Science has proven a woman’s brain is wired to produce greater strengths than a man in terms of empathy, intuition, collaboration and teamwork, which is why Sonia McDonald believes every female has leadership potential.

Director and founder of Brisbane’s LeadershipHQ Sonia McDonald has started up a new six-week empowHER program to show women how to tap into the female traits inside their heads and use them as strengths for leadership roles.

Ms McDonald, who has worked internationally in Human Resources and was the first person in Queensland to gain accreditation in the cutting-edge method call PRISM brain mapping that is being used in progressive businesses across the world (including the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine), is now using her skills to empower the women of Brisbane.

What does the empowHER program entail?

empowHER is true to its namesake, it’s about empowering women to lead by helping them recognise their own innate abilities, encouraging them to explore their own personalities as leaders, and to understand the effect it has on group behavior. Through reflection, practical exercises and discussion, we help them understand how to interpret and change organisational culture through influential leadership. We maximise the woman’s skills and motivation to achieve the best for the results of the business. Clever organisations see the value of gender balance in leadership and are actively seeking out and offering development opportunities to talented females who have leadership potential. The program covers high performance teams, effective delegation, conflict resolution, organizational culture and core values, developing women’s leadership styles, political savvy and the neuroscience of leadership.

Where do you think women’s lack of workplace confidence comes from?


Sonia McDonald

I think it’s a mixture of nature and nurture. Women’s brains are structured a little bit differently to men, we’ve got a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is slightly larger then men, this is the part of the brain that stores memories. Which means that when bad things happen to us we can store them more than men.  Women are good at storing a lot of information.

Another factor is that when we were little our parents’ generation didn’t think of us as being leaders or CEOs, especially my mum, because they assumed we’d leave school, work for a bit, get married and have kids. I’m 43 and the generation that were bringing my generation up didn’t see women as being leaders in the workplace or directors or mangers. So we have this belief system that that’s not what we were supposed to do. Men only have to be 70 per cent confident they can do a job to put their hand up while women have to be 100 per cent.

So do women make better leaders than men?

I actually don’t believe that women make better leaders than men, we both have our strengths and our weaknesses. Women are more predisposed to recognising facial expressions and emotions so if women are in a meeting we find it easier to pick up how someone is feeling because of the way our brains are structured. That can be really powerful. Men can be more competitive and women can be a bit more collaborative and able to read body language.

What is your advice to women when it comes to working with men?

It’s about understanding how men like to work and how they like to communicate. Men tend to work more competitively and women need to understand that and not be afraid of it. Women are able to access different hemispheres of the brain effectively and that’s why we’re able to use language differently to men. Sometimes if you use too many words or different language you’ll lose men. Women also tend to share too much personal information and have no boundaries so we have to be careful of that.

The empowHER program will run from 14 August to 26 September 26. A second 6-week empowHER program will run in Brisbane from 15 October to 28 November.

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