Melanie Kontze

on Tuesday, 22 May 2012. Posted in Leadership Interviews, Interviews about the Glass Ceiling

Melanie Kontze

At TMP Worldwide, Melanie Kontze is responsible for all business activity in the  IT&T Sector in Australia and New Zealand. This includes development and implementation of strategic business plan for the sector, developing new service offerings; strategic business development and implementation of outsourced resourcing solutions. 

Melanie has broad experience and capability in instigating and managing change in a competitive Information Technology environment. She has twelve years of management experience with profit centre, people performance, business development and strategic business management responsibilities.  

Prior to joining TMP Worldwide in 1998, Melanie’s career included managing a medium sized IT Contracting business in NSW and ten years in the UK and US in the software industry specialising in software solutions and professional services in the international banking and capital markets environment. 

Melanie has a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Auckland with a major in English Literature, a Diploma in Education from the Auckland Secondary Teachers College and a postgraduate Diploma in Marketing from the Royal Institute of Marketing (United Kingdom).  Melanie is a member of the Australian Computer Society and of the Australian Human Resource Institute. 

Personal Interests:

Melanie lives on a vineyard in rural NSW with her husband and four-year-old son. She has a keen interest in all performing arts and literature, enjoys working in the vineyard, cooking and entertaining.

Interview with Melanie Kontze

Do you think that there is an invisible barrier preventing women from reaching the highest level in your profession regardless of their accomplishments and merits?

I think the so called "barriers" arise from a number of factors. There are a significant number of women in senior executive roles in Human Resource Consulting and Recruitment. Indeed there are many very successful consulting firms in this field that were started and grown by women as the owners and founders of the business. My personal experience has been one of promotion and opportunity related to merit, hard work and drive to succeed and to progress. I do think that my particular field is very suited to women (or indeed men) choosing to work in a more flexible way, where they are able to work part-time or from home for a proportion of the time. In this respect there is certainly a terrific pool of experienced women, mid career who have chosen not to accelerate their careers, find the professional work engaging and rewarding, but are not necessarily motivated to reach the senior management ranks. In my view therefore there are not necessarily imposed barriers, and the nature of the work is such that it does not necessarily have high travel demands which may be barriers for women.

Is this barrier in your profession penetrable? How can the barrier be dismantled in your profession?

This question assumes there is a barrier. I think in my field I have seen the following initiatives that have meant the barrier is not imposed for women:

* Flexible work practices in terms of ability to work part-time or from home for part of the time

* Being a knowledge based environment, people are able to use their knowledge, skills, networks supported by technology.

* Productivity of people is not dependent on physical presence in one place. Productivity is measured in outcomes rather than activity 

* Women already in senior management (either as founder and owner or having progressed) are used to accommodating differing practices, whilst maintaining business and productivity goals.

Do you consider yourself to have broken through the Glass ceiling in your profession? If yes, how have you done this?

Not specifically. I have had to deal with I think the normal politics and barriers to success that happen along the way whether you are a man or a woman. At one point all of my peers in a particular business were men, and they were used to de-briefing in the pub at the end of a management meeting.

This created an inadvertent barrier for me, as I had a young child a the time and could not stay beyond the working day in most cases. I raised it with them and we all decided that dinner would be the best way to debrief, I could go home to feed the baby, they could go back to their hotel rooms, call the family and catch up on e-mails and we would all meet later for dinner without the couple of hours in the pub in between times!

In general, what do you see as the underlying cause that must be addressed to shatter the glass ceiling in corporate and public Australia?

As outlined above, I do not think there is a "cause" in my field. There is a biological difference between men and women that means that women mid career will choose to work differently. We can't change this. There is legislation in place to ensure that choices are protected and we should continue to support the legislation. We need to continue to build leadership capability for women and provide an environment where that capability will be recognised.