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How to be an inclusive leader: The big moments from International Women's Day

IWD 2022 Impact Series featuring top inclusion experts reaches 3,500 over five days

IWD - blog hero - updated

“If life is a game, I want to play a different game with a bigger board with more diverse pieces….where more people win.” – Kemi Nekvapil

International Women’s Day 2022 may be over but 3,500 delegates are much the wiser following our week of events on becoming more inclusive leaders.

Here we look over some of the highlights and key ideas from our seven exceptional speakers.  


From Kemi Nekvapil author of Power: A Woman’s Guide to Living and Leading Without Apology, we learned to use the P.O.W.E.R. framework (Kemi is pictured top, second from left).

Presence: Be aware in the moment to who you are and what you need. Ask yourself ‘What am I tolerating?’ Find activities that help you cultivate presence.

Ownership: Move into the driver’s seat and take full ownership of who you are and who you are becoming. “If we believe we have Power we will act very differently to when we feel we are powerless,” says Kemi.

Wisdom: Your experiences build wisdom. Forgive yourself for those times you gave your power away. Be brave and stop asking for permission to take on new roles.

Equality: You must own the equality that sits within you and honour it in all others. Also, honour your worth in a monetary sense. Know your money.  

Responsibility: When we take full responsibility of our Power, we have the freedom to decide how to use it. Weaponise your privilege by calling out the elephant in the room. Don’t be silent about hard things.  

Kemi says power is not scarce. “There is so much more room at the top than we have been led to believe,”.


New York based inclusivity expert Jennifer Brown shared the powerful illustration of an iceberg (below) to show how employees cover up aspects of themselves in the workplace, such as gender and race traits, and sexual orientation. 

The LGBT entrepreneur and author of Inclusion, How to Be an Inclusive Leader, and Beyond Diversity says “covering” or playing down your identity to manage others’ reactions is exhausting.

Women and other minorities hide traits 'below the waterline' all the time, she says.


To make employees feel safe enough to reveal all aspects of their diversity at work, Jennifer recommends leaders work through the Inclusive Leader Continuum:

Phase 1: Unaware - You think diversity is someone else’s job.

Phase 2: Aware – You educate yourself on how best to move forward.

Phase 3: Active -You shift your priorities and take action to support others.

Phase 4: Advocate – You are proactively and consistently using your privilege to the advantage of others. You consider their issues your issues and stand in solidarity with them. 

 Where do you sit in this continuum?


From 80-year-old activist, feminist, and business leader Wendy McCarthy AO (pictured top, second from right), author of Don’t Be Too Polite, Girls, we learned to call out leaders who say they can’t find women to fill executive or board roles.

“I never let those who protest get away with the response that no qualified women are available,” she says. The key is looking wider than your own social and business networks, and Wendy suggests building pipelines from Little Athletics organisers or within healthcare and education sectors as examples.

Calling on women, she tells them to say ‘yes’ when invited to a role that fits with their values, even if they feel imposter syndrome or don’t feel ready.

“You learn the skills first by agreeing to take the risk,” she says.


In our interview with Laura Liswood (pictured top left), we identified the traits of dominant and non-dominant groups. Her book The Elephant and the Mouse: Moving Beyond the Illusion of Inclusion to Create a Truly Diverse and Equitable Workplace launches on March 22.

Laura says the elephant (dominant group member) knows almost nothing about the mouse (non-dominant group member) yet the mouse knows all about the elephant.

“The mouse has to multi-task,” says Laura. “Around the elephant it has to listen acutely to hear when the elephant is showing up, it needs to sense the mood of the other entity to figure out how to placate it, work around it, distract it, humour it, and manoeuvre artfully.”

There are four ways to change these behaviours:

1.    Change individual behaviour (the 'seed').

2.    Change systems and structures (the 'soil').

3.    Provide a lifeline through intervention by others (like wing people and allies).

4.    Add non-human ways to analyse, nudge, aid, and correct behaviour (data analytics, quotas, and affirmative mechanisms).

Here are Laura’s starting points to move beyond the illusion of inclusion: 

1.    For women, make sure you have a sense that you entitled to lead, entitled to your positions, you’re entitled to state your views - just as men are.

2.    For men and women: Be a wing person. Do active intervention.

3.    Try to travel outside of your own worldview. Be curious. Seek to understand other people’s ‘grandmas’ (ways of viewing the world).

“Ultimately, we’re looking for change, aren’t we? And change goes from the unthinkable, to the impossible, to the inevitable,” says Laura. 


The week wrapped with a panel of male champions of change, and included Nick Hockley, CEO of Cricket Australia (pictured at top), David McCrostie, Partner at TurksLegal, Head of Banking Group, and Sasha Lawrence, Deals People Leader, PwC Australia. From them, we learned how an equitable future is a shared goal for everyone regardless of gender.


Growth Faculty’s access to global thought leaders offers new frameworks and insights to the growing call for change. Inspired by IWD 2022’s theme #breakthebias we’ve compiled a checklist to help company executives and boards self-assess how they’re supporting women into leadership in 2022. Download our checklist now.


If you'd like to continue increasing your professional and personal development why not consider becoming a Growth Faculty Leadership Pass Holder? Receive Unlimited access to 40+ live virtual masterclasses and Global Headliner virtual events - PLUS year-round leadership content at On Demand with videos, podcasts and book summaries. Join a community of knowledge seekers who are inspired by the best. Access $7500+ value for just $498 AUD. See what's included. See what's included


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