Written on the 4 August 2015


THE debate around workplace diversity is missing a key element - chromosome Y, says leadership specialist Sonia McDonald.

The CEO of LeadershipHQ says while the diversity debate is being framed with the best intentions, it is hanging crooked on the wall.

McDonald has likened the workplace to an eco-system where balance is critical to the way it flourishes and where the slightest shift impacts the entire system.

"How can we develop a balanced and inclusive diversity eco-system if it's built purely by women? asks McDonald, a champion of leadership development, gender intelligence and strategy.

"Trying to change the workplace without involving men is a recipe for failure."

Research shows the more men know about gender inequalities, the more likely they are to help close the gap, but somehow they're being left out of the discussion, says McDonald.

McDonald highlights overt political correctness and a culture of exclusivity by women that ironically has omitted men from the big picture.

McDonald asks: Have we become too politically correct? Do we build focus groups or change committees comprised solely of the 'disadvantaged' group? Do we rush to build committees filled with women to work on gender diversity?

"It's a bit hypocritical when women call for gender diversity in the workplace yet sideline men from the discussion. As a result, there aren't enough men contributing to the discussion and that's a problem we need to rectify," says McDonald.

"Everyone seems to be talking about these buzz terms, yet we're not making much progress towards action. It's because the discussion is one-sided.

"While it looks like everyone is talking, there's an entire segment of the population missing from the conversation and its men.

"I am not saying that men aren't contributing. For instance I know leaders like David Thodey from Telstra and Peter Birtles from Super Retail Group, both male champions of change are great advocates on the topic, but we need more."

Birtles, who helms the publicly listed company - which is home to brands such as Supercheap Auto, Amart Sports, BCF Boating Camping Fishing and Ray's Outdoors - is one of Australasia's leading specialty retailers with more than 600 stores and annual turnover in excess of $2 billion.

"We must ensure we are raising the issue of diversity as an area which is significant for business. It's vital that we all play a part and we are all responsible," he says.

The responsibility falls on many shoulders according to LeadershipHQ's McDonald, who has held senior roles in organisational development, strategic recruitment and talent management fields.

"We need input from men, women, old, young and everything else. We need everyone to speak up," she says.

"It's not just the outcome that needs to be inclusive, but the whole process from idea through discussion and into decision making and driving action."

The public will get an opportunity to do just that when some of the top executives in the country thrash out the hot topics of inclusion and diversity at an upcoming debate in conjunction with sponsors Reagent and Revelian.

Tickets for the Sydney and Melbourne Diversity Debates are available now or get more info at

Speakers include Super Retail Group CEO Peter Birtles; Head of Diversity, Inclusion & Change Management at ANZ Australia Fiona Vines; Intrax Engineers CEO Barry Borzillo; CEO of Bowls Australia Neil Dalrymple; and CEO of National Women in Construction Laurice Temple.






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