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McDonalds CEO on how to achieve 50 per cent gender balance from entry level to the exec team

catariona_nobleThis week I spent a morning with Catriona Noble, CEO of McDonalds Australia, gathering insights for my new “how to” book for leaders wishing to attract, develop and retain more women in their business.  You might be surprised to hear that the “Golden Arches” employ a workforce of 85,000 individuals here; across 820 restaurants with annual turnover of $3billion; and holds 20% of the take away market – serving over 1 million customers a day.  Even more surprising is that – at every level of the organisation from entry level to Noble’s executive team to the Board – women hold 50% of roles.  So how could your business do the same?
Without giving away all the secrets (you’ll have a chance to read the book in due course to find that out!), the McDonalds gender balance success story is driven all the way from the top and is well considered.  Chatting with Noble it’s clear that the McDonalds culture embodies is a profound empathy and understanding for the challenges women face in promoting themselves, putting themselves forward and managing the ever present conflicts in their lives.
Noble herself has been the beneficiary of this culture that encourages and supports women – having been promoted into a key role when she was just 3 months pregnant with her second child.  She now leads the charge, citing examples of flexible work practices she has personally approved for men and women in line with each individual’s workstyle, strengths and personal requirements; of senior roles redesigned to match the skill sets of high potential talent; and of an expectation that individuals can have flexibility in their work patterns but not in their outcomes.
This last point is perhaps the most prescient: flexibility is embraced within the organisation because there is an understanding within all ranks that it’s not an either/or scenario: there is an understanding that business outcomes must not suffer as a result.  So as long as staff are accountable and continue to deliver results despite variations in their work arrangements, everyone is happy.
And the parting advice from Noble on what others could learn from the McDonalds experience?  That even when you’ve achieved gender balance, the focus must remain on consciously promoting women throughout the business.  This is because, according to Noble, “on the whole, women are and always will be less likely to blow their own trumpet and self-identify for opportunities”.  Keeping this front of mind ensures women can be mapped and sponsored into suitable roles in the business.


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2 months ago

Jen Dalitz

What are the lessons you’re teaching your kids? We took the opportunity of a holiday long weekend to visit my mum interstate as the timing of the trip coincided with my son’s favourite AFL team battling it out against my mum’s beloved team. Perhaps only those of you with the love for AFL will appreciate why we’d plan a long distance trip around a game of footy, but suffice to say it was a passion project! With every ounce of anticipation, the game was a tough, tight duel and could easily have gone either way. Yet when the final siren sounded, it wasn’t our team that was smiling. It sure is tough for a 10 year old boy to sit within a crowd 41,000+ people all cheering for the opposite side. It was tough for him to see the exhaustion and disappointment on the faces of the players he adores. And yet, it’s so important for him to learn that his team won’t always win. There’s so many lessons in that, but the one I chose to instil is that you won’t always back the team that wins but you’ll always back the team that you love. That’s why I asked him to wear his team colours home the next day, and show his support even when the chips are down. That’s the kind of commitment I want my son to learn and the kind of team player I want him to be. PS. #gotheGiants @GWSGiants #neversurrender ... See MoreSee Less

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4 months ago

Jen Dalitz

I haven’t been here in a while as the writing has been on hold. But I was reminded today that there are things in our life that light us up. That might take us out of our comfort zone but, once you sit with it, bring you both joy and a sense of “I can do this” achievement. These moments are such a gift. So I’m curious, what’s your special thing that lights you up?

Despite (or in spit of) my professional career, these moments for me normally involve my horses. I’ll never be an equestrian Olympian, but I take great pleasure in all the lessons my horses teach me. They remind me that it’s a team effort, we’re in it together, and that if I’m prepared to give a little bit more, they will too. That’s true whether we’re on the ground taking care of their feet, or grooming, or when I’m atop riding as one. Two hearts one team.
It’s hard to describe the adrenaline and joy they bring to my life. But I’d love to know, what lights you up??
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And so, maybe time does change some things. Or women do.

Skavlan Talkshow
– They let me go at 42 because they told me I was too old to represent women's dreams. #kvinnedagen

Watch our talk show interview with Isabella Rossellini here:
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