7 Female Business Leaders talk about IWD 2024, the theme ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and what it means to them

By Women Love Tech
on 8 March 2024

Our team is consistently inspired by our amazing tribe of female founders and business leaders, and we regularly feature them and their work in our publication. So in celebration and acknowledgement of IWD 2024 and the theme of ‘Inspire Inclusion’, we wanted them to shine.

We posed a few poignant questions around how building inclusivity enabled a pivotal moment in their business journey, how they inspire inclusion in their business and in their work, and asked them to  offer advice to emerging female leaders about cultivating an inclusive environment. 

Here are their amazing insights.

Sonia McDonald 

CEO & Founder of LeadershipHQ and LHQ Outstanding Leadership Awards

Sonia McDonald CEO & Founder of LeadershipHQ and LHQ Outstanding Leadership Awards

“In 2020, our leadership programs and awards faced challenges due to COVID, prompting us to adapt and seek new perspectives. We collaborated with Gen Z and Gen Y to understand their views on leadership, reshaping our strategy, mission, and vision for LeadershipHQ and our Outstanding Leadership Awards. Embracing inclusivity and diverse perspectives significantly impacted our business and the success of our awards.

To inspire inclusion within my team, I prioritise curiosity and a growth mindset. By asking questions, embracing uniqueness, and ensuring psychological safety, we foster an environment where everyone can be their true selves and contribute innovative ideas.

For emerging female leaders, I advise cultivating curiosity, authenticity, and vulnerability. Understanding your team, being genuine, and admitting mistakes are crucial. Compassion, kindness, and empathy are essential to inspire inclusion. Additionally, it’s important to learn leadership principles and lead with inclusivity in mind.”

Hacia Atherton

Founding Director of Empowered Women in Trades

Hacia Atherton

Founding Director of Empowered Women in Trades

“One pivotal moment in my career was founding Empowered Women in Trades in response to the shockingly low 3% female representation in skilled trades. My aim was to disrupt the status quo and create an inclusive environment where women feel empowered to pursue careers in traditionally male-dominated fields. This commitment to diversity and inclusion led to breakthrough innovation and significant growth within my business. As a leader, I inspire inclusion within my team by fostering a culture of respect, open communication, and collaboration, ensuring that everyone feels valued and heard. To emerging female leaders, my advice is to prioritise creating an environment where everyone feels they belong and can thrive. Foster diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, encourage mentorship and sponsorship programs, and lead by example in embracing different perspectives and experiences. Together, we can create spaces where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

Sally Dillon

Director of Revolution Consulting Group

“Embarking on my journey with Revolution Consulting Group was a pivotal moment in my career, aligning with this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion.’ After witnessing leaders in various sectors undervalue their teams, leading to overworked, stressed, and undervalued employees, I realised that real impact required stepping beyond corporate constraints. Revolution Consulting Group was born out of the conviction that businesses thrive when they genuinely engage and value employees. Our first project with a small business battling high turnover and low morale demonstrated the transformative power of inclusion, boosting productivity and satisfaction through open communication, mutual respect, and recognition.

Inspiring inclusion within our team starts with leading by example, prioritising an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued for their unique contributions. We celebrate diverse backgrounds and perspectives, recognizing how differences strengthen our collective capability to innovate and serve our clients better.

To emerging female leaders, I advise leaning into your values and integrity, leading with empathy, fostering a culture of openness and vulnerability, and championing diversity in all forms. By embodying these principles, you’ll not only create a workplace where everyone feels they belong but also pave the way for meaningful innovation and long-term success.”

Jacqueline Jayne

Cybersecurity Communicator & Security Awareness Advocate, KnowB4

“In line with this year’s IWD theme, ‘Inspire Inclusivity,’ a pivotal moment in my career was mastering the art of inspiring inclusion in cybersecurity thought leadership. As a woman in a male-dominated field, I often have less than two minutes to capture the attention of a diverse audience. I’ve learned to acknowledge their issues, challenges, and realities, creating a space where they can see things differently and make changes. 

My KnowB4 ‘team’ extends to everyone I connect with daily, whether in a conference room full of IT professionals, a webinar with concerned parents, or a one-on-one conversation about cyber safety. Authenticity in my communication is key to inspiring inclusion, understanding that everyone’s experience and knowledge is different. My advice to emerging female leaders is to recognize that leadership is not confined to an org chart. It’s about influencing from any position, authentically, and creating a psychologically safe environment where women feel heard and represented.”

Jane Phipps

Executive Leader & COO Teach for Australia

“In alignment with this year’s IWD theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ a pivotal moment in my career was leading a team through significant organisational changes at a university. We established cross-functional teams, bringing together individuals from different departments, levels of seniority, and cultural backgrounds. This inclusive approach was key to our success, fostering an environment where everyone, particularly women, felt valued and heard. The creativity and energy levels soared, leading to higher engagement and resilience to change. And then, friends were made, underscoring the profound impact of inclusion on both professional and personal relationships.

As a leader with Teach for Australia Organisation, I inspire inclusion by encouraging my team to bring their true selves to work, emphasising the importance of open communication and mutual respect. By creating a psychologically safe space, I empower each team member to share their unique perspectives, contributing to a culture of collaboration and belonging.

For emerging female leaders, my advice is to prioritise active listening, a skill that fosters mutual understanding and trust. This practice is essential for building an inclusive environment where everyone feels they belong and can thrive. By focusing on empathic listening, we can forge deeper connections and navigate conflicts more effectively, paving the way for a more inclusive and collaborative workplace.”

Susi Tegen

CEO National Rural Health Alliance

“Reflecting on this year’s IWD theme, ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ a defining moment in my career occurred during my tenure as Managing Director of Fresh Rare Enticing Eyre. Working with resilient communities and primary producers across Australia, who faced adversities like droughts, floods, and fires, was truly inspiring. The innovation and positivity displayed by women in rural, remote, and regional areas were particularly remarkable. Their determination to overcome challenges and contribute to their industry and community motivated me to believe in their potential and support their efforts.

As a leader with the National Rural Health Alliance, I inspire inclusion by being open, showing humility, and valuing people for their actions rather than their backgrounds. I’ve found that some of the most amazing contributions have come from unexpected sources, like a hairdresser who excelled as a project manager due to her communication skills and different perspective.

For emerging female leaders, my advice is to not overthink and to share problems with your team, as they often come up with great solutions. Be kind to yourself and others, and be open to feedback. Seek inspiration from people you admire, and don’t hesitate to reach out to them for guidance. Remember, you don’t have to emulate men to be successful; embrace support from both men and women, and look for female leaders in all walks of life for inspiration. Finally, involve your team in business problems, as the solutions can come from the most unexpected places.”

Dr Zivit Inbar

Founder & CEO DifferenThinking

“In the spirit of ‘Inspire Inclusion,’ the theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, emerging female leaders have the power to shape a workplace that cherishes cognitive diversity. At DifferenThinking, by fostering an environment where diverse perspectives are valued, we encourage open communication and collaboration, ensuring every team member feels heard and valued. This approach leads to better decision-making and a strong sense of belonging.

As leaders, we must lead by example, ensuring our actions mirror our words. We should hold ourselves to the same standards we expect of our team, emphasising well-being, work-life balance, and a continuous learning journey. Recognizing achievements, acknowledging mistakes, and promoting a culture of growth over failure are key.

Mentorship is also vital. Throughout my career, I’ve sought mentors and mentored others, learning immensely from both experiences. By always having a mentor and being a mentor, we create a supportive and inclusive environment for all.”

We Are Better Together

These amazing female leaders remind us that inclusion is a journey that requires open communication, empathy, and a commitment to celebrating differences. Their advice to emerging female leaders underscores the importance of active listening, sharing challenges, and fostering a culture of kindness and respect. 

At The Big Smoke, we are incredibly proud to amplify the voices of these inspiring women and are committed to championing the principles of ‘Inspire Inclusion’ in all that we do. As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2024, we are reminded of the collective impact we can make by creating inclusive environments where everyone can thrive.

More about the author

Deb Turney is a Content Writer and Creator at The Big Smoke, with experience in business and digital media. She has worked across multiple sectors, and is always curious about the world around her.


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