With Kamala Harris elected to become the next Vice President of the USA, the need for more women in leadership roles, and the special value that female leaders bring to organisations, is very much in focus.
Skye Maconachie started with Blue Dragon as a volunteer in 2003. At that time, Blue Dragon was in its startup phase, and founder Michael Brosowski was just getting started on growing the organisation as a powerful force for change in Vietnam.
After years of volunteering and working with Blue Dragon, mixed in with returning to Australia to complete a Masters of Social Work and then working with refugee communities in Queensland, Skye was appointed to the newly formed role of co-CEO of the charity in November 2019.
Blue Dragon has pioneered the co-CEO structure for NGOs in Vietnam, creating a model which separates out the roles of the chief executive to two people who report to a governing board.
Skye’s CEO position gives her leadership of Blue Dragon’s programs and direct work with children, including the organisation’s child safeguarding policy and practice. Founder Michael Brosowski’s CEO role focuses on strategy, funding, and development.
Taking on the CEO position in an organisation she has long known and cared for was a significant step for Skye, who sees the role as an opportunity to apply her extensive experience and knowledge of social work to support Blue Dragon staff in working with the highly complex needs of young Vietnamese people.
In her first year in the role, Skye has spearheaded the development of a Young Adult Protection Policy to provide specific guidance for staff and personnel on working with beneficiaries aged over 18, and led Blue Dragon’s programs through the tumultuous months of the coronavirus pandemic.
As a result of her leadership, Blue Dragon’s reach has grown over the course of the year to provide support for many more street children and victims of trafficking.
So what drives Skye to take on the formidable daily challenges of being a CEO in such a complex environment?
Skye sees that women have a vital role in the leadership of organisations of all kinds. As the CEO of a charitable organisation, she considers her role to be of special significance.
Women in leadership can ensure that the voices of women and girls are heard and promoted. Through Blue Dragon’s programs, girls and young women have opportunities to raise their voice and develop the confidence to share their points of view. This may be done formally, through the formation of girls’ clubs in rural boarding schools, or informally, through everyday interactions at the Blue Dragon centre.
Women in leadership set an example to the next generation of leaders, challenging traditional thinking about who a leader should be. Women in leadership are important role models, whether they are aware of it or not, to girls everywhere in the world, and also to boys, modelling different approaches and styles of leadership.
Women in leadership provide greater diversity to the thinking and decision-making processes. Men and women are equal, but they bring different experiences, backgrounds, and viewpoints. These differences should be seen as a source of strength and knowledge for organisations, and not a cause of division and disunity.
Particularly in the charitable sector, where most employees are female, women in leadership ensure greater understanding and representation of staff needs. Women working in any organisation need to see that they do have a path forward for their career; that their gender will not exclude them from any position.
As Skye reaches the milestone of her first year in a CEO role, she welcomes the inspiration and example set by having a woman elected for the first time to the Vice Presidency of the United States. While recognition of women’s leadership has come a long way, women in all types of roles continue to face an uphill battle to be valued for their strengths and skills, regardless of their gender. And for Skye, taking on those challenges is one of her personal ambitions as Blue Dragon’s co-CEO.