Women In Innovation: Belinda Newham

"If we want to change the future - for the planet and humanity - we need to change who is at the decision making table."

We interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries. This week we spoke to Belinda Newham, Director at Catalyze and founder of WiSDM.

What are you working on?

WiSDM is an Incorporated Association which I established in 2021.

We are a community aiming to grow the number of women in strategic decision making and provide support to women decision-makers.

We know that diversity of opinion is key to achieving great outcomes in decisions that matter. We are committed to having women represented and supported in decision making roles.

We share experiences, build best practice and provide a pathway for women decision makers of the future. We identify gaps and obstacles that make it hard for women to participate in strategic decisions, and create momentum around these issues to effect change.

We seek to educate and inspire others to take action, and welcome people of all gender identities in our community.

About me: I am an expert in decision making and I design, implement and facilitate decision processes for some of the largest and most influential organisations in Australia – including government and private sector. Through my work as a Director at Catalyze, a boutique consulting firm, I have the privilege of supporting clients to make decisions with billion dollar budgets that impact millions of stakeholders. Catalyze has been a huge supporter of my project to establish WiSDM and I am grateful that my consulting work and WiSDM coexist in harmony.

Why is innovation important to you?

If we want to change the future – for the planet and humanity – we need to change who is at the decision making table. If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we will keep getting what we’ve always got.

Most often the discussion for inclusion and diversity is a ‘soft’ one. It feels warm and fuzzy to have everyone represented at the table. I want to get leaders to understand that it’s actually about smart business and operation! I want to encourage organisations – and their leaders – to look at the opportunity for inclusion in decision-making as a selfish one. Only with that conviction will we see real change in the empowerment and removal of obstacles for women in strategic decision making.

What drives you to make a difference?

Worldwide, women are (sometimes too slowly) making inroads to positions of relative power and influence compared to their male counterparts. Yet, there are still significant barriers to them, and women more broadly, participating actively in strategic decision making. The real losers in this scenario are the stakeholders of the decisions being made.

Forbes research tells us that inclusive teams of decision-makers:

  • make better business decisions 87% of the time
  • make decisions 2 x faster and with half the meetings
  • deliver 60% better results when coupled with a diverse implementation team

Quite simply, organisations, and governments that don’t have sufficient diversity, including women, at the strategic decision-making table are delivering poorer results, more slowly and with less opportunity for success.

I am on a mission to flip the inclusion and diversity conversation on its head, and demonstrate why the best outcomes are only possible when you have women in the decision making. If you are a leader that has the organisational – and your own – best interests at heart, you must chose to run inclusive decision processes, or suffer inferior results.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?

A piece of advice that has stuck with me, is to “get out of your own way”. Too often my experience is that women create obstacles to their participation, and it is time for us to take control of our narrative!

I also know that, for me, I was driven to establish WiSDM because I couldn’t stand witness to the missed opportunities and sub optimal outcomes that come when there is a lack of diversity at the decision making table. I literally couldn’t stand idle and watch that continue.

So my advice is to find something bigger than yourself (or your fear!) and go after it.

What are you proud of right now?

There are over 100 members in the WiSDM discussion group – sharing, collaborating and innovating in service of supporting women decision makers.

Everyone who is committed to women’s participation in strategic decision making is invited to follow our official page. Those that want to impact WiSDM are also invited to join the discussion group.

WiSDM is open to sponsorship, funding and in-kind support. Please reach out if there is alignment in goals and mission!


Connect with Belinda on Linked In.