Diversity & Inclusion
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#WeLead Story

Peter McDonnell

ASPL #WeLead Campaign  |  Vol.

22
Peter McDonnell
I am the Group Head of Technology with a demonstrated history of working in the airlines/aviation industry, a committed and driven IT professional with 20 years’ experience. I am also a husband and father of two highly energetic boys. 
“Diversity in the workplace and in leadership roles is critical if we are to achieve our full potential.” — Peter McDonnell

Tell us a little about yourself?

I am husband and father of two highly energetic boys who themselves are very different, one is your typical young boy, surfing, ruby league and video games and my youngest is a little different and he loves dancing, ballet and contemporary.

What I do for work – Group Head of Technology with a demonstrated history of working in the airlines/aviation industry. Committed and driven IT professional with 20 years’ experience in the IT Industry. A leadership style which is collaborative, outcome driven and focussed on building capability to deliver and sustain the changes put in place.

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

If I focus here for the moment, I would say three women have inspired me through my career.  Firstly my mum, what an amazing lady, mother of 4 boys who was a stay at home mum back in the days, how she kept 4 highly energetic boys focussed, provided the space to learn and grow which means making mistakes but always have a safe place to return.

Secondly, the two women leaders Jana and Prue who both pushed me to go into new areas to develop and expand my career. Jana and I had built a strong working relationship and saw an opportunity to leave my comfort zone of technology to look at how to run projects directly within the business. This wonderful opportunity to learn and really understand that it’s not about being an expert but it’s more to do with surrounding yourself with great people. Never losing sight of the fact that the people you are working with all have valuable experience. Prue again through an established relationship brought to me an opportunity to step out of my role into a Commercial Procurement role. This was an opportunity for me to enhance my commercial/procurement skills and build and lead a team from scratch.

In each instance, being open and transparent and having the desire for change was the key. Sometimes you need to step away to really grow.

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

Diversity in the workplace and in leadership roles is critical if we are to achieve our full potential. Greater diversity in the workplace will lead towards a more inclusive culture. In a more inclusive organisation real potential of people will not be lost but be supported and fostered.

There is enough research now that demonstrates that diverse teams (including gender diverse teams) improve the overall performance of the business – whether it be by lowering risk, increasing performance, or increasing employee satisfaction.  To serve our communities and customers and convey the importance of Gender Equality we need to ensure we have adequate representation throughout our organisation.  The most basic way to do this is to increase the representation of Women in Leadership by providing them opportunities to sit alongside the male leaders and be in roles where they can influence, create an impact and make decisions that transform the culture of the organisation.

What more can be done to support women in male-dominated industries?

There is a definite need to start with the fundamentals:

  • •  Recruitment – attracting women into the workforce at early stages of their careers, but we need to do more here across different industries to make the workplace safe and supportive.
  • •  Fostering diversity and alternative working models for different ways of working – removing bias in the everyday thinking. It is important to understand the impact that it has on people and women when there are faced with bias. I have seen a lot of change in the space around technology, but there is still a long way to go.
  • •  Understanding the existing culture in your organisation and making it a safe place for the women who are already there and creating a culture that is supportive of women so that many more would like to be a part of it. If it’s a welcoming, inclusive, and supportive workplace for women then retention won’t be an issue and you can focus on attraction and development.  Ensuring programs are designed to get everyone in the organisation to understand the importance and challenge biases – better still mitigate them will take you a long way.

What further steps can be implemented to encourage women supporting women?

Greater effort is required to understand what would make the work and places of employment more attractive for women. This needs to start from schools and to go to the university level. It will be generational change, but just because it will take time does not mean we should not strive to make the shift now.

It’s an interesting point – to focus on women supporting women.  As a male I subscribe to the work of the Male Champions of Change and the leadership shadow – making sure there is congruence between what I say about women in the workplace, my behaviour and the time I invest in developing women in my team and informing men about the importance.  It’s difficult to tell women what they should do but I think we can all start with our leadership shadow – it’s gender neutral and hugely beneficial to look at one’s own impact first.

How would you motivate women to “lean in”?

Be curious, have the courage to ask the questions. If you find roadblocks look for alternative paths or people who you can lean on for support. Recognising the fact that all of us make mistake. I have made a fair share along the way. How you respond to those will bring some of the greatest learning and growth. Always welcome to challenge yourself in new areas of the business. Breadth of experience is critical for anyone to become successful leader over the long term. Surround yourself with a “board” of people who you respect and who will challenge your ideas in a safe way with the right perspective. i.e who is your tech advisor, who is your finance go to person?

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

Evolving, some organisation/industry are making impressive in roads, but we still have a considerable journey ahead of here to make the workplace and general society more accepting of the diversity and truly appreciate the benefits inclusion can bring.

Moving forward here each day is a step in the right direction, we need to callout the great examples and willingness/courage to do so when we see examples that are not fostering the shift in behaviours that we are seeking to model.

I know this is easier said than done but as leaders and people we all have this responsibility.

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

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts on this very important topic. We all have a responsibility to make our lives and workplace an accepting and inclusive society.

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