One of Australia’s premium food companies with manufacturing sites in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria approached Advancing Women in Business and Sport to improve their Diversity and Inclusion outcomes in 2019. It had been on the agenda for a couple of years, but when the Group Manager from Organisational Development attended a session hosted by the National Association of Women in Operations (NAWO) and conducted by Michelle Redfern she knew instantly that Michelle was the right person to help them address the issues in a predominately male dominated industry. Her presentation was informative, passionate and inclusive. Michelle would be able to relate to the staff, leadership teams and the executive.

“Michelle speaks with authority, but in a respectful and inclusive way.” Bronwyn, Group Manager – Organisational Development


Michelle was invited to speak to their leadership team with an introductory half day workshop in December 2019. The session included the CEO, the Executive General Managers and all their direct reports.

They were energised by this ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’ style session and they explored where they were currently and where they needed to get to.

“Michelle brings great passion and subject matter expertise to the topic of D&I. She is an excellent teacher and a great advocate.” Adam, Executive General Manager

Initially the focus was on gender issues as women made up 48% of staff, but only 22% of the leadership team.

Michelle worked with their leadership team to build and enhance their Diversity and Inclusion Blueprint in early 2020 and it became a defining document.

“Michelle has been critical to driving the development and execution of [our] Diversity and Inclusion Strategy. Her partnership with the leadership and teams across the business resulted in heightened awareness, engagement and passion.  She is supporting us to make real and valuable change.” Andrea, Site Diversity and Inclusion Leader

Michelle, together with the CEO built a Diversity Council. Because each of their eight sites has a unique local culture gender balanced site teams were set up, comprised of grass-roots staff, rather than site managers, to address the unique local issues and they report directly to the executive. Within each site Affinity Groups were also established to address site specific Diversity and Inclusion issues such as indigenous cultural issues, LGBTIQA+ issues, parenting needs, and so on. Always with a focus on ‘Inclusion for all.’

“Michelle has been great and the passion she brings to any forum is second to none. [We are] moving forward on [our] journey to ensure that each and every employee is welcome and is respected for who they are through the work and guidance provided by Michelle.” Bimi, Quality Manager

Simultaneously Michelle helped develop the leadership team’s skills at examining policies and procedures through an Inclusivity lens.

“Michelle gives you permission to get it wrong or to not understand – that’s what unconscious biases are. Her manor role-models inclusivity.” Bronwyn, Group Manager – Organisational Development 

Initially Michelle conducted 30 focus groups for women and conducted a comprehensive survey with staff. Receiving 180 responses, the data was very compelling. There were three main outcomes from the survey:
1  To improve the flexible work options for staff returning to work after parental leave
and coaching leaders on workplace flexibility (including options for all staff).
2  Creating a more inclusive leadership environment. Becoming aware of, and
addressing, the unconscious biases and mindsets which create an impediment to
women aspiring to leadership roles.
3  Developing leadership skills in women, as well as working on the mindsets, and
recruitment processes to allow greater access to leadership roles.

“The program really drove home the importance of speaking to yourself (and about yourself) in an empowering way” Varnia, Manager – Procurement Operations

Michelle is currently conducting training in Inclusive Leadership. This includes examining the organisation’s succession planning, recruitment processes and promotion practices to develop policies and practices that don’t disadvantage women or disadvantage men – after all it’s about inclusion. It’s about taking away the barriers for promotion of women in the workplace, and mentoring women in leadership skills.


  • At least 300 people at the senior levels, including the CEO, participated in one of Michelle’s Diversity and Inclusion activities.
  • In the last five years their leadership team has risen from 7.5% women (all in HR roles) to 27.5%. There is still some way to go, but that’s an increase of almost 270%.
  • Currently, 49% of middle management are women.
  • In three years the number of female site managers has risen from 12.5% to gender parity (50%).


One of the organisation’s sites had only 2% female staff. With work practices such as 12 hour shifts, and a rule that all workers must have a fork-lift licence, it’s not surprising. These were historical processes that needed to be re-examined with the lens of “inclusion of all.” Simply by asking ‘Were they necessary or relevant anymore?’ the local Diversity and Inclusion teams were able to adjust them to ensure a more inclusive workplace.

In a recent external recruitment activity for a technical position, part of the brief to the recruitment agency was that they wanted a gender balanced shortlist of applicants. The two strongest candidates were both women. This whole process would never have happened if the Executive General Manager had not been involved in the Diversity and Inclusion sessions and worked to make the recruitment practices more inclusive.

“I find Michelle to be very engaging, knowledgeable and inspiring. I have personally benefited immensely from working alongside her.” Andrea, Site Diversity and Inclusion Leader