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For the Greater Good

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For the Greater Good

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The Victorian Water Sector partnered with Dattner Group to deliver a multi-faceted, experiential program that recognised how women approach leadership.


The Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) is working with the Water Sector in support of gender diverse participation in executive leadership positions. They support women who aspire to fulfill their executive career ambition by investing in programs to elevate their visibility and influence.

  • The Insight – Executive Leadership for Women in Water Program is part of the commitment in Water for Victoria to focus on gender equity and to develop programs in support of women wanting to lead at the highest level. Gender balance in the sector will enrich discussions and see diverse perspectives result in better decision making and good legacy outcomes.

Insight is a bespoke highly personalised program focused on insightful self-development and learning from others. It aims to bring together an intellectually rich group of women ready to take the next step into more senior leadership roles and create a collaborative and supportive peer network.

This program has been designed to elevate the visibility of women in water and ancillary industries and to support them to successfully step into leadership roles at the highest level. In particular, the Minister for Water (The Hon Lisa Neville) wanted to support women in the smaller regional rural organisations to consider Insight as signalling their intentions and their long-term commitment to making a difference in the communities in which they live and work.

The Water Sector partnered with Dattner Group to deliver a multi-faceted, experiential program that recognised how women approach leadership.


The Program Objectives

DELWP outlined the program objectives in their initial Request for Quote (RFQ) as follows:

  • Building resilient leadership
  • Increase circles of influence and networks
  • Lengthen vision and broaden scope in choosing career pathways
  • Getting a seat at the table – What is missing in your leadership journey?
  • Create a community of practice and alumni

In Dattner Group’s response, we addressed each of these objectives and additionally provided an out of scope piece about our signature program, Bridging the Gap (BTG). At its heart, BTG ensures both men and women are part of the change to create a diverse, inclusive and agile sector. BTG is about the need for systemic change (of which men are an intrinsic part) and hence the catalyst for sector alignment. In this context, the BTG program reinforced and leveraged the benefits inspired by the Insight program to look at the need for change in organisations participating on the Insight program and across the sector more broadly.


What was involved


  1. All the women went through an executive search, interview and testing process (as a practice run) with an executive recruitment business. This was endorsed by their Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer. Selection was based on the interview findings around readiness and development needs.
  2. Dattner Group then did the following:
    1. Took the recruitment report and a series of key performance documents and diagnostics for each woman and wrote a simple individual report
    2. A Dattner Group coach then met with each woman to ascertain her ambitions for the program, her strengths and her sense of her development opportunities; this was followed by a pre-program coaching session to ensure each woman was well prepared for the journey ahead
    3. We began a leadership program with a deep dive on personal purpose, values and personal strategy mapping; in the first retreat we built a community charter and set up an online community forum (simple, personal, intimate, supportive)
    4. THEN COVID 19 HIT and the whole program went online and became more relevant, intense and pragmatic
      1. The online community blossomed into a significant executive safety net where ideas and approaches to managing the pandemic were shared instantly and without barriers
      2. The program was delivered online and adapted to ensure the development of skill while focussing on collaboration, inclusion and a legacy mindset
    5. In April 2020, each of the women were invited to identify a significant senior male leader to partner them on the journey

Bridging the Gap

  1. BTG became a parallel program (13 male executives) specifically chosen to partner the women to, within three years, create a critical mass of engaged, informed leaders – both men and women – in the Water Sector, who are committed to ensuring the best leaders are attracted, selected, and supported to achieve their full potential and elevate the sector’s performance
  2. Along the way this primary goal has included the need to elevate the visibility, skills and contribution of women leading
  3. The program was also delivered online; it missed the initial community building of a face to face retreat that Insight benefited from, but very quickly the men entered into the spirit of Insight
  4. We focussed on:
    1. The power of privilege
    2. The importance of emotional agility
    3. The development of an approach to leadership competencies that was about including a ‘meta’ model of leadership driven by the women in large part, identifying those attributes of leadership so sorely needed and so often overlooked in traditional leadership competency frameworks



Leadership Oversight Committee (LOC)

The Minister appointed a Leadership Oversight Committee (LOC) to guide the design and undertake the final selection of women to join the Insight program in its inaugural year.

The LOC went on to articulate, with Dattner Group’s support, a simple scope for the partnerships (Insight and BTG peers) to work towards in developing their individual organisation’s nuanced intent within this initiative including establishing:

  • A clear goal
  • The audience the initiative was designed to influence
  • The message of ‘we are gender blind’
  • The possible platforms the program/initiative would be delivered on and influence the sector by


Sector Events

Sector events were included in the initiative to increase the visibility of the various regional organisations and opportunities for women in leadership.

These initiatives were designed and facilitated by Dattner Group and are continuing to evolve at this time. They are growing to provide sector wide means of influence on the topic of women and leadership and why this shift is of such importance.


Power of Partnership and Collaboration

This project has become a signature example of the founding principles of leading for the greater good and the importance of collaboration, inclusion, legacy and trust.

The project has involved many parties, including the Deputy Secretary of DELWP, Helen Vaughan, Women in Water Directors Network, guest speakers from the Water Sector and CEOs and MDs from other sectors to share their own senior leadership journeys, organisations within the sector who have significant influence on the Victorian community and, of course, the incredible women of Insight and the men of BTG who support them.

The influence and impact are growing exponentially.


For more information on this initiative, or to find out how we can help you, please contact us at Dattner Group.