Flying higher for D&I – an invitation and a challenge to Australian business leaders.



In the flurry of International Women’s Day events, speaking engagements and activities, I stole a moment to reflect on how the conversation has shifted since I launched Inspiring Rare Birds five years ago.

More women now see that entrepreneurship is an option open to everyone. Females made up 20% of family business decision-makers/board members in 2018, up from 15% in 2015. 

In 2018-19, 46,600 females became business owner-managers, raising their representation to 35%, thanks in part to our invaluable mentoring partnerships, as well as the networks and education Inspiring Rare Birds facilitated through programs, books, events and ambassadors in 16 regions across Australia and Papua New Guinea.

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We’ve played an important part in creating role models, and supporting strong business growth, and are so grateful to everyone in the Rare Birds community who has stood behind female entrepreneurs.

Corporate Australia is now talking about gender equality at the strategic level and creating diversity and inclusion (D&I) working groups and initiatives, but I see many leaders struggle to find simple ways to establish effective D&I programs in their business.

The sobering findings of the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report are that women’s representation on boards in Australia has dropped to 28.7% and gender parity will not be attained for 99.5 years. 

Corporate Australia needs to do more to build structures and embed cultures that encourage thriving diversity and inclusion in workplaces.

100 years is far too long to wait. 

Since I opened the Rare Birds mentoring program up to corporates two years ago, organisations like @7West Media, @American Express, @PwC and @WesTrac have seen how having a Rare Birds mentor has improved their emerging leaders’ business confidence and fundamentally changed the way their teams think, act and communicate – it has a trickle down effect that drives immense value.

Fully managed and measured corporate mentoring – which matches cohorts of 20-50 emerging leaders with high calibre external Mentors in a 12 month program – is proven to drive tangible results, increase talent retention, and provide game-changing commercial value and innovation in individuals and teams.

This week, the incredible team at Rare Birds launched a refreshed brand, website and expanded vision to help businesses ‘walk the talk’ and start to really move the needle on D&I, at the organisational level.

We want to ensure all emerging leaders and entrepreneurs can clearly identify businesses they want to work for and build because of their sustained commitment to D&I.

It’s an ambitious vision, but it’s achievable with a sustained, ‘always on’ commitment to D&I and considered investment in staff and emerging leaders.

The stakes of under-committing, in financial terms, employment terms and reputational terms, are high. As long ago as 2015, McKinsey estimated that as much as US$12 trillion could be added to global annual GDP by 2025 by making opportunities for women the equal of those of men. More diverse teams are proven to drive greater innovation revenue.

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In just five years, 75% of the global workforce will be millennials (according to the World Economic Forum) – the first generation expecting full inclusion and diversity across the organisations that employ them.  

And Australian employees are vocal about diversity, inclusion, and employee well-being generally. According to the 2020 Employee Expectations report from Peakon, “Businesses that don’t keep pace with these evolving trends will fail to connect with their most critical audience: their current and future employees. Boosting engagement is critical for those that want to remain a competitive workplace.” 

Get D&I wrong, and your future millennial workforce will leave. 

So what is your organisation doing to make genuinely diverse and inclusive structures and cultures a reality in a meaningful, sustainable way? 

D&I starts with role models, so we are recruiting new mentors from all industries, across all backgrounds, around Australia.

Organisations seeking to create meaningful diversity programs, and individuals wishing to become mentors, should visit

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