Kylie Duffy and Andrew Fenlon are the Co-Founders of Women into Leadership, a boutique management consultancy. Their aim is to increase women in senior leadership using an independently created, tailored approach for organisations over a 12 month program. A governance process enables monitoring and reporting progress to key stakeholders, through agreed KPIs. This provides ability to demonstrate to employees and stakeholders practical progress in improving opportunities for women.
Kylie and Andrew share a vision to see equitable representation of men and women in the boardroom, and to drive superior organisational performance and results by doing this. Kylie, who is the CEO, has an executive background in Key Account Management with some of Australia’s biggest brands. Andrew is Chartered Accountant with over 20 years of professional experience in improving public and private sector organisations globally.
You are a Father and Daughter Co-Founder Team, and have previously worked together. What events inspired you to Co-Found Women into Leadership?
We’ve always liked working together and the stars aligned: Andrew was looking for the next challenge and Kylie was about to have a baby and go on maternity leave!
We are both passionate about seeing women progress in organisations.
We subscribe to the view that women are not the problem, but many leadership development programs are generic and not tailored to training women. We’ve found a gap in the market: working with organisations to increase the proportion of key staff being female, and that’s what we’re helping.
Tell us why you believe it’s important to get more Women into Leadership, and how you are tackling this.
The ultimate potential prize for Australia is huge – a possible 20% increase in GDP (that’s more than twice the size of the minerals industry) and with hardly any additional risk! It’s a fact that diversity on boards and in the Executive team makes for organisations that are more profitable and have better employee satisfaction rates. Why would you not want this for your organisation?
Our programs help organisations to increase the proportion of females moving up and staying in senior roles. The programs have some common principles:
- they are situational to each organisation and their people
- those affected by an issue are best to be able to fully understand the issue and identify workable initiatives
- adult learners retain most knowledge when working with others to resolve issues
- they are programs actioned ‘by the people, for the people’ – these types of courses have the best success rate
What’s your advice to CEOs who say they’ve tried, but their gender diversity efforts haven’t worked?
Don’t give up! If it were an easy issue to solve, we wouldn’t be talking about it. We acknowledge it’s a complex issue, and we are here to help!
Most organisations have tried to do something, but the numbers speak for themselves: about 60% of tertiary qualifications go to females, but only about 20% of managers are female. Trying and failing and then giving up is not an option. You have to keep the issue at the top of the list. If you don’t, you stand to cap the profitability, success and future growth for your company.
There are loads of programs out there that assess your diversity, but none that work like ours to solve the issue from root causes, having real impactful and measurable KPI’s to implement. We guarantee organisations will see results after our program has run its course (which is a year long).
How do you think Male Champions of Change can best support increasing the numbers of women in leadership in Australia?
Male Champions of Change is a great initiative. But it needs to extend its reach to many more CEOs. Evidence shows that without the support of the CEO diversity programs are doomed.
The first place to start for members of Male Champions of Change is to reach out to people like us who can drive home their support and bring their visions to fruition.
What has been your greatest challenge?
The biggest challenge in the venture so far is just getting through the red tape, but we’re not alone in that.
In terms of the program: it’s not hard to find people who want to talk about improving diversity – but they need act, not just talk!
What are you most proud of?
Kylie: My wonderful 5 month old baby girl – Lola!
Andrew: The decision to move our family from the UK to Australia. It’s one of the best things my wife and I have done.
Both: We’re both really excited to be creating a business which will make a real difference to implementing better gender diversity.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Be confident and don’t listen to naysayers (including sometimes yourself!) Women have great skills – and now is the time to use them.