Diversity & Inclusion
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#WeLead Story

Danielle Dobson

ASPL #WeLead Campaign  |  Vol.

41
Danielle Dobson
Danielle is a speaker, facilitator, author, corporate advisor and mother, with an extensive background in corporate finance and then in the wellness industry. Now, she is on a mission: to help bring more gender equity to society and our workplaces, by breaking the Gender Code.
“Gender Code is embedded into all stages of the employee life cycle. It’s the reason we need organisational change so that we can create pathways to leadership for women and provide them with the support and the structural iterations they need to get there.” — Danielle Dobson

1. Tell us a little about yourself?

I’m a speaker, facilitator, author, corporate advisor and mother, with an extensive background in corporate finance and then in the wellness industry. Now, I’m on a mission: to help bring more gender equity to society and our workplaces, by breaking the Gender Code. What do I mean by the Gender Code? I’m talking about that default set of beliefs that tells us that men are natural providers, and women are natural carers. It’s the reason our society hasn’t been designed with gender balance in mind, and why women are still carrying the lion’s share of the parenting load, while also trying to achieve at work and then failing to somehow ‘have it all’. A few years ago, I identified a lot of my high performing clients were struggling with stress and overwhelm as they tried to juggle leadership roles and family priorities. In the interest of being able to understand the needs of my executive coaching clients better (and my struggles) and with a focus on their wellbeing, I conducted a two-year research project interviewing over 50 women (and a few men) in leadership roles across a diverse range of industries. The results of my research formed the basis for my book, Breaking the Gender Code, and now I use these findings and insights to help organisations unlock the potential of the women already on their teams, and attract the right female talent in the future. To learn more, visit www.codeconversations.com.au

2. Who are the women who have inspired you the most in your life?

Women who REALLY advocated and agitated for change despite the personal, financial and professional toll they endured. They have laid the foundation for each successive group and generation to push even further and climb even higher. I also find any women who have succeeded in achieving leadership positions inspirational, as I know they’ve reached that point despite the societal pressures and assumptions that would have stood in their way due to gender. More specifically, each and every woman I interviewed for my research project. Seeing their brilliance and how they contributed to their work, their relationships and their community was inspiring. I’m forever grateful for what they have shared with me and taught me along this adventure of life. I have to also pay my respects to all the ‘invisible’ women who have supported the people (women and men) on centre stage throughout history. The ones who offered guidance, kept calm under pressure, kept the home fires burning and provided physical and emotional nourishment. They typically receive no recognition for their service. They are important and inspirational.

3. Why do you think it’s important to increase the number of women in business, particularly in leadership roles?

One of the most important findings from my research was that women in the workforce, particularly those women who are parents, bring essential leadership skills to the workplace. Mothers bring with them higher levels of communication, empathy, organisation and patience. Exactly the kind of characteristics that make them ideal as leaders. I think as a society we’re more aware now that having women in business and leadership roles is important. Not only so that our organisations are more representative, but also because of the great qualities which women bring to the table. Unfortunately, even with the best of intentions, most organisations are still not succeeding in bringing more gender balance to their leadership, and this is due to the Gender Code. It is embedded into all stages of the employee life cycle. It’s the reason we need organisational change so that we can create pathways to leadership for women and provide them with the support and the structural iterations they need to get there.

4. How would you describe your current thinking about diversity and inclusion?

While so many organisations have great intentions when it comes to gender equality in the workplace, we’re not going to see real change until we truly unlock the gender stereotypes which are holding women back at work and in life. Our corporate hierarchies are also designed with men in mind, so it’s no wonder women find it harder to thrive in these structures and have to work twice as hard. There is compelling evidence of the need to bring more women into leadership roles in organisations across the world. It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do. And most leaders are convinced of the business case imperative. Yet despite increased investment in diversity and inclusion, and efforts to address the gender inequities in organisations, the lack of women in business persists, and especially in leadership positions and seniority pipelines. When women are unaware of the Gender Code, it works against them and their success both at home and in the workplace. When leaders in organisations who are striving to support women, are unaware of the Gender Code, their diversity and inclusion efforts will mostly fade away, failing to deliver the promised transformation. Unless we break the Gender Code, women will continue to be stymied in their careers and business will continue to fail in attracting and retaining women into leadership positions. Potentially missing out on opportunities for creativity, innovation and next-level adaptive thinking in all parts of their business.

5. Would you like to tell us a bit more about your thoughts/ comments?

The impact of the unearthing of the inappropriate and disrespectful treatment of women in government, schools, workplaces and communities has been profound. It’s a symptom of the Gender Code. For many years the investment in women and girls aimed at helping us progress and succeed has been essential. Although this has been well-intentioned, there has been an insufficient amount of attention and investment dedicated to helping boys and men to accept and manage the rise of women and girls and understand their place in a world of more gender equity.

What concerned men and business leaders can do:

  • Question the Gender Code in their lives, workplaces, relationships and communities
  • Understand the impact it is having on everyone by listening to women and then reflecting and listening to themselves – building awareness
  • Ask if the way they are operating makes sense anymore and if it doesn’t choose something different and;
  • Write a new code by breaking the Gender Code within us

Every one of us creates a more fulfilling present and a better environment for the next generation of code breakers.

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