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Dr Polly McGee

Founder and Principal, Second Mountain

📍All over Tasmania


If you could describe yourself in one word, what would that be and why?

All-purpose. Ok - its hyphenated and I am cheating as I describe myself as an all-purpose human being, which is a cheeky multi-dimensional concept. So often we credential to show our identity, expertise and capacity rather than showing our humanity.


I am strongly driven by purpose, as well as being an avid bread baker, so being an all-purpose human being can be broken down into someone who is being not doing, who is agile and adaptive, who is all purpose, and who is a common flour with great baking outcomes.


Pledge 1% provides a framework for businesses to do good. Do you think it’s important for today’s corporate leaders to prioritize social impact? If so, why?

Absolutely. I have been part of Pledge 1% since the beginning as giving is one of the surest ways I know to feel connection and meaning. The act of giving is so powerful, and it is never a one way exchange, despite how transactional we are shaped to be in our working lives. There is material benefit to giving, but an equal or greater amount of intangible benefit in creating a culture that is steeped in caring, in sharing resources, in kindness and reciprocity.


This sends a powerful message about the priorities and values of a company which benefits the brand, its retention and the psychological safety and courage of its people.


Do you give back to the community with your team and work? If so, what does this look like?

100% hard yes. I do as much pro-bono work as I can. I prioritize working with leaders and organizations that have a large impact on their communities or sectors as this rippling of capacity then has significant multipliers that continue their reach far beyond me.


I largely donate my time for free, but I do also give actual cash where needed. My prop bono projects include leadership programs where I donate all my time per cohort, keynotes and workshops. I also have a little side hustle called Compassionate Grounds that sells coffee parachutes that are delicious and also 100% biodegradable packaging. The profits from this funds free trauma therapy for people who need clinical sessions with me but can't afford it.


What’s the best piece of advice you've ever received?

Be a student first and a master second, the teachers job is not to lead you to them, but to lead you to yourself.


This year’s International Women’s Day themes are focused on investing in women and inspiring inclusion. What can we do to make today’s workplaces more equitable and inclusive for women?

As a non-binary identifying person, inclusion is a daily lived experience for me, and I know how important it is for safety and belonging.


The people who hold the power need to move beyond simply knowing about inclusion, to really seeking to understand what it is to have to fight for a voice and identity in the smallest ways every day. Put in gender neutral toilets. Be a fierce ally and advocate to your people, understand that sometimes you really have to disrupt to change complacency and habit in cultures.


Get uncomfortable and ask all the questions then make the changes that are suggested, see if there is movement in your inclusion metrics, and keep evolving and innovating. The more diversity, the higher the innovation: when people are not locked in daily survival they are much more creative.


What advice do you have for women who are just starting their career?

Resist the temptation to adapt strategies of compliance and misalignment with your values and authenticity to get ahead. Understand what your optimum life including work feels (not thinks) life and pursue that with purpose and determination.


Be open to the unknown and the unplanned, as long as you are authentic, compassionate and curious to the world, your path will find you.


What are you looking forward to this year? Are there any goals (personal or professional), activities, or experiences you are excited about?

I'm looking forward to challenging and disrupting myself, sitting deeper in discomfort to grow my inner life so I can keep pushing to the edge of how we see leaders and leadership, continuing to integrate self and neurobiology. I am looking forward to student my pizza dough projects to the next level, making lots of time to not work hard and not falling of my new motorbike.


"Be a student first and a master second, the teachers job is not to lead you to them, but to lead you to yourself."