit in or the perception is you need to fit in. And for me it was a really thinking, I wish I had a voice. If I told my younger self in that first decade, I wish I had a voice and was comfortable to put my head above the parapet to give my position and my thoughts. But at that time, that was a bridge too far for me. I just wanted to be part of a team. And wasn't really prepared to put myself out on the ledge at that point in time.

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