Tracey Spicer Talks Equality, Family and the Season of Giving

Controversially sacked as a television newsreader shortly after returning from maternity leave, tracey spicer knows better than most the uneven playing field that still exists in the workplace. in a recent interview with Spark, Tracey opened up about juggling motherhood and career, workplace equality and her passionate support of those less fortunate.

You have been a public face for most of your career. What have been the biggest positives and negatives of that situation?
It’s allowed me to take a public stand on issues, to give voice to those who don’t have a profile. I have done this on issues as diverse as voluntary euthanasia, sexism in the workplace, and teen body image. Sometimes people disagree with my opinions, and they make threats against my family. That’s hard, at first. But I’ve learned that people don’t generally follow through on those threats – fortunately!

What is something our readers might not know about you?
I was once addicted to yoga. I did a very intense form – Ashtanga – for about 12 years. Now and then, I do a headstand to freak out the kids. 

You have a history of supporting, and through your journalistic efforts highlighting, those less fortunate both in Australia and abroad. Is that spurred by years of reporting the news?
My father is an extremely compassionate man. He brought us up to help others, before ourselves. I was also very fortunate to be sent on a World Vision documentary trip to Bangladesh in 1998. IT changed my life.

Coming up to Christmas, do you think Australians as a nation are generous?
Yes, we are a generous people. But I don’t like a lot of the language surrounding the commentary on asylum seekers. There seems to be this philosophy that we should help our own before those in the developing world. We’re all human beings, at the end of the day. 

What is the biggest social issue you are currently focused on?
I am very passionate about women’s rights in the workplace, at the moment. The gender pay gap is unacceptable, particularly for low-paid workers.  

At one point in your career you were controversially sacked just after returning from two months maternity leave. Do you think Australian businesses offer enough support for employees, men or women, wanting to also raise a family? And if not, what more could be done?
The Diversity Council and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency are doing tremendous work in this area. Businesses are improving workers’ flexibility. But there’s a long way to go. I’d like to see employer-funded childcare on site, equal paid maternity and paternity leave, and quotas for women on boards and within senior management. 

Do you think the government is showing sufficient leadership in this area? What would your ideal system be?
The federal government seems to be committed to this area. It’s just not moving fast enough. I’d like to see a Scandinavian system, where they involve the whole “village” in raising the child. 

As a successful businesswoman and mother, what do you think are the keys to creating a work/life balance?
The key is this: There is no such thing as work/life balance! Every hour, every day, every week, every month, and every year is different. The sooner we accept that, the easier we will be on ourselves. Superwoman – or Superman – doesn’t exist. 

What advice can you give for women who are looking to start or expand their own business?
It’s pretty old fashioned: Work hard, don’t take no for an answer, and never compromise your principals.

With the evolution of online news delivery, do you think accuracy is being sacrificed for speed?
There is a degree of truth to this. But on the flip side, there are a lot of positives to ‘new media’.  Finally, media organisations are listening to their readers/viewers/listeners. There are exciting ideas and concepts being trialled on blogs, twitter and facebook. I love it.

What is your view of an individual’s Twitter account increasingly being the source of breaking news online?
I have to admit, I get most of my breaking news from twitter. You just have to be selective about who you follow, and make sure you attribute information to the correct sources. I follow all the emergency service organisations, and major political players. 

In your opinion, what are the key mistakes businesses make when using social media?
Tweeting before thinking; using twitter or facebook for blatant ads; losing their sense of humour.

What opportunities do you see for small businesses in Australia in the next 3-5 years?
Social media creates new opportunities for business to cut their advertising costs. It’s a brave new worldwhich requires creative and lateral thinking.  

What do you think is the secret to your career success?
A glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind, ha ha! Seriously, I don’t thinking anyone gets anywhere without hard work. MY sister and I were brought up with a strong work ethic. I reckon it’s the key.

What are your goals for the 3-5 years?
To be able to spend as much time as possible with my 8-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl. Also, to build the corporate side of my work – MCing, making videos, conducting media training and teaching presentation training – to pay for my superannuation. And, somehow, to maintain a sense of humour!

Tracey’s top 5 tips for women to succeed in business
  1. Have the confidence to ask for a pay rise
  2. Know your rights when it comes to maternity leave
  3. Learn how to play politics
  4. Never use your sexuality to get ahead
  5. Network with other women

By Neil Donnelly