Anna O’Dea - A zero tolerance for bullying, sexism, homophobia, racism and inequality #LeadingLadies

Anna ODea IceBerg Agency Recruitment Australia

Anna O’Dea is the founder of Melbourne based recruitment company Agency Iceberg and the industry renowned #LeadingLadies interview series who is happily married to building her dream career and being a doting mother to a very cheeky rescue sausage dog named Marlowe. 

With a series of awards under her belt, and articles published in the Huffington Post, MammaMia, SmartCompany, Fast Company, B&T Magazine, Campaign Brief and Sydney Morning Herald, Anna will be a guest speaker, along with a host of Australia’s top talent, at this year’s 3% Conference - a movement that celebrates the value of women as both consumers and workplace talent.

What are you passionate about?

I’m passionate about REAL topics and #LeadingLadies turns me on! I’ll always love recruitment and placing talent into their dream jobs - it’s a fantastic feeling, but talking about taboo topics in the workplace that are often swept under the rug or unspoken of for fear of offending people or because society tells us that we shouldn’t have a voice or opinion on the matter is something I really champion. 

I’m not afraid to have an opinion and it seems our readers like what I have to say! I was raised and schooled by very strong female role models that always encouraged me to be strong, independent woman.  While it began when I was a teenager, it was drilled into me all through high school by the teaching staff; both male & female. 

There was a zero tolerance to bullying and a strong sense of sisterhood within the school and the local community that I was raised in and this has carried on into my adulthood. 

#LeadingLadies is an extension of my upbringing. A zero tolerance to bullying, sexism, homophobia, racism and inequality. I’ve extended this to the workplace and frequently use my voice to speak up on the gender pay gap - why should two genders earn different salaries when they are doing the same job? Should a Mum returning to work from 10 months maternity leave really have to take a 30% or 40% pay cut? Let’s talk about it! 

What are some of the highlights or accomplishments of your life?

Being accepted into and even passing university was a huge accomplishment that I truly value and don’t take for granted. I’ve always associated university with “smart” people and would never have thought that I could have been capable of being in this category. I applied myself and dedicated serious hours of study and proved that it was something that I was capable of achieving. 

A recent highlight actually happened last year when out of the blue I received a call from the NYC Managing Editor of Linkedin and he congratulated me on the great work that my team had done with the #LeadingLadies interview series. They loved that we were using their platform to spread the word on taboo topics through a female lens and asked if I was open to submitting an application for a global award, which in turn we ended up winning. That was a bit of a “WTF” moment. 

Highlights include  ‘LinkedIn Top Voice Award for 2016 in Marketing and Social Media (the only female in Australian to be part of this global list - a huge honour and achievement for my team)’,  the 2016 Optus Awards ‘Workplace of the Year’ Nominee, I hit the milestone of 80K+ followers on LinkedIn last week, profiled 29 incredible #LeadingLadies in just shy of 12 months, being invited to speak at this year’s 3 percent conference, and partnering with YGAP's Polished Man campaign this year to raise money and awareness to help child victims of physical and/or sexual violence worldwide and this charity is one that is very close to my heart.

What are some of the challenges you've experienced in your career/life?

I’ve found that hiring and/or working with people that just don’t have the same passion, drive and hunger as you do can be a real challenge. You just have to swallow it and realise that not everyone has the same dream. It’s something that I’m still learning how to deal with and become more accepting of. 

I’ve definitely struggled with choosing to take time-out. Stepping back is very difficult and I’m working on it! A very important lesson that I’ve digested over the past year is that not everyone will want to help you achieve your goals and it’s also ok to say “no” to these people. 

It’s unfortunate, but I’ve become more aware of those that are more interested in what they can “get” from you. I’ve become more aware of genuine people that enjoy my company and love to see me succeed. They’re the brilliant people within your close network that will go out of their way to help you, without even asking and never expect something in return. There’s never an agenda.

Of everything you’ve learned, is there one lesson that stands out for you and how did that shape who you are?

A former Manager once gave me very good advice and I’ve never forgotten it… “DON’T F#CK WITH YOUR REPUTATION.”

This is a lesson in itself. Life will hand you really great times and really difficult times. As much as possible, always try to handle it as best as possible and remember just how small the world is. People talk and your reputation will stick, forever.

When you look back on your life, who (or what) has been your greatest source of inspiration?

#LeadingLadies stand out for me and that’s why I choose to profile them. They always inspire me and in some way, I envy what they have achieved and have overcome in the workplace and life. I’m competitive in nature and I always like to have something to or someone to push me to be better. 

When I’m not working I like to draw inspiration from online writers. There’s one in particular, Janne Robinson, that’s very emotional and raw. She’s not afraid to pour her heart out onto a page and let you know if she’s suffering or f#cked up her latest relationship from jealousy or loneliness. She’s very vulnerable. 

Can you share with us something that people wouldn’t know about you?

Something that people may not know about me is that when I was 18 years old, I moved overseas to start a job as an Au Pair, which after a few weeks I was fired from! Let’s just say cooking, cleaning and ironing shirts was not my forte. I ran out of money very quickly and thanks to my Mother’s connections was put in touch with a distant family friend that had a spare room for me to stay in until I landed on my feet. The spare room was within a Convent and I stayed for several months with a group of elderly “Sisters” that took me in without question. From this experience, I made some truly great friendships from unlikely places (being that I’m not particularly religious) and learned never to turn my nose up at people, no matter their background or beliefs. 

What do you want to be remembered for?

Allowing women speak their truth. 

What are your aspirations for the future? What's next for you?

If #LeadingLadies can help bridge the gap between men and women in the workplace, then I’ve achieved something great. The purpose of the series is not to create a divide - it’s actually quite the opposite. It’s about education. 

We recently hosted our first major event for the series and the topic we chose was ‘Stress & Depression in the Workplace: Let’s Talk About It.’ We had a fantastic turn-out of both men and women in the audience and the feedback from men in particular after the event that commented on the issues that we had (affecting women in particular) was incredible. 

We want to involve men in our future journey with #LeadingLadies!

What is your favourite saying or quote?

“Forgiveness tastes so sweet when you mix it with a little bit of yourself.” Gemma Troy (Poet)

If you could wave a magic wand and give everyone the gift of one major super power (from the list of values below), what would it be and why?

Collaboration. Bringing men and women together in the workplace and to collaborate more with each other. The less collaboration we have, the more we’re going to have issues in the workplace such as sexism, bullying, the gender pay gap, issues with parental leave and so on. 

We need to start bringing to light these issues and work together on how to start solving them.