Michelle Redfern – Founder of Advancing Women in Business & Sport

For this edition of FinanciElle “$tatements”, I had the opportunity to interview Michelle Redfern.

Michelle is an AFR 100 Women of Influence, she is the Founder of Advancing Women in Business and Sport, where she advises boards, CEOs & Execs in sport & business about how to increase the number of female leaders, suppliers, sponsors, supporters & customers in their organization.

Michelle is also the Co-Founder of Culturally Diverse Women (CDW), a joint venture co-founded by MindTribes & Advancing Women with the purpose of addressing the significant under-representation of culturally diverse women in senior leadership roles in Australia.

She is also the Founder of Women Who Get It (WWGI), a strategic networking & connecting ecosystem she founded in 2016  to be safe, friendly, welcoming no BS space and place  for females from all walks of life to learn, develop and thrive.

Her tagline is – Advancing Women in Business & Sport.

Paolina: Can you provide some insight into The Advancing Women Formula? What makes the formula you’ve developed help move gender diversity from conversation to action and how is financial acumen a part of that?


The Advancing Women Formula is my leadership program which has three competency domains:

  1. EQ: Emotional Intelligence. Facilitated learning on how women can effectively lead themselves, people and organizations. Focuses on the building emotional intelligence muscle, the power of vulnerability in leadership and teaches reflective practice.
  2. IQ: Business Intelligence. Facilitated learning about the business of business including the foundations of the four financial statements and the leadership behaviours that are essential for business and personal prosperity. Women learn about what keeps a CEO awake at night, how their business makes money and what their role is in making their organization prosperous and sustainable.
  3. SQ Social Intelligence. Facilitated learning about the importance of authentic leadership, personal and professional brand as well as practical tools about networking and brand management. Women develop their leadership story and philosophy and learn how to be strategic when networking and building their leadership profile.

I am also extremely fortunate to be a Senior Consultant with Leading Women, where I facilitate learning about The Missing 33%TM and The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get.  We focus on building the business, strategic and financial acumen of women so together, we can close the global gender leadership gap.

Money, finances, numbers are often seen as or perceived by women as a soft spot, and there are many reasons why. Social conditioning about money, the way we are brought up, education processes that have gender bias and the fact that women may be directed towards ‘nurturing’ or caring careers, rather than careers that focus on the technical elements of leadership and business all contribute to women’s attitudes towards money, finances and numbers. Given women have been in the paid workforce in large numbers for more than 40 years, it is essential that we start getting comfortable with money matters and business finance.

However, women are still being paid less, working less and retiring with less money than men. The fastest growing cohort of homeless people in Australia are women over the age of 55. This is seriously concerning, so I want to make sure that business and financial acumen is a component of any enabling and advancing work I do with women and girls.

Paolina: How can organizations use Design4Diversity to move gender diversity from conversation to action and why is it so important that they do?


Often my first piece of advice to organizations who consult me is to tell them to stop. Stop spending money on leadership programs, mentoring programs, conferences and executive coaching for women.

The mistake many organizations make is to expect ‘off the shelf’ gender action plans or female leadership programs to deliver the results when a plan that is specific and unique to your organization is a far better option.

I want organizations to understand the problem(s) they are trying to solve, and too often in my own corporate career, I have seen investment wasted on initiatives that are simply not going to move the dial for great gender and cultural diversity in leadership.

So, I use design thinking principles to diagnose and prioritize the problems and opportunities that workplaces have, then set about co-creating a gender action plan that is suited to the maturity, capability and capacity of the organization to deliver.

It’s important for all organization to strive for greater gender and cultural balance in leadership because the prosperity and sustainability of the organization depends on it.

Companies will outperform financially when there are greater proportions of women and culturally diverse people in leadership roles. McKinsey, Catalyst, Bain and many other respected research firms have undertaken longitudinal studies on businesses that outperform. We know that businesses that have gender balance on their board & executive teams are:

  • 21% more likely to financially outperform industry sector competitors;
  • 27% more likely than industry sector competitors to create long-term value;
  • 22% more likely to outperform on Earnings Per Share
  • 34% more likely to have higher Total Shareholder Return

In short, not ensuring gender balance in leadership is introducing risk to the organization.

Paolina: What has been your hardest experience dealing with your business and finance/money and what did you learn?


I learned the hard way that becoming over-reliant on one strength creates weakness. I have always been considered a good communicator, people person and leader for much of my career. I played to those strengths a lot but reached a point in my career about 15 or so years ago where it was no longer enough to be a ‘great leader’ of people. I needed to learn about how to make a business grow, assess risk, develop and execute strategy. I had to learn fast, which I did, because unless I did, my career and earning potential was going to stagnate.

Since then, I have invested constantly in further study (I did my MBA in my late forties!) ongoing professional development and making sure that I am surrounding myself with the right advisors and network so that I keep evolving and honing my craft.

From my current business perspective, I manage my finances efficiently (I have a CFO for a wife and business partner!) and I invest wisely in tools, infrastructure and people who will help my organization grow and have the impact I desire.

Paolina: What are your current FinanciElle Faves?

  • Favourite business/leadership book?
    • No Ceilings, No Walls – Susan Colantuono. A book that has quite literally changed my life for the better. My only regret is that I didn’t read it and meet Susan 25 years ago!
  • Favourite business/productivity tool?
    • Calendly: a diary management tool for clients and contacts to use to book in time with me. Highly efficient, effective and not cost prohibitive. Cheaper than a PA.
  • Favourite piece of media – TED talk, podcast…?

I can’t decide on just one, so you have a selection that are my “go to” …..


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