In my work as a leadership coach for women, I’ve had the privilege of working with a wide spectrum of organizations, each at a different point in their journey toward gender diversity. The corporate landscape is far from uniform, with some companies just beginning to acknowledge the importance of this issue and others having made significant strides. I’ve encountered organizations where gender diversity is considered a strategic asset, an integral part of their success. However, I’ve also worked with those who are still unclear about why and how they should implement a gender diversity program.

This diversity in approach underscores a fundamental truth: The path to gender equity in the corporate world is both varied and dynamic.

How do you know where your organization stands in its gender equity journey? I see most organizations move through three key phases in their journey.

Phase 1: Explore

Organizations in the explore phase are focused on becoming compliant with the laws of the land and prevailing social imperatives. They are at the data-gathering stage, identifying the big whys and gaining buy-in from stakeholders.

These could be legacy organizations that have never felt the need to prioritize gender equity until recently. Or they could be startups that have focused on revenue and business performance for survival, with gaps in human-capital practices.

It’s important for leaders in this stage to ask the right questions that can lead them to the approach that is most valuable in their context. They must reflect on what gender equity means to their organization and its culture, as well as to them personally as leaders.

Phase 2: Emerge

In this stage, organizations shift from observing and complying to experimenting with initiatives of their own. Leadership plays a crucial role here in shifting the existing culture of the organization to look at gender equity beyond just demographics and representation.

Leaders must invest time in creating an organization-wide strategy that is aligned with business initiatives and outcomes. These leaders should also publicly commit to the company’s gender equity philosophy and strategy, making themselves accountable for change within the organization. Employee resource groups (ERGs) and gender equity champions play an imperative role in driving the culture.

Since this is the experimentation phase of a strategic approach, the enthusiasm that accompanies a new initiative is high, but efforts at different levels and across different regions may sometimes be uncoordinated. Some regions and functions within the organization may emerge as gender equity champions, while others may ignore the new initiatives. Resilience is the most important attribute to be demonstrated at this stage, as some efforts may fail and can be short-lived.

It’s important for leaders in this phase to reflect on how their gender equity strategy is aligned with business initiatives and outcomes. They need to consider their full sphere of influence: How do gender discrimination and inequity impact their internal and external stakeholders? Finally, they must reflect on how they can standardize their efforts and ensure consistency in implementation.


Phase 3: Flourish

This is the stage organizations reach after they have finally learned an approach that works in their context after much trial and error. Some of the features of this stage include establishing and integrating strong practices and best-in-class, personalized strategies.

Organizations in this phase are in a position to make statements like “We prioritize gender equity in every sphere and decision within our organization.” It’s noteworthy that here achieving gender equity is not the ownership of one leader but a part of the organization’s DNA, dependent on every single individual to make it a success.

Leaders must remember that humility is the most required attribute for organizations in this phase to flourish. Flourish is not about reaching a stage of “perfection”; rather it focuses on continuous improvement and consistency. Organizations and their leaders must be modest enough to identify and accept what is not working and change course when needed. They must reflect on how they plan to continue to sustain this culture of gender equity.

By understanding their current maturity levels, organizations can address gaps in their current approach and formulate a road map of what the journey ahead looks like and which actions they need to focus on to make their efforts in gender equity successful.


Final Thoughts

My experience working with various client organizations has shown me that gender diversity is not just about programs; it’s about culture. By fostering a holistic approach to gender equity, organizations can empower their women professionals and, in turn, enhance their success.

This journey is ongoing, and I’m excited to see the continued growth and empowerment of women in these organizations and the broader corporate world.

To know more about TransforMe’s Women Leadership Development offering, click here.

If you would like to know more about how we can help your start-up or organisation through women leadership development, write to us at


Storytelling isn’t just reserved for bedtime tales or entertainment; it’s a powerful tool that lies at the heart of every successful business narrative. For Founders navigating the competitive landscape, the art of storytelling isn’t just an added skill; it’s a strategic necessity. Crafting a compelling narrative has become a cornerstone for Founders seeking to captivate investors, engage customers, and inspire teams. However, mastering this art can be a challenge.  In this blog post, we’ll delve into the impact storytelling can have on founders and why getting the guidance of a skilled storytelling coach can be a game-changer in the journey toward business success.”

A storytelling coach plays a pivotal role in honing a founder’s ability to craft narratives that transcend mere facts and figures. They guide founders in developing a compelling story that weaves together the essence of their vision, values, and mission. Through personalized coaching, founders can learn to communicate their ideas with clarity, persuasion, and memorability. This goes beyond a traditional pitch; it involves creating a narrative that captivates the audience, making them not just understand the information but feel connected to it on a deeper level.

Here are 5 ways in which Start-up founders can benefit from a storytelling coach:

#1 Developing Confidence & Presentation Skills

The ability to confidently and effectively present ideas is crucial for the success of founders, especially in situations like public speaking and pitching to various stakeholders. A storytelling coach can significantly contribute to improving presentation skills, reducing anxiety, and boosting confidence.


A storytelling coach works with founders to craft a clear and compelling narrative for their presentations. This involves not only organizing information logically but also incorporating storytelling elements that engage the audience. By having a well-structured and interesting story to tell, founders can feel more confident in delivering their message.


Confidence in presenting often comes from a genuine connection with the presented material. A storytelling coach helps founders develop a personal connection to their story. This involves identifying key elements of the narrative that resonate with the founder on a personal level. When a presenter is genuinely invested in the content, it translates into confidence during the presentation.


Anxiety in public speaking is natural, but a storytelling coach assists founders in managing and overcoming this anxiety through focused rehearsal techniques. By practicing the delivery of the narrative, founders become more familiar and comfortable with the material. The coach provides constructive feedback, helping the founder refine their delivery and build confidence through preparation.


Confidence is closely tied to mindset. A storytelling coach works with founders to cultivate a positive mindset about presenting. This involves reframing thoughts about potential challenges, embracing mistakes as learning opportunities, and focusing on the value of the message being delivered. A positive mindset contributes significantly to the overall confidence of the presenter.

#2 Building a Deep Connection with Audience

Storytelling helps create an emotional connection with the audience. Whether it’s investors looking for passion and commitment or customers seeking a solution to their problems, a well-crafted story can engage and resonate with the audience on a deeper level.


Storytelling has a unique ability to evoke emotions. When founders share authentic stories that reflect their journey, challenges, and triumphs, they humanize their brand. This human touch fosters empathy, allowing the audience to relate to the founder on a personal level. Investors are not just investing in a business; they are investing in the person behind the business. Customers, likewise, are drawn to brands that resonate with their values and experiences. A storytelling coach can guide founders in identifying and articulating these pivotal moments that evoke empathy and create a sense of shared experience.


Trust is the bedrock of any successful business relationship. Through storytelling, founders can build trust by showcasing transparency, authenticity, and vulnerability. When a founder shares the story of their entrepreneurial journey, including the setbacks and lessons learned, it demonstrates honesty and resilience. A storytelling coach can provide constructive feedback to ensure that these narratives are presented in a way that enhances trust and credibility, reinforcing the founder’s integrity in the eyes of the audience.


A well-crafted story can also align with the values and aspirations of the audience. Investors, for instance, may be drawn to stories of innovation and societal impact, while customers may connect with narratives that address their pain points and provide meaningful solutions. A storytelling coach helps founders tailor their stories to align with the values and expectations of their specific audience segments, ensuring a more profound and resonant connection.



Stories have an inherent allure that captures attention. Whether it’s an anecdote about overcoming a hurdle or a narrative that illustrates the genesis of a revolutionary idea, storytelling compels the audience to lean in and listen. A skilled storytelling coach assists founders in identifying the narrative elements that are most likely to resonate with their target audience. By understanding the audience’s aspirations, concerns, and motivations, founders can tailor their stories to align with these factors, creating a more profound and lasting impact.


#3 Communicating your Differentiation

In a competitive start-up landscape, having a unique and compelling story can set a founder and their company apart. A storytelling coach can help founders identify and emphasize their distinctive narrative, helping them stand out in a crowded market.


Every startup has a unique value proposition, and a storytelling coach can assist founders in crystallizing and communicating this distinctiveness. By delving into the core of what makes the product or service exceptional, the coach can help identify narrative elements that emphasize the uniqueness. Whether it’s a revolutionary technology, a novel approach to solving a problem, or a founder’s personal journey that inspired the venture, a storytelling coach can guide the founder in articulating these aspects in a way that resonates with the target audience.


Founders often play a central role in the identity of a startup. Their vision, passion, and personality can become powerful differentiators. A storytelling coach works with founders to amplify their voice in a way that aligns with the brand story. This might involve integrating personal anecdotes, showcasing the founder’s motivation, or highlighting unique perspectives. By doing so, the founder becomes not just the face of the company but a compelling character in a narrative that distinguishes the startup.

#4 Building Brand Identity

Storytelling is an essential component of brand-building. Start-ups need to establish a strong brand identity from the outset, and a storytelling coach can assist in crafting a narrative that aligns with the brand’s values, mission, and culture. Startups often have distinct cultures and personalities that set them apart. Whether it’s a culture of innovation, a commitment to customer-centricity, or a playful and dynamic atmosphere, a storytelling coach assists founders in translating these cultural aspects into a narrative. This narrative, when effectively communicated, humanizes the brand, making it relatable and appealing to the target audience. It goes beyond product features to showcase the ethos and personality that define the startup.

Also, read this article in Forbes Magazine on 4 Secrets of Storytelling For Business Impact

#5  Pitching for Funding

Fundraising is a critical aspect of start-up growth and storytelling has a crucial role to play in 3 ways:


In the fast-paced world of fundraising, having a concise and memorable elevator pitch is crucial. A storytelling coach works with founders to distill their narrative into a succinct and impactful pitch that can be delivered within a short timeframe. This elevator pitch, when crafted effectively, serves as a powerful tool for sparking initial interest and opening the door to more in-depth conversations with investors.


A successful pitch not only outlines the business model but also communicates a clear understanding of the problem the startup is solving. A storytelling coach guides founders in emphasizing the problem-solution narrative, making it relatable and compelling. By framing the pitch in a way that highlights the pain points of the target market and how the startup provides a viable solution, founders can effectively capture the interest and confidence of potential investors


Trust is a critical factor in fundraising. A storytelling coach helps founders build credibility by strategically integrating key milestones, achievements, and the lessons learned from challenges into the pitch. This storytelling approach demonstrates not only the potential of the business but also the resilience and adaptability of the founding team. Investors are more likely to have confidence in a startup that can articulate a credible and well-rounded narrative


Fundraising pitches are numerous, and making a lasting impression is essential. A storytelling coach ensures that the pitch is not just informative but leaves a memorable impact on investors. Through the artful use of storytelling techniques, founders can create a pitch that stands out, making them more likely to be remembered and considered for investment.

In conclusion, storytelling is a vital skill for start-up founders in various aspects of their entrepreneurial journey, from pitching to investors and customers to building their brand identity and overcoming challenges. A storytelling coach can provide valuable expertise and guidance to help founders effectively communicate their vision and achieve their business goals.

So, embrace the storyteller within you, and watch your startup story become the talk of the town!

To know more about TransforMe’s Storytelling offering, click here.

If you would like to know more about how we can help your start-up or organisation through Storytelling, write to us at



Securing stakeholder buy-in for Women Leadership Programs is critical in advancing gender diversity and promoting a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The importance of this support cannot be overstated, as executives hold the power to allocate resources, set strategic priorities, and shape organisational culture. Challenges can emerge when attempting to gain their commitment. Executives may be preoccupied with other pressing concerns, unconvinced of the business case for women’s leadership, or simply unaware of the potential opportunities.

How can People leaders build a business case for women leadership programs in their organisation? Why does women leadership continue to lag behind, what are some of the ground challenges that keep organisations from committing fully or scaling their Gender Equity efforts?

For our November 2023 edition of The Leaders’ Café, we had a special guest – Mathew Paine, a distinguished leader with over two decades of experience in human resources, organisational culture, and fostering women’s leadership. As the Executive General Manager – People & Culture at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, Mathew is passionate about creating safe, inclusive, and productive workplaces where women can thrive and he shared some incredible insights on this topic with us.

Screenshot 2023 11 21 At 12.40.05 Pm


  1. There are 3 key challenges for women with career progression – 1. Women have greater carrying responsibilities outside of work, therefore, it’s the woman who have to sacrifice their career for child-caring responsibilities 2. Women apply less frequently for roles than men 3 Women are more likely to doubt their skills and the chance of getting a role
  2. Every leader must ask – does our workforce represent the community that we serve? Australia, in particular, is a very diverse country. And if we don’t see the diversity inside the organisation, and we’re providing a service to the general population, something’s not right. So we need to start from a data-led approach to gender equity or DEI at large
  3. Mentorship and Sponsorship – Women are over-mentored, but they are under-sponsored, there are a lot of opportunities for women to upskill a key support that women leaders need today is to have somebody open the door, use the network and get them the position that they deserve
  4. Business case for Gender Equity beyond profitability – In 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality agency will be publicly publishing the gender pay gap of every organisation, not government, but all private organisations with more than 100 employees. And whilst there’s probably some, some of those organisations that do have only males at the top, and there could be females that are more junior levels that will just showcase even more the gap between the genders the pay gap between the genders. So there’s a real business benefit of making sure that organisations are, first of all measuring what the pay gap is, but then analysing their data and looking at what they can do because organisations are also going to be under stricter media scrutiny and need to be mindful of brand reputation risks they run
  5. With the economic slowdown and budget cuts, why organisations need to keep women leadership on their agenda – Reputation and Brand are crucial – they can have a huge impact on budgets, as well as turnover, lack of diversity and leadership can also lead to missed business opportunities. It could be a limited talent pooling or the brand and the reputation of the organisation. If it’s very male centric, that it may be that women just don’t want to go and work there. And that’s becoming more and more popular in Australia, where the employee makes a choice as to where they would like to work. And so they should, and if they’re not seeing the diversity or the ethics, or the values that they adhere to, personally, then they just won’t go there. So that’s going to have an impact also on profitability. Ultimately, shareholders, particularly for the public listed companies, they expect a shareholder expects to see not just that an organisation is producing results and profits. But more and more we’re seeing shareholders wanting to see the ethical components, as well are upheld by the boards and the CEOs of organisations.



Sandra Colhando: Thank you, Matt. I want to start with your story. You hold the Chief People Officer domain, the role and there’s so much that comes under it from employee engagement, recruitment, and retention to performance, productivity, etc. Why is DEI so important for you?

Mathew Paine: For me, it really is about creating inclusive workplaces that then create a positive brand in the eyes of consumers and employees. Research shows that having a diverse pool of talent also brings about a variety of perspectives and that really helps to foster innovation, creativity, and ultimately boosting employee satisfaction and retention. And particularly in the HR world, a lot of the metrics that we use could be around satisfaction or engagement retention. And ultimately they also lead to no greater profits. And there are certainly shareholders and boards that are very interested in in seeing those metrics.

Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. And I know you’ve had this rich two decades of experience to actually see that happen. See that fruit refine in terms of results? When we look at some data points, for example, WGEA released a data set where they say that while women make up half of employees, about 51%, only 19% of CEOs of women, why do you feel is there a gap? Or what? What can be done to bridge this gap?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s an interesting conundrum. I think if we step it up, and we think about from a global perspective, the World Economic Forum, every year brings out the Global Gender Gap index. And that benchmarks the current state, in the evolution of gender parity across a number of dimensions. And I just had a look at that this week. And for 2023, the number one country in the world out of 146, that they measure is Iceland, they’re doing a huge amount of work there. Australia is ranked number 26, which for a developed country, I would hope that it’s higher than that. And looking at India, it’s 127. So there are some huge gaps there. And if things keep going, they’ve been doing this for about 10 years. At speed, it’s going to take 131 years to bridge that gap. So there needs to be some quite drastic measures and initiatives put in place. And then if we think about more, Australia, in the UK, there is a gender pay gap in Australia of over 20%, about 22.8% To be specific, and men are twice as likely to be in the top income bracket as women and about boards. Only one in five boards have gender balance. So when I was when I was working in the New South Wales Government, there was a behavioural insights project that was completed around career progression of that was in conjunction with the Public Service Commission. The results found that there were four key challenges for women with career progression. And they were that women report that there’s more barriers to career progression. That women have greater caring responsibilities outside of work, therefore, it’s the woman that work or they have to sacrifice their career for child caring responsibilities, or also women apply less frequently for roles than men. And women are more likely to doubt their skills, and the chance of getting a role. Meaning a male may see a job and think, yeah, well look I am just here, but I’m going to apply anyway. Whereas a woman from this research that we conducted, was more likely to doubt their skills. So I think if you think about all that, together, there are probably a number of factors that still are at play. And we hear a lot about bias and stereotypes. There may be lack of representation also, of females in more senior roles in organisations; therefore, women may not envisage themselves to be in those roles. It could be that there is a workplace culture, or there’s practices in place that may lead to women not wanting to do those roles. For example, if there’s a really long working hours culture, if there is inflexibility of the work structure, maybe there’s no hybrid working or a lack of flexible working, all of those things can and those practices can really impact on the way women work. And then of course, things like unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment and promotion. There was a study recently actually in Australia, where it was for people and it’s not just women, but those that are working remotely. Could be overseen or over overlooked when it comes to promotions because they’re not in the office. And I think that there’s an overlay there. And then you know, other things like work life challenges. And in Maybe there’s even a lack of accountability inside organisations, you know, not holding CEOs or boards to account. So there’s probably a lot there. But that’s, that’s what I think.

Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. I am making notes and there seems a huge laundry list of why and what is the gap. I know there is work happening but in all of this, sometimes it just feels it’s so overwhelming. Where do we start? What’s the first step we take? With your experience and the background that you have- we are looking at recruitment, productivity, looking at culture, we’re looking at accountability, what will be the first step to take to start building this culture of gender equity?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, I think, like, where we need to start is thinking about the organisation, whatever organisation it is that that our listeners are working at. And I have always asked the question – does our workforce represent the community that we serve? Australia, in particular, is a very diverse country. And if we don’t see the diversity inside the organisation, and we’re providing a service to the general population, something’s not right. So we tend to start from a data-led approach. And it’s important to understand the matrix and how many, what is the gender breakdown, there might be some other diversity, and demographics that also organisations can measure and track, and then there’s the intersectionality of those two. So, you know, that may not be that it’s just male and female. But then if we add on other intersections, like cultural and linguistic diversity, could be an employee with a disability, could be that they identify as having a different sexual orientation. So there are many different factors. But I thiny understanding the data of your workforce is important. And that also really sets the the roadmap of where it is that you would like to go, and what’s the gap, and then thinking about some initiatives of how to bridge that gap. But I think if you don’t start with some type of a benchmark, it’s you need to know where you’re going. But you also need to know where you’re starting from.

Sandra Colhando: Absolutely, you’re connection is breaking up a little bit. So I’m just quickly summarizing – what you’re sharing is, you know, we need to look at where the organisation is, how’s the organisation representative of the clients or customers they’re serving. And how can we add in the sections and the diversity and work from there? I think what connected deeply with me when you’re, when you’re sharing this is setting the roadmap firs, before we jump into various initiatives, you want to see, what’s the road map for me as an organisation, which could be very different for another organisation at the same time. And what’s my way around it? And why do I need to have that included in our values? I think when you talk about the environment and culture of an organisation; it shouldn’t just be a tick in the box. It shouldn’t be just because it makes top-line sense that’s important for business, but it needs to go much deeper to create that sense of belongingness and organisation. And the decision-makers typically have that when you say the roadmap, are the executives, are people sitting at the board at the C suite level. That brings me to the question I know in an interview with HRM, you talked about selling diversity, and equity inclusion to the C-suite as one of the most significant challenges in this field. What do you think of what key elements should, say people cultural leaders need to include in the business case for women’s leadership programme to secure executive buy-in?

Mathew Paine: Good question, I think and you touch there about organisational values. So you know, really that there is alignment to values that there is an alignment to the organizational goals and emphasise how women leadership programs can align with the broader goals of the organisation, could be around improving innovation, diversity, and market competitiveness. And also the quantifiable benefits, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that a more diverse organisation has higher profits than those that are less diverse. But I think also it’s understanding the talent pipeline that you have internally, and helping to define what those success metrics are. Anthere are’s probably there’s pros and cons to setting targets. I’ve worked in organisations that have and have not, and I’m happy to talk about that. But I think, like I’ve mentioned before, you really need to know where it is that you’re going, as an organisation, and put it in, I think we can probably see the biggest change when we do have metrics that we put in place for the C suite, the executive team. And I’ve seen also where they might receive their bonus could be tied to those or their pay increases could be tied to particular metrics. And it’s not just financial, but also diversity metrics.

Sandra Colhando: That’s interesting. And you also talked aboutthe  pros and cons of setting targets. So in your lived professional experience, what could be a target that is a pro that makes sense organisation because it drives positive culture in making this change? And what could be a target? That could be a con, which you need to be careful, about because it may not be a driving impact. It’s a target, we’re moving in that direction, but it’s not driving the right.

Mathew Paine: Yes. Okay, so I’ll give you an example, when I worked in the New South Wales Government, the Premier of the State had set targets, under particular diversity targets for all employers in the public sector. So we were working towards 50% women in senior leadership roles. And then there were some other metrics for other diversity initiatives. So I think the positive there was that there was a goal, everybody knew where we were going. And those targets were set up to 2025. So it wasn’t just an immediate overnight initiative, there were, you know, well-executed planned approaches to several initiatives. But where I’ve seen these initiatives or targets fall is where the Why isn’t explained properly. Those that don’t identify in those particular demographics, then they may go for a role and feel that they didn’t get the role because of their gender or because their diversity doesn’t align with that. So I think there needs to be, you know, real merit behind recruitment and selection. But sometimes, through initiatives, particular programs that work, they can certainly help to develop people. So an example that I worked with in government was we had a few different initiatives. One was the women in the senior leadership mentoring programme. It was a specific programme, only aimed at women who had high potential to move into a leadership role. And they were mentored by another executive who had already reached that goal, who was already working at that level. And it was a 12-month programme. And it was extremely popular. We always had so many people that wanted to be on it, because they saw that there were real tangible outcomes. And it wasn’t that they were favoured, but through their mentoring relationships and also the education that they received, It helped to shape them to then on, on their own merit when they went for a role that they felt comfortable and were able to achieve the selection criteria. And another programme that we ran was the Open Doors programme and which was a career sponsorship programme. So the difference between mentoring and sponsorship is mentoring is more about being available and assisting and helping to mentor and coach whereas the sponsorship programme was opening doors, but very soon new executives, who are then able to use their own connections, to then open doors and connections to those people who were then able to grow and to develop and to really benefit from that and leverage those executives, senior leadership roles. So we certainly had great success with both of those programmes. And we’re able to see some demonstrable outcomes.

Sandra Colhando: Oh, those are great programmes you talked about, we keep talking about this, there be maybe enough mentorship, maybe women are over-mentored, but they under-sponsored. So happy to hear you talk about the open-door programme, because there are a lot of opportunities for women to upskill. But I think the biggest support that women leaders need that is to have somebody open the door, use the network, and get them the position that they deserve. What about skill building? Matt, what do you feel? Do we need a separate programme for women leaders for them to skill belt to reach those positions?

Mathew Paine: Well, the success that we had with the women in the senior leadership programme was also that every couple of months, there would be a skills development programme aimed at that cohort of women that were on the programme. So I think there was some great marriage in that, where women were able to come along and discuss some of the issues that they may be facing and hear from other women about how they’re overcoming that or in the groups that they’ve been allocated with their trainer, that they can unpack that. And some of it could be, you know, purely down to their own confidence. And other things might be around skills. But I have seen that particular programmes aimed at women have had great outcomes. Having said that, I’ve also seen other programmes where it’s mixed genders, and there are also great outcomes. So I think it will probably depend on the content of those skills programmes, but I’m certainly not adverse to them.


Sandra Colhando: Yeah, often, we are asked why we need to have a separate women leadership programme and why not a mixed gender and you’re right, there is merit for both. But I also feel they’re very unique challenges that women professionals go through, which are listed out beautifully earlier in our talk, whether it’s you know, carrying responsibilities as a doubt imposter syndrome, which sometimes a uniquely hire for that gender, and therefore having a program exclusively to take care of those challenges, helps in managing and not creating a safe space for them to feel we are not in it alone there other women professionals going through this challenge and this asset community that’s created for us to move ahead. What I wanted to talk about, and you shared some very interesting initiatives that you’ve run, especially with the NSW Government in terms of targets. What can we do when maybe you don’t have an organisation that has a very strong executive mind for women leadership? Let’s take an example. An organisation is already profitable, and doing really well. But there is very little gender balance of the leadership in the leadership’s executive C suite, how do you showcase the return on investment on women’s leadership to them?

Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, particularly these days, we’re seeing more and more media for and not always positive, sometimes negative media, where there are organisations that don’t have good gender balance or don’t have good diversity, particularly as they go higher. And especially in Australia, for the next year 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality agency will be publicly publishing the gender pay gap of every organisation, not the government, but all private organisations with more than 100 employees. And whilst there are probably some, some of those organisations that do have only males at the top, and there could be females that are more junior levels that will just showcase even more the gap between the genders the pay gap, I should say between the genders. So there’s a real business benefit of making sure that organisations are, first of all measuring what the pay gap is, but then analysing their data and looking at what they can o, because I havy no doubt that from next year, there will be quite a few media articles that will come out that won’t be positive in a variety of different organisations in Australia. But I think also, then it just goes back to thinking about Australia in particular, as well, actually, no, not just Australia, but globally, there’s an ageing population. So women’s economic workforce participation is becoming more and more important around the world. The more women that are working, and particularly moving into more senior roles, the bigger the impact it is for the economy, that of the country that they’re in, the more tax they pay, those taxes then have benefits for the whole country. So there’s, there’s real equity, measures them. And outside of that, it’s just the right thing to do. So I think from an ethical perspective, organisations these days have got a lot of measures around ethics and sustainability, and gender balance, particularly in senior roles should be on everyone’s agenda.

Sandra Colhando: While we have this coming next year, which is working around the workplace gender balance, in today’s economic conditions, and with so-called economic slowdown, organisations now are holding on to the budgets. What’s your take on the future of women’s leadership landscape, in this environment, in this mind space?

Mathew Paine: Well, look, think about reputation and brand and that can have a huge impact on budgets, as well as turnover. And lack of diversity and leadership can also lead to missed business opportunities. I know, a lot of the consulting firms these days, when they go out, and they target business projects, they do all of this analysis before they then go off and select the organisation that they might want to work with. So there’s some potential of lost business there. It could be limited talent pooling or the brand and the reputation of the organisation. If it’s very male-centric, that it may be that women just don’t want to go and work there. And that’s becoming more and more popular in Australia, where the employee chooses as to where they would like to work. And so they should, and if they’re not seeing the diversity or the ethics, or the values that they adhere to, personally, then they just won’t go there. So that’s going to have an impact also on profitability. And, yeah, I mean, ultimately, shareholders, particularly for the publicly listed companies, expect a shareholder expects to see not just that an organisation is producing results and profits. But more and more we’re seeing shareholders wanting to see the ethical components, as well upheld by the boards and the CEOs of organisations.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, it makes sense because you’re looking at a whole rounded organisation that not just looking at profits, but looking at the culture that’s creating in the future as well, was the thread if we just continue unidirectional? How do you get executive buy-in with data? Do you feel that the onus is only on say the chief people, learning and development departments to create that buy-in? Can anyone else in the organisation play a role and how can they create that noise with executives to make this happen?

Mathew Paine: Hmm, that’s a great question. Look, it shouldn’t be led just by HR or L&D. I mean, there’s organisational initiatives. And ideally, they should be sponsored at the executive level. So where I’ve seen the biggest impact in these areas is when an organisation decides to go down this track, and they might launch, for example, a diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy. And within that, there might be multiple silos or segments of diversity that they would like to work on. So there could be, for example, demographics of women in senior leadership, which is the topic for today, it could be people with disability, it might be LGBTQIA+ inclusion, could be other things. But then, it’s not just about having a plan on a page, it’s about bringing it to life, I would suggest that there are executive sponsors for each of those. And then within that, it’s also brought to life through the employees, what we call an employee resource group. So for example, there could be a shared agenda, a women’s employee resource group, there might be people with disability, and there could be other cohorts that those groups get together. And it’s not just about social connection, but it’s also thinking about from an organisational perspective, what can they do better? What’s their feedback? Are there policies or procedures that are getting in the way of workforce participation? Are there things that are a handler to, to the workforce? What are the other metrics, if the organisation is doing surveys, what’s the feedback from those groups being able to break down survey responses by demographic So ideally, I would see that there is executive sponsorship, employee resource groups, and an action plan that is regularly communicated back out to the organisation, and that the CEO is involved, or the most senior person in the organisation is involved in that as well.

Sandra Colhando: When you share this, is that there’s a story that came up for me when you talked about employee resource groups, especially women. And this happened around COVID, when you know, budgets were shut down organisations were not getting into investment mode. So there’s a client of ours and their organisation was severely hit by the COVID shutdown leading to budget cuts. But there was a women’s resource group that got together. So the women professionals just got together in the organisation and they decided to drive the agenda, they would fix these meetings, they would actually reach out to industry leaders, facilitators, coaches and create this once-a-month forum where they’ll invite a coach on a special topic, and they ran a program with zero budgets. Yeah, so that’s a great example of when you talked about women’s resource group, how they can gather resources and get that done. Hmm,

Mathew Paine: Yeah, totally. And I’ve seen that those grassroots initiatives where it’s not actually led by the organisation that’s led by the members of the group can sometimes have even greater impact.



Sandra Colhando: I’m seeing our questions here. So I’m going to jump right into the question especially there’s a question that resonates with the one that I had for you. Can you share a comparative view of how the public sector and private sector varies in gender representation in Australia? I think one of the past speakers mentioned that the public sector needs to up its game and has things to learn from some positive initiatives undertaken by corporate sector. Your thoughts, please?

Mathew Paine: Good question. I guess first of all, I don’t have the data right in front of me, so I wouldn’t be able to answer exactly the specifics. But what can what I can say is there were a few initiatives that were run in Australia that really helped to increase participation, particularly women in the private sector. And that was the male Champions of Change programme, which you may have heard of, and that programme really was a call out to male, particularly male sponsors and male CEOs. And looking at how they can make organisational change, that would then lead to greater female representation and the view through that initiative, which is still going. And maybe it’s not as popular as at what it was, but certainly still going, there was a very large increase of women participation, but equally in the public sector, which is where I also had experience, particularly New South Wales, when the premier set targets for 50% women in senior leadership, it really helped myself particularly as a chief people officer and in the role that I was in the executive director role also that I held, to be able to hold leaders to accountable and to say, every month, we would measure where we’re, we’re able to look at the gap, we’re able to then come up with some really meaningful programmes and regularly report that data, and how we’re increasing that data to the executive team through a monthly pack of data and metrics. And that visibility at the senior level really helps everyone to have buy-in. And, you know, I think it makes in some cases, it might make it easier when you’ve got you’ve got that real push, particularly when we’re getting close to achieving that. So I think in the end, where you’ve got leaders, most leaders, particularly doesn’t matter what industry, private or public would want to achieve targets. So there’s that old saying what gets measured gets done or variations of it. But I think that that helps.

Sandra Colhando: That’s a brilliant example of how you get executive buy-in, because you have a target come from an executive or come from the top, and you actually measure it and continue in that direction. Yeah, and what gets measured gets seen as well.

Mathew Paine: There is probably one more thing on that topic. It was important for us as well to really highlight and demonstrate particular days of significance in the calendar year. So International Women’s Day is one that comes to mind. And on International Women’s Day, every year, we would hold an event, it was for all genders, not just women, but we would highlight and we’d have normally a panel of female leaders, successful female leaders that would talk about their leadership journey, their struggles in how it is that they might be able to juggle work with family, and any other things that they might want to talk about and really showcase their story. Because then other female leaders and other females can aspire and learn from those. So having those real-life stories and bringing those days of significance to life, I I find that helps a lot.

Sandra Colhando: Absolutely. I’m going to go to the next question – What role do emerging women leaders play in achieving gender diversity?

 Mathew Paine: I think that everyone has a part to play in this and those that have succeeded and got already achieved those female leadership roles. They should also be helping the pipeline or talent behind them. Because and I see this and it’s not just in female leadership, but all levels of diversity. That if everyone helps to pave that, that journey forward, it’s going to make it easier and more acceptable for those who are still aspiring to go through that journey. So for them to be able to use their experience, maybe talk about what worked well for them, and what didn’t work well. Being a mentor, and being available to coach other people that might want to aspire. Everyone has a part to play and and hopefully they can use their own experience to help others.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I think that’s linked to the next question. From your experience, Matthew, what us some of the top three skills that were in professionals can build or work towards to becoming a strong contender, contender for the top positions?

Mathew Paine: Oh, that’s a hard one. There are so many amazing skills that are out there. Look, I always say to anybody, if they would like to move up the ladder, it’s thinking about their curiosity, their innovation, but also, going for a more senior role is not just about technical skills. It’s about people leadership, and it’s about relationships, negotiation, it’s about how to navigate difficult decisions. So it’s, you know, focusing on what’s probably traditionally called maybe those softer skills. Because it’s not just about the hard skill of doing your job leaders have to be able to really have that emotional intelligence to be able to deal with many different scenarios. So having that that level of, of skill is important. But I think look, it probably also depends on the role that they’re going for, but certainly people leadership, I’d be looking if someone’s going for a leadership position, ideally, that they’ve done some type of other mentoring coaching or leadership, it could be an in an external voluntary role, or it might be something else.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I was looking at when you talked about E, I am looking at E IA, it is having emotional intelligence and action. Sometimes we have emotional intelligence, we know what’s happening, but the action gets missed. And that’s where true change comes. And that’s why we drive that change is still an experiment, failures, shouldn’t be a roadblock. But just to try more aspects, more doors, one door closes, how do we open the next door? Yeah,


Mathew Paine: That’s right. You mentioned before about imposter syndrome. And I think like, that’s common for many people. In that they may not, they may not think of themselves as the best person for the role that they’ve got to the role and that they’re doubting their own skills and experience. And I think it is normal. But having, not letting it become so debilitating, that you can’t actually then perform in the role and action.


Sandra Colhando: in this section, I do want to share my own personal take on impostor syndrome, because I had a lot of impostor syndrome. There are many opportunities, I didn’t raise my hand, early in my career, and I missed many opportunities. They’re, they’re funny stories now. But they weren’t that time, and I missed it. But this is what I tell myself to overcome impostor syndrome is saying that there is no rule ever, I’d be perfect for, especially in this uncertain environment, that we are working and then uncertain world that we are in, we will never be perfect in any role, because you don’t have control of what happens externally. So knowing that and then jumping into that situation, raising your hand for that opportunity is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the road that you take. And that’s my little tip on how I overcame it. Before we wrap up, we have a minute to go. I’m going to take up the last question – Are there unique considerations or challenges in gaining executive buy-in from leadership in a global context? And how can these be addressed?

Mathew Paine: Hmm, yeah, that’s a it’s a deep question. And I think definitely, in a global context, there are unique circumstances and that would come down to the cultural have elements of that country. If I talk about it, from my experience in the Western world, certainly in Australia, I’ve worked in roles that also cover New Zealand and the UK or worked in London for eight years. I think these days, it’s definitely more and more accepted. And it’s not just accepted, it’s actually expected that organisations have that cultural and gender diversity. But having said that, there’s there’s countries that are still out there in the world that have got a long way to go. So, you know, I can’t probably comment so much about those countries. But, you know, certainly being able to focus on the ones and the initiatives that work is something that I would focus in, probably just express that. Yes, in some countries, there’s a long way to go. But I’m hoping that, you know, what, take that 131 years that what I mentioned at the start with the World Economic Forum data.

Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I believe that’s a good start point. And what you shared so far, and, of course, it’s a call for action in any country talk about results, you talk about innovation, creativity, bias, etc. It’s common, but I think the cultural aspect if we have storytelling that’s associated with it, which is unique to your culture, showcasing those stories, this case studies, I think that creates that uniqueness in each culture. Thank you, Matt, for these rich insights for our team. And thank you, everyone who’s been listening and we’ll be seeing the recording as well. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for being there. We’ll be back next month for another interesting topic. Get ready for the holidays and enjoy the next few weeks. Thank you everyone.

Mathew Paine: Thank you. Thanks, Sandra. Thanks, everybody.

This article is written by our colleague and Co-Founder, TransforMe LearningSandra Colhando as an official member of Forbes Coaches Council. Read the full article here.

The ability to engage, influence and inspire people is crucial, and storytelling can be your ally.

An experiment about “the identifiable victim effect” was conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 to explore the difference between a fact-based approach and a story-based approach in influencing people. The study showed that students who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14, whereas students who read a story about a specific child donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.

Additionally, if you watch this TED talk by Hans Rosling, you will see how a topic as data-heavy as 60 years of world health data can be made engaging and engrossing through storytelling.

The message is clear: Storytelling can help build your credibility, initiate change, inspire teams and engage people.

Here are four tips that you can leverage to become a great storyteller.

Tip 1: Telling The Right Story

In my opinion, telling the right story is about two things: knowing your objective and ensuring audience relevance. Let me explain how that works.

Is your goal to introduce yourself? Or do you need to influence someone? Or are you trying to foster collaboration? Knowing your objective will help you be clear on whose story you are sharing. If you’re introducing yourself, the story must be about you—your experiences, your journey. A classic story structure for this goal is “the hero’s journey,” which Joseph Campbell describes in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

But if you’re trying to influence someone, the story might be about someone similar to your audience, who went through a similar problem or situation and overcame it. Let’s say you want to influence your team to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. You might share the story of Nokia or Blackberry or even Kodak—organizations that struggled to stay ahead of the curve and how it impacted them. This story will be relatable and relevant because your audience will be able to draw connections between their situation and the situation these organizations were in.

Once you have a pattern, it’s about crafting the journey. Regardless of the pattern, each story must have a protagonist, a dilemma/problem to solve, a resolution and an outcome/learning.

So it’s not just about telling a story; it’s about telling the right story.

Tip 2: Stories Of Personal Failure

The reality is that since we were kids, we have been told that failure and mistakes are signs of weakness.

Many leaders attempt to inspire people by sharing stories of past successes—but countless examples show us that stories of failure can inspire people, too.

Take for example J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech, where she inspires the graduates through her story of failure. Here’s an oft-quoted excerpt from this speech that illustrates the power of a well-chosen personal anecdote: “…by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”

In my opinion, stories of failure can have a much deeper and more powerful impact on inspiring people than success stories because people relate to failure and it invokes deeper emotions like empathy, compelling them to take action.

Tip 3: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

One of the opening statements in my own company’s storytelling workshops is: “The stories you tell yourself stop you from telling the stories you must!”

You could have the most amazing story, but you may hesitate to share it. Internal stories like “Why would anyone want to hear my story?” or “What if people don’t like it?” are big obstacles for many of us. Psychologists refer to these feelings as a “fear of negative evaluation” (FNE), which they’ve quantified through an assessment they also call FNE. A high score on this scale is more likely to lead an individual to perceive their attempt at public speaking, for instance, as poor.

Replacing hindering internal stories with positive ones can transform and influence your external storytelling.

Here is a quick exercise I use in my courses to help change a harmful internal narrative: Ask yourself to think of a situation where you felt you were being negatively judged but later realized it was all in your head. As you think of this incident, “amplify” the feeling of relief you felt when you figured out that your perception of the situation was worse than it actually was. There you go—you are beginning to change the story you tell yourself!

Tip 4: The Art Of Starting

How you begin a story matters. Let me share three sure-fire ways my company has developed to help you get your audience hooked from the first sentence you say:

• Intrigue: You don’t always have to start the story from the beginning; instead try starting from the most impactful, emotional or compelling part of your story, and then go back to the beginning. This will keep your audience truly intrigued.

• Question: The most powerful thing a question does is compel your audience to think. So ask a rhetorical question, pause for a few seconds and then answer it yourself!

• Visuals: Another great way to start a story is to show an image and use that as the foundation for your narrative.


In the world of business, storytelling is more than a skill; it’s a superpower. By applying these four secrets, you can not only engage, inspire and influence but also establish yourself as a thought leader in the art of storytelling.

Would you like to know more about how your organisation can leverage Storytelling for business success? Read more about our Storytelling module.

Write to us to at to elevate your storytelling game.


There is a lot of buzz on the need for Women Leadership Development but on-ground there is a considerable discrepancy in promoting the advancement of women leaders, which contributes to their ongoing underrepresentation in the corporate arena.

This blog series is an attempt to aggregate and share data on how Corporate Australia lags in its Gender Equity efforts.

These statistics offer a comprehensive view of the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles and highlight the urgency for organisations to take action.

Key Data and Statistics on current trends in Women Leadership in Australia

CEW Senior Executive Census 2023

Now entering its seventh year, the CEW Senior Executive Census tracks the annual progress of women’s representation in Executive Leadership Teams in Australia’s top companies.

The 2023 findings show how women continue to stay underrepresented in Corporate Australia:

Census Social Media Tile4

However, the 2023 data does show some silver lining:

There are 3 calls to action shared by CEW in their study:

  1. Set a 40:40:20 by 2030 gender target with real accountability and transparency
  2. Invest in gender balanced CEO and ExecutiveLeadership Team Talent Pipelines
  3. Build inclusive, flexible and respectful workplaces

Census Social Media Tile3

Status of Women Report 2023 by the Australian Government

Released on The International Women’s Day, this report gives a detailed view of “what life looks like for women in Australia in 2023”. The report looks at education, economic outcomes, health and safety, housing and gender norms.

We have summarised key stats around gender pay gap from the report:

Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce (WEET) Report on Women’s Economic Equality

The Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce chaired by Sam Mostyn AO, is “an independent group established to provide advice to the government to support the advancement of women’s economic equality and achieve gender equality.”

They recently submitted their final report Women’s Economic Equality: A 10-year plan to unleash the full capacity and contribution of women to the Australian economy.

 Here are some of the key findings of the taskforce on gender roles and attitudes in Australia that shares how Australia stands to gain $128 billion by unlocking women’s full and equal participation. Here are some of the current gaps that the report highlights:

In a strong push to addressing gender pay gap, the govt. has now mandated Australian companies to share their gender pay data. As reported by the AHRI –

The Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023, which was introduced into Parliament on 8 February, will set out to publish the gender pay gap of organisations with 100 or more employees. Reporting will commence in 2024, and gender pay gap information will be published on the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) website.

In some early research on the topic, there is a causation that has been discovered between gender diversity and profitability based on data from Australian workplaces.

Female Ceos Increase Market Value (1)

The WGEA’s research established that companies who appointed a female CEO increased their market value by five per cent – equivalent of $79.6  for an average ASX200 company


A report published by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC) and the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) found that an increase in the share of female ‘top-tier’ managers by 10 percentage points or more led to a 6.6 per cent increase in the market value of Australian ASX-listed companies, worth the equivalent of AUD$104.7 million. The other key findings included –

• The appointment of a female CEO led to a 12.9 per cent increase in the likelihood of outperforming the sector on three or more metrics

• An increase of 10 percentage points or more in the share of female key management personnel led to a 5.8 per cent increase in the likelihood of outperforming their sector on three or more metrics

Victoria’s Commission for Gender Equality in the Public Sector released its report titled Intersectionality at Work: Building a baseline on compounded gender inequality in the Victorian public sector

This is an important resource to understand gender equality gaps from an intersectional lens, looking at how women from First Nations, from CARM (Culturally and Racially Marginalised) apart from those with disability, of different ages, of LGBTQIA+ backgrounds experience gender equality at work.

It’s a crucial resource for all organisations especially in Public Sector at building an intersectional approach to their gender equality programs.

In a corporate landscape that continually struggles with gender equity, these data points act as a clarion call. In our next blog series, we will look at key data on linkages between strong women leadership and business outcomes. Stay tuned!

Discover which stage your organisation is in its Gender Equity Maturity. Download our latest report to take the assessment and get specific recommendations on how you can take your gender equity to the next level.




Despite recent gains in the share of women in leadership, women are leaving the workforce at much higher rates than men and women’s participation in the labor force dipping to their lowest levels in decades.

That’s why it’s critical that organizations make intentional efforts to invest in retention, support, and training for women leaders. In this live, we had Katja Henaway, Founder, Women’s Business in  conversation with Sandra Colhando, women leadership coach, DEI champion and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together explore how organizations can begin their journey in women’s leadership development, clarify the different stages in this journey, promote inclusivity, measure progress effectively, and gain actionable insights to foster an equitable and diverse leadership landscape.


  1. Katja Henaway shares her personal journey and connection to Indigenous communities, emphasizing the importance of contextualization in women’s leadership programs. The article discusses the stages of feminine leadership development in organizations: Initial Exploration, Emerging Initiatives, and Flourishing Leadership.
  2. Organizations excelling in diversity tend to perform better, while those struggling to diversify leadership may have lower team performance. The challenge many corporations face in Australia is hesitance to take the initial step in promoting diversity, which can be overcome by dispelling assumptions and starting with innovative programs.
  3. Initiatives to promote diversity should begin with small, impactful actions, and individuals at all levels can advocate for inclusion within their organizations. The article highlights the need for more granular contextualization in women’s leadership programs for Indigenous women, women of color, and various subsectors. Outsourcing specialized programs to businesses with expertise can help organizations quickly launch successful women’s leadership programs.
  4. Key success metrics for women’s leadership programs include diversity in senior leadership roles and the cascading effect of diverse leaders on teams. Challenges faced by women of color include limited accessibility to career development programs, institutional bias and racism, and internal cultural and religious challenges.
  5. Mentorship is identified as a crucial aspect of women’s leadership development, and the importance of diverse mentoring experiences is highlighted. Building a strong business case with evidence and results metrics is essential to influence internal leaders to invest in diversity and innovation. Starting with a pilot program can help showcase positive outcomes.


Sandra Colhando – What’s your personal story that led you here in supporting Indigenous women, women of colour and doing the amazing work that you do?

Katja Henaway Thank you, Sandra. It’s a privilege to be here today, joining the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney. I have a deep connection to indigenous communities, having been born and raised in North Queensland by my Torres Strait Islander grandparents. I grew up within Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities.

After a period of living and working in the UK and traveling extensively, I returned to Australia in 2008. As a mature student, I pursued a Bachelor of Community Management at Macquarie University, which provided me with a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and the policies shaping Indigenous Affairs in Australia.

Following my degree, I specialized in Indigenous engagement, collaborating with organizations to design tailored programs for Indigenous communities. My passion for creating unique programs led me to design initiatives for people of color and women of color across the country.

Sandra ColhandoI know you’ve partnered with organisations with governments as well. What would your advice be for an organisation that’s unclear about why and where to start this journey?

Katja HenawayMy advice is that contextualization is highly effective. I’ve often been asked by various organizations and leaders why they should tailor their programs. Some are concerned it may segregate or divide, but the key is this: to boost engagement, contextualization is crucial.

For instance, universities use indigenous pathway programs to increase the enrollment of indigenous students. Similarly, when they aim to attract more refugee and migrant students, they create specific programs tailored to their needs. The same principle applies when transitioning from university to the corporate world, but often, we don’t see this level of contextualization in corporate environments.

What works in schools, universities, and higher education also holds true in the corporate sector and government.

Sandra ColhandoAnd you’re saying there’s not much happening in the corporate sector? This kind of contextualise? 

Katja HenawayIn many corporations, we often assume that because they already have a diverse workforce, engagement with diverse employees isn’t a concern. However, when it comes to advancing career leadership development and supporting diverse leaders, especially in promoting and hiring more diverse leaders, contextualizing leadership development becomes incredibly valuable. It’s an area where corporations can explore further.

Sandra ColhandoBefore delving into the results section, it’s worth noting that organizations worldwide are at various stages of feminine leadership development. We’ve identified three main stages in our work:

Initial Exploration: These organizations are in the early stages, primarily driven by a general awareness of the importance of feminine leadership. They might be asking, “Should we explore this trend that others are adopting?”

Emerging Initiatives: In this category, organizations have already begun experimenting with various women leadership initiatives. While they may have seen some results, these efforts might not yet be fully streamlined. They are building their expertise in this area.

Flourishing Leadership: These organizations have women leaders actively claiming leadership roles, with a more balanced ratio of women in leadership positions. They recognize the business benefits of promoting diverse leadership.

In your experience, have you noticed specific indicators that reflect an organization’s maturity in their feminine leadership efforts?

Katja Henaway Certainly, I’ve observed significant differences in organizations, particularly in sectors like large consulting firms, banks, financial institutions, and many legal firms. These organizations typically maintain diverse workforces, resulting in higher efficiency and overall high performance.

On the flip side, organizations struggling to diversify their leadership often exhibit lower team performance. This contrast becomes more evident when comparing these corporate entities to government institutions. In government institutions, leadership roles tend to be predominantly held by individuals of Anglo-Celtic, white, European backgrounds, reflecting limited diversity in the bureaucracy and upper echelons of leadership.

The key takeaway here is that organizations in need of performance enhancement can draw valuable lessons from the successes of large legal and consulting firms in promoting diversity and reaping the benefits of improved performance.

Sandra ColhandoI found your insights interesting, and I’d like to add that the tech industry is another sector that actively addresses diversity. However, it’s intriguing to note that even in industries like tech, which emphasize diversity, there can still be a struggle to achieve equal distribution and representation in positions of power.

I’m aware that you’re doing significant work in this space, collaborating with governments and conducting workshops for women from diverse backgrounds. As organizations and institutions embark on this journey, what, in your opinion, is the most substantial challenge they will face? And how do you believe they can effectively overcome it?

Katja HenawayA significant challenge faced by many corporations in Australia, I believe, is their hesitance to take the initial step. This reluctance often stems from a lack of awareness about the people of color leadership or First Nations leadership sectors, including their size and capabilities. Assumptions are made that these sectors are small, and there is uncertainty about the feasibility of running programs or filling program spots.

These assumptions need to be dispelled as they are not helpful. From my experience, when developing such programs, although they often begin on a small scale, they tend to grow rapidly. Many of these programs are innovative and unique, often being the first of their kind. Consequently, the market is often unaware of their potential for success. With the right support and leadership, these programs can achieve significant success in a relatively short time.

In essence, the fear of starting is a barrier that needs to be overcome in order to make meaningful progress in promoting diversity and inclusion.

Sandra ColhandoI can relate to that. The fear of starting often comes from a lack of data and concerns about results. Initiatives can appear more challenging than they are.

From an organizational standpoint, I suggest starting with small, impactful actions when exploring feminine leadership.

For individuals within organizations, regardless of gender or hierarchy, promoting diversity can be achieved by advocating for inclusion within your sphere of influence. Your role, no matter how small, can make a difference in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. It begins with small steps, and collectively, these efforts drive meaningful change but how can I still promote this with whatever role in space I have?

Katja HenawayRaising awareness is essential because decision-makers may not be aware of existing programs or the experienced program designers available. Creating awareness about successful programs and the engagement they drive is crucial.

I recall my initial contact with Women and Leadership Australia, where I reached out through their online form. I noticed they lacked indigenous women in their program. After a conversation, we decided to partner. So, reaching out to organizations, offering your expertise, and letting them know you’re here to help can be a great starting point. I was fortunate they responded to my message.

Sandra Colhando – It’s a powerful and straightforward approach—sometimes all it takes is seeking opportunities and proactively pursuing them.

I recently spoke with another woman leader who shared a similar experience within our community. She highlighted the absence of a formal women’s leadership program in her organization. Despite this, she actively sought out suitable programs and advocated for her own development. Many organizations allocate budgets for employees to pursue learning programs, so individuals can take the initiative and nominate themselves. This shift empowers participants and leaders, as they actively seek opportunities, fostering greater connection, recognition, and positive outcomes.

In the realm of specialized leadership development, it’s crucial to avoid clumping different categories together. Customization is key to address unique needs effectively.

So I have two questions around it. How does the approach to women’s leadership differ for indigenous and then coloured background and women of non Indigenous communities?

If you could probably share two three unique points, each of these intersections under women? What would that be for an organisation or anyone working in this area to focus on?

Katja HenawayThe term “women of color” has gained prominence in recent years, but it’s interesting to note that some subsectors within this network may not identify with the term. Indigenous women, for example, often see themselves as First Nations women, while African women might prefer to be recognized as black women. Cultural identity plays a significant role, and many individuals identify with their specific culture.

From a First Nations perspective, the need for contextualized programs is evident, as their experiences and requirements in Australia differ substantially from migrant and refugee women who have settled here. While women of color may relate to certain aspects, First Nations women have a distinct set of needs and experiences.

To cater to these diverse needs, the trend is moving towards more granular contextualization. Separate programs for First Nations women, women of color, and various subsectors like Pacific Islander women and South Asian women are becoming increasingly important. These separate programs can better address the unique experiences and requirements of each group.

The need for this level of contextualization is a recent development, reflecting the evolving understanding of diversity and inclusion.

Sandra Colhando Shifting the focus to organizations in an emerging state, those who are just beginning their diversity and inclusion journey can find it overwhelming. For them, initiating a comprehensive women’s leadership program can be challenging. The question is, how can we make it more accessible for them to take that crucial first step?

Katja Henaway The quickest and most efficient way for an organization to launch a program like this is to outsource it to a business with expertise. Instead of developing the programs in-house, consider finding a local business with a proven track record in this area and outsourcing the work to them. This approach leads to quicker success as the external business brings its network and experience to the table, relieving the organization of the burden of developing such programs on its own.

Sandra Colhando –
I like that approach—bringing in specialists to support and exploring partnerships.

Indeed, the results and impact of a successful women’s leadership program are crucial. It’s not just a matter of running the program; understanding the success metrics is key. The impact can be impressive, with notable outcomes such as:

Improved NPS and Inclusion Scores: A shift from 70 to 88% in NPS and inclusion scores.

Enhanced Gender Diversity in Leadership: More women claiming and advancing in leadership positions.

Personal Growth and Career Advancement: Participants overcoming mental barriers, addressing gender biases, and becoming mentors for others. So in your view, what are some of the key metrics you’ve experienced from your shared way an organization can expect or look forward to a successful women leadership programme?

Katja Henaway –
Key metrics often revolve around boosting diversity in leadership. When a diverse person takes on a senior leadership role in an organization, it tends to have a cascading effect on the entire team. We’ve seen this impact in various fields, including politics, where the elevation of a few diverse leaders quickly influences the entire landscape.

One of the most critical metrics is the presence of diverse women in senior leadership roles and the subsequent diversification of the entire organization.

Indeed, a colleague recently shared an intriguing insight with me—the power of one to three. Research has shown that when you have one woman leader in an executive role, you often see the emergence of three more. This research is fascinating, especially as my team is predominantly composed of women. It’s not about bias, but it certainly amplifies diverse voices and representation within the organization.

It’s amusing that, while I work with many influential women, they sometimes create teams comprising exceptional First Nations women leaders. I wholeheartedly support women’s empowerment, but it’s important to remember that diversity encompasses more than just gender.

Sandra ColhandoI want to pick up two questions from the audience. What are some of the top challenges faced by women of colour from your experience, maybe top three challenges that you commonly see?

Katja HenawayCertainly, some challenges are prevalent, particularly concerning career development. Many career leadership programs in Australia tend to be easily accessible to Anglo-Celtic and white European individuals, which creates a disparity for First Nations people and people of color. This accessibility gap poses a significant challenge for women of color and various women’s groups.

Institutional bias and racism are also substantial challenges, supported by numerous reports and anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, we encounter cultural and religious challenges, as individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds face certain limitations based on cultural and religious beliefs. Managing these internal challenges can be a hurdle for our progress.

Sandra ColhandoYeah. I was gonna mention the third bit was also us holding ourselves back. Because yeah, some way there could be a bias that we are outsiders to it. So claiming the space. here for a second question is how do you see the role of mentorship in women’s leadership development? And what has been your experience with it?

Katja Henaway – Absolutely, mentorship is incredibly important, even though it’s often underfunded. Research consistently underscores its effectiveness. In my personal experience, both as a mentee and mentor, I’ve found it to be extremely valuable. It’s essential to be open to mentoring from individuals of different ages, backgrounds, or genders. Sometimes, being mentored by someone much younger can offer powerful insights and growth opportunities, challenging traditional mentorship norms.

Sandra ColhandoI do want to take one last question –  For the L&D folks here, any tips on how to influence internal leaders on investing in the space of women leadership development?

Katja HenawayInfluencing and securing investments can be challenging within your organization. It’s often helpful to look for successful examples in other organizations or gather data and feedback from such cases. Building a strong business case with evidence and presenting it to your organization can be effective. Many consulting firms and online reports offer data about the gaps in women of color’s career leadership development and the success of investing in such programs. Building a compelling business case is crucial.

Sandra Colhando – Absolutely, including a results metric is key. Start with a pilot program and measure the results. When you can showcase positive outcomes, the need for further influence diminishes, and progress becomes more straightforward.


In today’s world, what sets extraordinary leaders apart is their willingness to be vulnerable, weaving authenticity into their narratives. In this live, we had Jacob Morgan, a thought leader at the intersection of leadership and the future of work in conversation with Gatik Chaujer, a Storytelling Coach and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together unveil the secrets to becoming a master storyteller through vulnerability.

In this session, we discovered
. How vulnerability can transform your storytelling from ordinary to extraordinary
• Real-life examples of leaders who have harnessed vulnerability to inspire and connect with their teams
• Practical strategies to incorporate vulnerability into your leadership narrative, fostering trust and engagement
• A sneak peek into Jacob Morgan’s upcoming book, Leading with Vulnerability offering a preview of the groundbreaking insights he’s poised to share.


1.Vulnerability is often confused with leadership. For instance, Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, was fired due to a lack of leadership when he sent a vulnerable memo during tough times. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, combined vulnerability with leadership, resulting in a successful turnaround.

2. Storytelling is essential in vulnerable leadership to establish connections and communicate effectively. It’s a pivotal tool for connecting with people, sharing personal anecdotes, and conveying lessons learned.

3. Vulnerable leadership faces challenges, including the fear of vulnerability being used against leaders. Jacob Morgan advises combining vulnerability with leadership to dispel misconceptions and show a commitment to growth.

4. Effective speaking involves mastering storytelling, as every expression of vulnerability is woven into a narrative. How you express and structure narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.

5. Embrace the Vulnerable Leader Equation, Vulnerability Mountain Framework, and the Vulnerability Wheel as foundational practices for integrating vulnerability and leadership.

6. Oversharing often happens when individuals lack clarity of intention. To avoid this, ask yourself why you want to share something and ensure your communication is defined and purposeful.

7. The primary obstacle to vulnerability is often internal, driven by the fear of negative perceptions. Combining leadership with vulnerability and fostering motivation is crucial to drive active learning, growth, and improvement.


Gatik Chaujer: First of all, as we get started, what led you to the place you’re focusing on these three areas – leadership, future and work and employee experience?

Jacob Morgan : My family’s journey began in the former USSR, with roots in the Republic of Georgia. Fleeing in the late ’70s, they moved to Italy, where my parents met. From there, we migrated to Australia, where I was born in Melbourne, eventually settling in the United States. Despite my mom’s emphasis on emotional openness, my dad’s influence led me to avoid vulnerability, shunning discussions about mistakes or failures.

My professional journey took a turn due to disappointing jobs, notably one in Los Angeles for a tech company. Promised exciting work and travel, I ended up stuck in mundane tasks. A defining moment occurred when the CEO asked me to fetch coffee. That experience, 15 years ago, marked the end of my full-time employment under others. It propelled me towards my current focus: creating organizations with engaged employees, fostering future-ready structures, and cultivating great leadership.

Gatik Chaujer : Jacob would love to hear your views on vulnerability and leadership and what’s changing, and I know you have this distinct difference that you talk about and being vulnerable and being a vulnerable leader, I love that example about the Continental Airlines CEO that you speak about. So can you talk to us a little bit about your perspective on vulnerability and leadership?

Jacob Morgan : Vulnerability and leading with vulnerability are often confused. A case in point is the story of Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, who, in the ’90s, sent a vulnerable memo to his workforce during the company’s struggles. However, lacking leadership, he was fired the next day. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, faced a similar situation with a heavily indebted company. He, too, acknowledged challenges in a town hall but added the leadership element. He shared his vision, expressed confidence in the team, and invited collaboration to achieve success. This combination of vulnerability and leadership turned the company around.

A practical example is handling mistakes. Merely admitting fault is vulnerable, but to lead with vulnerability, one must also demonstrate the ability to learn and improve. This blend of vulnerability and leadership forms the “vulnerable leader equation”: Vulnerability + Leadership = Leading with Vulnerability. Often, the focus is solely on vulnerability, neglecting the crucial leadership component.

Gatik Chaujer : As you shared those stories, I couldn’t help but recall another favorite of mine—the Stephen Elop Nokia saga in 2011, the “burning platform” story. Your ability to connect vulnerability and leadership in communication resonates deeply. It’s not just about admitting what went wrong; it’s about setting a direction, discussing what comes next, and demonstrating continued leadership.
Now, shifting gears to storytelling and vulnerability, your experience in coaching and training for over a decade mirrors the evolving landscape. A decade ago, discussing vulnerability and authenticity in storytelling was a tough sell. Success stories took precedence, and vulnerability had its share of stigmas. Today, there’s a noticeable shift, and a significant part of our work involves helping individuals and organizations embrace vulnerability in their narratives.

So what role does storytelling play in vulnerable leadership?

Jacob Morgan – Well, I think it’s a pretty big part because part of being vulnerable is to connect with people.Storytelling holds significant importance in leading with vulnerability. Vulnerability inherently involves connecting with people, and storytelling serves as a pivotal means of establishing that connection. Whether sharing personal anecdotes, lessons learned, or challenges being faced and conquered, storytelling plays a central role in the vulnerability narrative. The way you communicate these stories, how they are presented, is crucial. In my book, I outline various personal attributes and traits necessary for leading with vulnerability. Among these, storytelling stands out as a crucial element—a connecting tissue that binds the narrative and contributes to the authenticity and connection derived from vulnerability. It’s a key aspect of the overall process.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely. Vulnerable leadership revolves around connecting, communicating, and expressing authenticity. There’s a continuous need to bring in more vulnerability and learn to share stories and messages authentically. However, even today, Jacob, there’s a lingering challenge around vulnerability. Many leaders aren’t entirely comfortable with it. It’s not something that excites people because showing vulnerabilities might be perceived as revealing a “bad side” or looking uncomfortable. The hesitancy around vulnerability remains a challenge for many leaders. I’m sure you’ve got some research and some great experiences with some CEOs that you may have coached around, what are some misconceptions around being vulnerable that leaders have? And how have you shifted that for them? And what difference are they seeing? Leaders have these fears and misconceptions about being vulnerable? What are those? And what does your research tell you about how people can really be more powerful by being vulnerable?

Jacob Morgan – The first misconception is the fear that vulnerability will be used against you. While it’s true that it may happen occasionally, research on trust games suggests that people are more trustworthy than often perceived. On average, the likelihood of trusting someone is around 50%, but in reality, others can be trusted about 80% of the time. Vulnerability will be used against you at some point, but not as frequently as you might think. It’s a part of life, similar to facing rejection when asking for a promotion, a date, or more money. These occasional setbacks shouldn’t deter you from being vulnerable.

The second misconception, revealed through surveying 14,000 employees, is the fear of being perceived as weak or incompetent when showing vulnerability at work. The solution lies within this concern. To prevent this perception, it’s crucial to combine vulnerability with leadership. It’s not just about saying you made a mistake; it’s about demonstrating what you’ve learned. It’s not merely asking for help; it’s outlining how you’ll address the issue independently in the future. Leadership, coupled with vulnerability, is the key. By showcasing competence alongside vulnerability, you bridge the gap and show a commitment to improvement, dispelling the notion of incompetence.

Gatik Chaujer :
Absolutely, Jacob. Your point about not letting the fear of vulnerability hold you back resonates. In today’s transactional world, there’s a crucial need for leaders to shift toward more authentic relationships. Storytelling becomes a key tool for building these genuine connections.

I love your parallel with “failing fast” in tech organizations. Why aren’t we applying this concept to relationships? Starting with transparency and vulnerability can help identify what’s working and what’s not quickly. How do you see vulnerability, transparency, and “failing fast” intersecting in building effective relationships?

Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, Jacob. “Failing fast” is not just about the failure itself but also about the crucial step of learning from it. Simply failing fast might not be beneficial unless you take stock of what you’ve learned. In stories from CEOs, I’ve heard instances where vulnerability was used against them. The key is the choice they made afterward—they could have chosen to never be vulnerable again, or they took a step back to reflect on what they learned about themselves, the situation, and the other person. It’s about moving forward with the valuable lessons gained and applying them to future interactions and relationships.

Gatik Chaujer : Absolutely, Jacob. It’s not just about being vulnerable; it’s about embracing vulnerable leadership. The essence lies not just in failing fast but in failing fast and then taking actionable steps based on what you’ve learned. That integration of vulnerability and leadership is powerful.

Now, Jacob, given your extensive experience interviewing and coaching numerous CEOs and leaders, do you observe a common pattern among successful leaders who effectively use storytelling? Have you found that those who excel at being powerful leaders often leverage storytelling as a tool to connect, be vulnerable, and demonstrate leadership?

Jacob Morgan : Absolutely. Speaking inherently involves storytelling. Every time you share something about yourself or express vulnerability, it’s embedded in a narrative. Mastering the skill of storytelling is crucial for controlling the narrative of your story. Many leaders I’ve interviewed emphasize the importance of storytelling in connecting with others and framing discussions effectively. It’s impossible to navigate leadership, especially with vulnerability, without the art of storytelling—how you express things and structure your narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely, Jacob. It’s fascinating to hear about your insights, especially with your wealth of experience in coaching and interviewing various CEOs. I appreciate the connection you’ve drawn between leadership and storytelling—it’s indeed integral to navigate vulnerability in leadership effectively.
On another note, your upcoming book, “Leading with Vulnerability,” sounds compelling, and I’m sure our viewers will be interested. We’ll share the link for preordering in the comments. Also, your earlier work on employee experience, as seen in “Employee Experience Advantage,” speaks to a crucial aspect of organizational success. The recent Gallup survey underlines the hefty cost of employee disengagement.

Given this, how do you see leading with vulnerability impacting employee engagement and motivation within organizations? If you have any stories or examples from your experiences working with companies or clients that illustrate this shift, it would be fantastic to hear about them.

Jacob Morgan:
Absolutely, leading with vulnerability significantly impacts employee engagement. It creates connection, builds trust, and allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. Julie Golden, the executive chairman of CGI, noted increased engagement anecdotally through their focus on vulnerability. Leading with vulnerability is a key factor in fostering a human-centric workplace, contributing to a positive employee experience and engagement.

Gatik Chaujer :Both stories of success and stories of failure have their place in leadership. Sharing stories of success can inspire and motivate, while stories of failure add authenticity and relatability. However, the key is not just in telling the story but in providing the steps taken and lessons learned. The combination of vulnerability, storytelling, and leadership is crucial for creating a meaningful impact on employees and fostering a positive workplace culture. As long as you’re not just talking about failure, you’re talking about the steps after? What do you think about stories of success versus stories of failure? From a leader perspective?

Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, you need both. Having only stories of failure might raise questions about competence, while solely focusing on success may come across as arrogant. Balancing stories of failure and success is essential. Both offer valuable lessons, and everyone has experienced both sides. It’s crucial to acknowledge and share both aspects of your journey for a more authentic and relatable leadership approach.

Gatik Chaujer:
Absolutely, finding that balance is crucial. It’s natural to want to highlight successes, but authentic leadership involves sharing the whole picture, including failures and the valuable lessons learned. It’s in that balance that leaders can truly connect with their teams and build trust. So for leaders watching this, what would be your top three messages, top three tips? What would those three things be that you’d like to share with them?

Jacob Morgan:
Absolutely,Practice the Vulnerable Leader Equation: In everything I do, I aim to integrate both vulnerability and leadership when appropriate. In any situation with vulnerability, I ask myself, “Where can I also sprinkle in leadership?”

Vulnerability Mountain Framework: I follow the concept of the Vulnerability Mountain. I identify the scariest thing I could do (the top) and something I can do easily today (the base). I take steps each day, week, and month to climb from base camp to the peak, gradually improving and experimenting.

Use the Vulnerability Wheel: I created a tool called the Vulnerability Wheel. At its center is intention. I make sure not to share or do anything without a clear purpose. It prevents turning engagements into therapy sessions, which isn’t suitable for a workplace setting. I always ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I sharing this?”

These are foundational practices I recommend starting with.

Gatik Chaujer : I also know that some of our viewers are from the HR or learning and development community, Jacob, in organisations, they had manage HR learning and development. I know a lot of our viewers are from that, from that space. And for those of them watching this, who are keen and who get it, they want to create a culture of vulnerable leadership, they want to create a culture of sharing, they want to create a culture of authenticity. But they may be trying to figure out what’s the best way to go about doing it. Any advice, any tips for HR and learning leaders on how they can start building a culture of vulnerability within the organization?

Jacob Morgan : Absolutely, you lead by example. It starts with you, right? I mean, you can’t tell other people to do it, you have to lead by example. If you do it, other people will do it as well. So if I were an HR leader, I would probably start practising it myself, I would start having conversations with other leaders inside the team in the organisation about what leading with vulnerability means and how to practice it and implement it, I would start teaching it to other people, at the very least introduce the language to your team in your organisation so that they’re familiar with what it is. But by far, the best piece of advice is, if you want other people to emulate the behaviour, you gotta start doing the behaviour yourself.

Gatik Chaujer : We’ve got a few questions coming up there, Jacob, what can we do to get sharper on our storytelling with vulnerability skills because she says there’s a thin line between storytelling and oversharing. So how can we kind of sharpen that? What can we do?

Jacob Morgan : Yeah, I mean, you can definitely overshare. And we all know people who overshare at work and in our personal lives. And the reason why those people overshare is because they forget to focus on the intention. Usually, when people know why they’re sharing or doing something, they tend to be very clear about what it is that they’re sharing, and why it is that they’re sharing it. And oftentimes, when you are engaging and interacting with somebody who’s just talking nonstop, and they’re just sharing everything and talking about anything, that’s somebody who has no idea why they’re doing it to begin with, they’re just doing it. And so the simplest answer to that question is take a step back and say, what is it that I want to share? And why is it that I want to share it? Once you answer those two things, then you’ll find that whatever comes out of your mouth after that, or whatever you do after that is going to be much more clear, much more defined, much more targeted, and it’s going to create a little bit of a self-censor, so that you don’t just, you know, start blabbing about everything in anything.

Gatik Chaujer:
Another Question is – what are the impairment impediments to being vulnerable and taking action? And is there an example that you could share?

Jacob Morgan – The biggest impediment to being vulnerable is often yourself. Fear of how others perceive you, particularly as weak or incompetent, can hold you back. Overcoming this involves adding leadership to your vulnerability and fostering motivation. Motivation is crucial for translating words into actions, ensuring you actively learn, grow, and improve. So, the primary obstacle is internal, and cultivating motivation is key.

Gatik Chaujer :Thank you so much for making time to come in on The Leaders’ Cafe.
We will be out with the details of the next Leaders Cafe’ shortly. And thank you very much until we meet again, have fun and happy vulnerability. Happy storytelling

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This article is written by our colleague and Co-Founder, TransforMe LearningSandra Colhando as an official member of Forbes Coaches Council. Read the full article here. 

Startups are labors of love for entrepreneurs, yet many founders don’t remain the CEO after a few years. Many times, this is because founders often find the transition to becoming CEO strenuous. Becoming an effective leader overnight can be challenging, especially in the startup ecosystem where it’s all about learning on the go.

Here are the five most common issues brought up by founders in my coaching sessions and some effective ways to deal with them:


1. Clarity In Decision-Making Amid Chaos

From market conditions to consumer demand, change is the only constant. Add policy reforms and supply-side crises to the mix and you have the perfect storm for businesses. In such a volatile environment, it is hard for even big corporations to make decisions, let alone startups, which are often capital-starved and lack relevant experience or information. While this chaos may appear too messy to tackle, there are a few simple practices that can help you in your decision-making process.

Firstly, gather and analyze data to ensure you are equipped with the right context to take the right call. As there is no magic wand to address all simmering issues in one go, focus on taking crucial short-term decisions while keeping the long-term strategic priorities on the radar. Simultaneously, work on your self-awareness so emotions and biases don’t cloud your judgment. As the saying goes, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

2. Limited Time And Resources

Constraints relating to financial capital, manpower and technology often make it difficult for startup leaders, who sometimes are solopreneurs, to allocate their resources. Moreover, founders are faced with multiple priorities including product development, fundraising, marketing and team management, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming.

Startup leaders should start by identifying core problems. Once you figure them out, you can allocate resources more efficiently. Another smart way to steer through a lack of resources is by using online tools for your business needs. The last but probably most important way to tackle constraints is by seeking out partners and collaborating with them. Connecting with other businesses and individuals who share your vision and values can help both parties achieve common goals faster.

3. Elusive Successor—How To Groom?

In the initial stages, founders take the driver’s seat, but as the venture starts to scale, it becomes important for them to cultivate the next crop of leaders. However, identifying and grooming a potential successor is often easier said than done. Many founders feel hesitant to give up control of their business. Some founders are also trapped with “like-me syndrome” and are biased toward individuals who are like themselves.

While zeroing in on a successor, there should be a heavy emphasis on culture, values and experience. It is also essential that the new head gets the support of the team and the board members. Apart from grooming the successor, founders should also focus on themselves. Cutting the cord on a business you’ve poured years of your life into can be painful, but moving on also opens new opportunities.

4. Difficult Conversations With Sensitivity

No founder looks forward to having tough conversations with the team, but you may need to confront underperforming team members, relay bad news to employees or investors, or deal with unhappy clients. While managing the emotional roller coaster of these conversations can be challenging, it is always better to tackle tough topics head-on rather than kicking the can down the road. As the saying goes, “No one is born with the gift of the gab; we all have to learn along the way.”

There’s just one pre-step before the actual conversation. Founders should give some time to reflection (or rather self-reflection) before engaging in difficult conversations with their team. It is crucial to think about the actions and choices that led to the conversation. To have a fruitful discussion, take your emotions and assumptions out of the equation. Have an open-minded discussion, because your words can either elevate a group or take someone down. Let your team know about the meeting and its agenda beforehand so everyone is in the right mental space to have a constructive discussion.

Avoid making vague (or blanket) statements. As a leader, you should focus on finding a solution rather than trying to prove your point or win an argument. Be empathetic but transparent while delivering bad news or addressing sensitive topics. Lastly, be open to receiving feedback authentically.

5. Filling Your Own Cup

The startup grind is real, and even though many of such ventures are passion projects of their founders, fatigue can set in with time. If you don’t have enough fuel left in the tank, one practical solution to keeping yourself invigorated and motivated is to ensure a good 6-hour sleep (at the least) every day. Cutting hours of your sleep lower can limit your capacity to think outside of the box.

Another efficient way to beat burnout stems from the age-old adage, “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body.” Seeking consultation and mentorship to vocalize concerns and gain insights is critical for self-growth. In fact, talking to coaching professionals at least once a week should be on your schedule even if you don’t feel burned out.

There is nothing stronger than a resilient spirit! The goal of resilience isn’t just to survive, but to thrive. Becoming an effective leader can be challenging, but these five tips can help you navigate the choppy waters and rise above them.

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The original article has been published by BusinessWorld. Click here to read the original article.

Many organizations have moved from generic leadership sessions to programs curated specifically to needs and challenges of women professionals, enabling them to fastrack their growth. Most are in different stages of implementation from small-pilot to scaling their global women leadership programs.

The Strategic Imperative Behind Gender Diverse Talent

Women have historically been a part of the workforce yet it’s only now that the modern workplace is recognizing women talent as a key imperative for business success and realizing that the work environment may not be gender equitable. Absence of childcare facilities, lack of flexible work opportunities, fear of missing out on crucial conversations at late evening networking get-togethers and being benchmarked against traditional leadership behaviors are all examples of gaps that organizations are trying to address. What are some of the top reasons that have led to this change? One, talent scarcity is a global issue and building a strong women leadership pipeline has gained strategic importance. Companies that are not investing in growing this rich talent pool risk losing out to competition. Second, some of the traits and leadership behaviors unique to women from participative decision-making to people development are being recognized as crucial to future global challenges. So a diverse talent pipeline aids inclusion but importantly it fosters innovation and change.

Women Leadership Programs - A Case of Missing The Wood for The Trees

One key area that has gained prominence is putting women professionals at the center of their growth – enabling them to challenge not just external but lesser recognized internal barriers, aiding their discovery of innate talents and finally finding support through a community of women professionals across roles and geographies.

Many organizations have moved from generic leadership sessions to programs curated specifically to needs and challenges of women professionals, enabling them to fastrack their growth. Most are in different stages of implementation from small-pilot to scaling their global women leadership programs.

Though most women leadership programs are well intentioned, there are some big mistakes that come in the way of their success:

  1. Weak linkage to business impact – It’s easy to start a program but requires consistency and a strong results orientation for it to become sustainable. In the short term, tracking feedback scores, attendance rates, and skill assessment may be useful but in the long-term it needs to be aligned with overall business strategy. For example, one of the IT clients we worked with would monitor the cohort of women professionals for a period of 1 year and set a promotion-led target. If a certain target %age of women from the cohort got promoted, it was seen as a measure of success for the program as it helped those women professionals claim and be ready for leadership positions.
  2. Quick fix mindset – Finding themselves to be late in the game and worried about missing out, organizations sometimes jump to a quick solution with no real measure of success defined. There is a larger opportunity to build a strong employee brand, attract good talent, and be recognized among the best places to work if the organization does not get stuck in short-term optics and focuses on creating long term value.
  3. Leaving it only to external partners – Bringing in an external specialist can bring value for the learners, but strategically it may miss the goal when there is limited structured internal support. Consistency is key and if leaders tune-out they also risk missing out on valuable feedback that enables not just growth for their women professionals but cues for fostering a more inclusive work environment.
  4. Event-based approach – Without mapping a calendar and launching with a one-off event is unlikely to produce lasting results. It also misses out enabling the virtuous circle of learning possible by grooming women leaders to mentor subsequent cohorts and be internal role models. They become the champions and torchbearers for the program building word of mouth, better participation and helping change the culture bottom-up.

Doing It Right

Non-customized leadership journeys rarely work because they don’t factor in the realities of women in their specific world of work. The realities of the 21st century post-pandemic world have added further complexities to women professional journeys that require to be recognized and acted upon by organizations. Women are weighing in heavily in favour of flexible working as they have found it to improve their work-life balance, improve their mental health and likelihood of staying in their current jobs,

Having said this, what’s interesting is that while some challenges that women face may be common across board but many differ depending on organization and its culture.

This is why a good start point for an effective Women Leadership program is inside the company, researching the context in which women professionals work and understanding their challenges. Once you are clear of your specific internal realities is when you can look outside, learn from best practices and understand the external trends driving the space. This is where you can bring in external subject matter experts (Leadership development companies) to participate and co-create with you a learning journey for your women professionals. Remember, this is not a solo performance, an effective program needs a strong partnership, a waltz between the internal team and the external partner.

How To Identify The Right Partner

A simple online search for ‘women leadership program’ will send you down a rabbithole of programs from leading ed-tech platforms, business colleges, women influencers and a range of learning companies. Finding a program that meets your needs can be challenging. Here are some ideas you keep in mind when making a decision:

  1. Value alignment – Understand the key values of the partner, how do they define their ‘why’ and try to match it with your own organizational values and priorities. A partnership approach is likely to be more effective than aiming for a vendor/supplier relationship.
  2. Flexibility – A one-size-fit program is unlikely to deliver impact, it’s important to find out if the partner is able to customize their program depending on the unique needs of your organization and be open to adapt during the course of the journey. There are some easy ways to assess this – Do they run diagnostics before rolling out the program? How do they conduct diagnostics – is it just a survey form or does it include coaches in conversations with learners to understand their needs, challenges and learning styles? Are feedback forms used only to gather scores but also as means to incorporate learners’ inputs to the program dynamically? Example – some cohorts may need more break-outs and simulations, others may need more reflection oriented group-work. Your partner’s ability to inject flexibility at different stages of the program can help drive deeper value to the learner.
  3. Experience – Remember, progressive clients also help the external partners get sharper at their content and stay relevant. If your partner has worked with clients with mature women leadership programs, they are likely to bring deeper insights to your program. Assess if they have worked with clients in an industry similar to yours, with clients in highly competitive industry segments such as tech, consulting, etc all of which would require for them to operate with greater agility, flexibility and data orientation. What’s their breadth of experience?
  4. Quality and Diversity of the facilitators – The ultimate test of the program is the quality of the content and the people bringing it to life. Women facilitators bring a lot of first-hand experience and those from their own geography and culture also help build relatability. However, it’s also important to balance unique perspectives by bringing in facilitators from different genders, race, ethnicities, and geographies as it fosters deeper empathy and new perspectives for the learners. They help the learners not to get into the victim trap, recognise the universality of their own challenges and gain insight on different ways to solve for the same challenge.
  5. Program Success – It’s important not to get trapped in base metrics to evaluate the overall success of the program. While feedback scores, attendance rates, etc are useful metrics, they may miss out on the quality of the intervention and its impact on the learners. One thing we have learnt that’s powerful is to capture the learners’ personal stories at the end of the journey. Having each learner share how the program has unleashed them helps assess the impact, witness the transformation as well as have them become champions for the organization’s learning efforts.

Sustaining a Women Leadership Program

The journey of women professionals to drive impact in their roles and organization only starts with the program. Once they have gone through the skills training and reflection processes, it’s crucial to assess next steps – are they ready to take on additional roles or projects? Do they need to be aligned with a mentor or a coach to support them to continue their journey? Can they be offered opportunities to speak in internal forums, gain more exposure? Most importantly, how can they become the advocates, internal champions and mentors for the subsequent cohorts?

An effective women leadership program not only transforms women professionals to perform and exceed in their own role but also enable them to become catalysts of change for other professionals across the organization.

That’s how CULTURE is shaped and Performance enhanced.

In a recent interview with People Matters magazine, Priti Shetty, Chief People and Culture Officer, WeWork India spoke about the impact created by Evolve by TransforMe Learning in developing senior women leaders at WeWork India and its role in WeWork India’s D&I strategy.  Here’s the excerpt –

“Our flagship development initiative, the “Evolve” program, in partnership with TransforMe Learning, is exclusively designed for women leaders in WeWork India. This customised leadership training comprises four virtual workshops and coaching sessions, focusing on adaptive leadership, personal branding, influence, and mindset. The program has yielded tangible results, with increased engagement, improved retention rates, and notable career advancements. Out of a cohort of 25 women leaders, we are proud to share that 28% have experienced significant career enhancements through promotions and role expansions.”

Read the full article here

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