Human Rights Commission-led Corporate Diversity Drive Rebuffed

The Turnbull government empowered by an angry backbench has rejected a Human Rights Commission-led campaign for ­racial and cultural diversity ­targets to be pushed on corporate Australia.

The commission’s July 2016 reform blueprint, Leading for Change,recommended that ­organisations consider “sending signals on cultural diversity” by collecting data on the cultural backgrounds of employees in ­addition to the setting of aspir­ational targets. The blueprint ­defines cultural diversity as differences based on “race, ethnicity, ancestry, language and place of birth”.

Liberal MPs were yesterday in open rebellion against the commission’s diversity campaign, warning against any steps that amounted to “racial profiling” of employees. They also urged newly appointed commission president Rosalind Croucher to ensure the body did not become a “commission to implement left-wing policy”.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter yesterday rejected the substance of the commission’s ­report, upheld the autonomy of businesses to employ people on merit and defended Australia as a successful multicultural society.

Mr Porter told The Australian there was no need for the ­proposed targets. “Anyone who has actually visited Australian business and professional organisations can see that the embrace of diversity is on plain display,” he said. “Decisions on the make-up of organisations’ leadership and diversity are matters for them … Government has no plans to ­implement recommendations from this report.”

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane has recruited a range of senior ­organisations into the diversity campaign, including leading figures from the public and private sectors. A Leadership Council on ­Cultural Diversity — chaired by Dr Soutphommasane and established in December — includes ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet secretary Martin Parkinson, PwC chief executive Luke Sayers and ­Commonwealth Bank chief executive Ian Narev.

Speaking last year at the ­University of Sydney, Dr Soutphommasane noted that 95 per cent of the chief executives of ASX200 companies had either an “Anglo-Celtic” or “European” background and argued there was evidence to suggest “organisations understand leadership in ways that privilege ‘Anglo’ cultural styles.”

Victorian Liberal senator James Paterson criticised the push by the commission as a “bit creepy” and questioned the objective of the campaign.

“Will the Human Rights Commission be satisfied if every single organisation perfectly reflects the community in age and sexuality and race and every other different characteristic — because that’s the logical conclusion of this,” Senator Paterson said. “You don’t need a racial profile of your workforce to ensure that it’s diverse … Where does this end?”

Tasmanian Liberal senator Eric Abetz cautioned there was a degree of artificiality about encouraging targets that could create resentment if people believed they had been overlooked or promoted because of their cultural background. “I just think it’s fraught with difficulty and social engineering,” he said.

Queensland Liberal National MP George Christensen said the commission was “out of control” and “overstepping the mark.”

“Not having someone of a particular gender or a particular ethnic minority group in a management position of a company is not a human rights abuse,” Mr Christensen said.

“I really do hope that the new president of the Human Rights Commission will take a long hard look at this sort of nonsense. It is not a commission to implement left-wing policy.”

When contacted by The Australian, the commission clarified it was not seeking to impose compulsory quotas on businesses but was instead encouraging the adoption of aspirational targets.

The 2016 reform blueprint — which was produced by a working group comprising members of Telstra, PwC, Westpac and the University of Sydney’s Business School — argues that “a strong case exists for including targets as part of one’s diversity and inclusion policies”.

“Targets are voluntary goals adopted by an organisation at its discretion, whereas quotas refer to goals that are mandated by an external body and imposed upon an organisation,” it says.

Some businesses have already adopted aspirational targets. PwC Australia hopes that 30 per cent of its partner admissions will come from a “diverse cultural background” by 2020.


Corporate’s Caught Napping on Gender Diversity

As an entrepreneur, Ms Liu founded The Dream Collective in 2012 because she was confronted by the lack of leadership development opportunities for young women in the workplace.

She says Australian corporate leaders are doing it wrong, and need to get better at “walking the talk”.

Research shows that for every $10 invested into senior leaders, less than $1 is invested into the frontline leaders, even though this is where the valuable changes will be made.

“Australian corporates need to shift their approach from focusing on the senior executive level to turning their attention to the pipeline of young female talent coming through their doors,” said Ms Liu, who also co-founded, Australia’s first job share matching technology platform Gemini3.

“Businesses should be investing in the entry-level career women because these frontline professionals are the nation’s next generation of female ­leaders.”

The number of women in the bottom ranks is disproportionate to the number of women at the top, and this is not a standard we want for Australia’s business landscape.”

Ms Liu said The Dream Collective started as a passion project, but now operates in Sydney and Melbourne with plans to launch in Singapore and Tokyo by the end of 2017.

It partners with corporate brands such as Vodafone, Coca- Cola Amatil and Facebook to deliver leadership and corporate training programs, and is busy working on a micro-documentary series with those brands to be showcased at a premiere in ­Sydney this week.

Coca-Cola Amatil’s HR group director Libbi Wilson said fostering greater diversity within the boardroom is critical for businesses.

“An organisation needs a culture of flexibility, not just flexible options for women,” she said.

According to Vodafone Australia’s head of organisational effectiveness, Vanessa Hicks, the technology sector must strive to be an exemplar on the issue of gender diversity.

“The technology and telco industry is placing particular focus on females and STEM and it’s something we see as critical to improving diversity,” she said.

Facebook’s ANZ recruiter Sammie Hall said offering workplace flexibility was an important catalyst in encouraging greater female participation, but there was no set formula for ­success.

“The challenges for each individual would almost certainly be different but some of the ‘enablers’ might be universal,” she said.


How We Got Here: New Law Aims to Increase Transparency and Diversity

“Diversity is strength – and the world’s greatest fire department will grow even stronger when it more closely resembles the city it serves.” -Mayor Bill de Blasio, June 2, 2015

On June 2, 2015 Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law Intro. 0579-A, allowing for greater transparency into the New York City Fire Department application and hiring processes by requiring that an annual report be made with regard to the racial and gender makeup of applicants. The bill, co-sponsored by Council Members Helen Rosenthal and Elizabeth Crowley, was a result of years of scrutiny on diversity in the FDNY. Currently, less than .5 percent of over 10,000 FDNY firefighters and officials are women. In 2014, the city agreed to a $98-million-dollar settlement paid out for lost wages and benefits to 1,470 black and Hispanic firefighter applicants.

In introducing their bill, Rosenthal, chair of the Council’s Committee on Contracts, and Crowley, chair of the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, cited far greater percentages of women in other cities’ fire departments. Their bill had 43 other council members sign on as sponsors, was swiftly approved of by the mayor, and was, for some, a long time coming.

The following is an abridged history leading up to the signing of the bill.

  • November, 1965, Robert O. Lowery, becomes the first African American fire commissioner of a major city: Lowery had joined the FDNY in 1941 when African-Americans were not allowed to use department kitchen utensils and slept in separate firehouse areas, but in 1965 he became fire commissioner to the 13,500-person FDNY, of which around 4 percent was African-American.
  • 1977, Brenda Berkman, becomes the first woman FDNY firefighter: “Prior to 1977, New York City had a quota for women firefighters. That quota was zero.” -Brenda Berkman
  • Throughout the 80s and 90s the FDNY sees small numbers of women and people of color entering the ranks, leading to increased scrutiny, criticism, and legal action.
  • May 21, 2007, United States v. City of New York; FDNY Employment Discrimination Case: The federal government alleges that the City of New York’s written examinations and application screening process results has a “disparate impact upon black and Hispanic applicants” that are neither “job-related for the position” nor “consistent with business necessity,” as Title VII mandates. The two examination processes include a written exam and physical performance test (PPT). Both examinations generated “eligibility lists” that were used to appoint entry-level firefighters for several years. At the time that the case was filed black firefighters were 3 percent of the FDNY, while Hispanic firefighters made up 4.4 percent of the almost 11,000-member force.
  • September 2007, the Vulcan Society is allowed to intervene in the United States’ lawsuit: The Vulcan Society, an organization of black firefighters in New York City, files a complaint alongside the United States’, claiming that the City of New York’s written examinations and application screening process results have a “disparate impact” upon black applicants. The Vulcan Society specifies its claim to just black applicants, unlike the federal claim which includes Hispanic applicants, and also indicates the claim as being against the New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta as well as the City of New York.
  • January 13, 2010, United States v. City of New York: The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York holds that the City’s use of Exam 7029 and 2043 on applicants in 1999 and 2002 shows “a pattern and practice of intentional discrimination against blacks” violating the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and State and City Human Rights Laws. According to expert analysis, about “one thousand additional black and Hispanic candidates would have been considered for appointment as FDNY firefighters had it not been for the disparities resulting from the examinations.” Since “293 additional black and Hispanic candidates would have been appointed from the eligibility lists” and there were only “303 black firefights and 605 Hispanic firefighters” (of 8,998 total firefighters) in 2007, the 293 additional candidates would have been a significant addition. The expert analysis illustrated the “overwhelming” disparity and strongly influenced the ruling of “intentional discrimination.”
  • April 4, 2012, United States v. City of New York: A United States District Court finds that 293 currently employed FDNY firefighters were deemed eligible for retroactive seniority.
  • May 14, 2013, United States v. City of New York: The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit dismisses the claims against Mayor Bloomberg and former Fire Commissioner Scoppetta. Meanwhile, the judgement of intentional discrimination is reassigned “to a different district judge.”
  • March 18, 2014, United States v. City of New York: The de Blasio administration announces an agreement to settle the suit and pay approximately $98 million in lost wages and benefits to 1,470 black and Hispanic firefighter applicants in 1999 and 2002. The City also agreed to create an executive staff position for a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer who will report directly to the Fire Commissioner, to recruit African American test-takers in proportion to the age-eligible African-American New Yorkers in the labor market, and to increase transparency regarding medical standards for firefighter candidates.
  • August 11, 2014, New York Magazine features the four new FDNY woman “probies”: These four Class of 2014 women were profiled by New York Magazine and brought the total number of women in FDNY to 41 out of 10,400 firefighters and officers across the city, or .4 percent. In comparison, according to Council Member Helen Rosenthal, 13 percent of San Francisco’s firefighters are women and 17% of New York police officers are women. (photo below: Christopher Anderson/New York Magazine)

Same-sex marriage support declared by McDonald’s, Twitter and big four banks

Companies will feature in full-page ads and are among 154 of Australia’s biggest brand names calling for parliament to act on marriage equality.

Corporate giants McDonald’s, Twitter and the big four banks are among 154 of the nation’s biggest household brands to declare their support for same-sex marriage.

The companies, also including Telstra and Airbnb, will feature in full-page ads in Weekend Australian Magazine calling for marriage equality. They’ve also signed a joint letter calling on federal parliament to act.

Advocacy group Australian Marriage Equality (AME), which organised the ad, said the outpouring of support showed how important marriage equality was for workplace equity, jobs in the wedding sector and Australia’s international reputation.

“The message is clear: the country is ready for change,” director Rodney Croome said. The ad was paid for by contributions from featured firms.

Acting CEO of Australian law firm Slater and Gordon, Hayden Stephens, said legalised discrimination in one area allowed discrimination to flourish in other areas.

“We would never discriminate against a client because of their sexuality and we don’t believe that the law should be able to continue to discriminate either,” Stephens said.

An open letter of support posted on the Australian Marriage Equality website features 183 signatories from across the corporate world.

“Equality in the workplace works; discrimination does not,” it states. “We support the right for all our employees to have equal opportunities in life. We therefore support marriage equality.”

In May, business leaders, including the CEO of Australia’s national airline, Qantas, voiced their support for marriage equality at a panel in central Sydney. The event, organised by AME, was titled “Does marriage equality matter to corporate Australia?”

The CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, said the company’s slogan, “Spirit of Australia”, reflected a commitment to represent the Australian community in his 28,000-strong staff. That included members with backgrounds from more than 250 different countries and a “huge gay community”.

Joyce said the fact an openly gay man such as himself could be the head of one of the country’s “most iconic brands” reflected Australia’s already progressive nature. But now was the time for Australia to join the 19 other nations that allowed same-sex marriage.

A Guardian Australia survey on Wednesday showed more lower house MPs publicly support the move than are against it. However, there are enough MPs whose positions are unknown or yet to be declared that could push the vote either way.

The leader of the National party in the Senate, Nigel Scullion; Nationals MP Kevin Hogan; and the Motoring Enthusiast senator, Ricky Muir; are the latest parliamentarians to reveal their support for marriage reform.

What’s Wrong with this Picture

At some point we will all have to start asking this question.   At the AHRI Diversity and Inclusion Conference we have seen a the discussion still focus on legacy items where we still silo Gender Diversity as a ‘Women Can” program.

Can we not start knocking down this barrier and understand that its Gender we should be tackling as a whole.








Zara …. AHRI Conference 2015

Is humour the Best approach to fighting the lack of Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace? 

Graeme Innes – AHRI Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2015

Great presentation on flipping the perception on Able versus Disabled 

Wrong or right …. We still have to make the decisions about how the world functions as the work age ratio changes and we have less working people to support the non working, unemployable or disabled portions of our population.  

As we ponder productivity and the government processes that prohibit the employment of many areas of our population, we find the wall of discrimination still exists in many if not most areas. 

A Long Way to Go – Peter Wilson AHRI Chairman

Peter Wilson opened the conference referencing that AHRI still has a long way to go to understand the process of moving forward.  

“Humour being a powerful weapon to focus on Diversity and Inclusion over all” Peter stated.