Diversity and Inclusion Australia has established a leading Thought Leaders Panel comprised of Business Decision-makers and skilled professionals from companies of all sizes and types. It includes both blue-collar and white collar professionals, Small Business Owners, Corporate Decision-Makers and Business Influencers.
As collaborating researchers with the Global Diversity Institutes and Partners we are enlisting your assistance as the organisation’s diversity management champion. Diversity professionals are seen as potentially key change agents in organisations, particularly in light of their work on progressing diversity. Examining your role is therefore important to understanding what is being done in organisations and where perhaps improvements can be made. As a diversity professional, we invite you to assess your organisation’s Diversity and Inclusion Management strategies and initiatives and to reflect on your role and responsibilities by considering your location in the organisation; your access to senior partnership ranks; and, your ability to effect change in the organisation by initiating and implementing Diversity and Inclusion Management strategies.
Diversity Australia (DA) is an independent workplace diversity advisor to businesses in Australia who offers a unique knowledge bank of research, practice and expertise across diversity dimensions developed over many years of operation. In partnership with our members, our mission is to:
- Lead debate on diversity in the public arena;
- Develop and promote the latest diversity research, thinking and practice; and
- Deliver innovative diversity practice resources and services to enable our members to drive business improvement.
DA provides diversity advice and strategy to over 200 organisations, many of whom are Australia’s and International business diversity leaders and biggest employers.
Background: DA Research
DA works in partnership with member organisations to generate ground breaking diversity research that enables Australian organisations to fully leverage the benefits of a diverse talent pool:
- DA research is ahead of the curve. It establishes leading diversity thinking and practice, enabling Australian organisations to re-imagine and reconfigure the way they manage talent in today’s dynamic operating environments.
- DA research drives business improvement. It is high impact, driving business improvement through providing evidence-based guidance on how to fully leverage the benefits of a diverse talent pool.
- DA research is practice focused. It responds to the information needs of industry leaders and the people they employ.
- DA research speaks to the Australian context. DA projects generate leading diversity thinking and practice that speaks to Australia’s unique and distinctive institutional, cultural and legal frameworks.
- DA research considers all diversity dimensions. The full spectrum of diversity dimensions are investigated including age, caring responsibilities, cultural background and identity, disability, Indigeneity, sexual orientation, and work organisation.
Research by scholars like Scott E. Page, James Surowiecki and Nancy Adler have shown the superior results created by diverse groups compared with individuals and non-diverse groups, but only if there is inclusion and effective management of diversity.
Diversity refers to the representation of multiple identity groups in a particular organisation or workgroup. Diversity can be overt, such as gender, age and ethnicity, or less obvious, for example sexual orientation, political preference, religion and educational background. While the diversity concept was borne largely out of legal reporting obligations, the proven business benefits of diversity are now being recognised. Diversity and inclusion initiatives have been to found to increase employee satisfaction and well-being, increase organisational effectiveness by empowering employees to do their best work, increase innovation and creativity, improve customer understanding, build positive organisational reputation, and provide access to optimal talent pools, all resulting in better financial outcomes.
- 7% improved performance from boards with 25% women as compared with all male boards (Judith Ireland, SMH, April 23, 2015); US Fortune 500 companies with more women on their boards tended to be more profitable (John Brogden, SMH April 10, 2015).
- The economic benefits in recruiting and training older workers exceed costs associated with absenteeism and workplace injuries. The cost benefits of employees 45+ is approximately $2,000 per annum (ACT Government, Chamber of Commerce and Industry).
- Open acceptance of different sexual orientation has its own benefits to companies – 15% of men and 10% of women believe they’ve expanded their client networks thanks to their open LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) status; 75% of heterosexuals and 87% of LGBTs said they would consider choosing a brand known to provide equal workplace benefit (Centre for Talent Innovation, 2013, reported in HBR, 2013).
Despite the obvious benefits to business, there is varied commitment in Australian & New Zealand organisations (DCA, KornFerry, AHRI Survey, 2013).
- 32% are doing nothing or treating the topic superficially
- 32% have only developed policies and values
- 36% are running official programs to embed diversity and inclusion into the culture
So what are the obstacles to embedding diversity and inclusion into organisations?
- Is it the inability to convince leadership of the true value of making the shift?
- Is it a lack of education and training on what can be achieved by an integrated workforce?
- Is it the inability to overcome employee resistance that rests in prejudice or unconscious bias?
- Or is it a combination of these things?
Changing workforce demographics demand organisations to consider diversity and inclusion in order to stay competitive both internally with employee engagement, and externally with better customer relations. Some best practice strategies for ensuring diversity and inclusion include:
- Leading the effort from the top, making diversity a core value, building an infrastructure to support diversity, focusing on the entire talent pipeline.
- Implementing metrics and incentives, measuring the culture of inclusion through attitudinal surveys, not just compliance reporting.
- Improving internal communications, implementing training programs, mentoring and coaching, allocating resources to team building exercises, paying attention to diversity of thought, focusing on the business case for diversity.
- Casting a wider source pool from which to select talent, using employee networks to access a broader mix of people.
WHITEPAPER TOPICS –INVITATIONS FROM CONTRIBUTORS
- In aiming to increase diversity in the workplace, quotas have been a topic of hot debate. Quotas are legislated mandates that require a minority population to make up a certain proportion or number of members of a body such as employees in the organisation, on boards, or in leadership positions. Although this seems like a reasonable means to achieving the diversity end, quota systems can be dangerous grounds. This danger zone stems from ambiguity over the exact point at which affirmative action – reversing the effects of past discrimination – shades over into “reverse discrimination”. When implementing quota systems for minority representation on corporate boards, there is a high chance of perceived positive discrimination, resulting in a push-back from the majority. As organisations continue to fall short of meeting quotas set, is there actually a lack of structural inclusiveness such that any quota system is set up to fail? And if so, are attempting to meet quotas unrealistic?
- Much of the diversity efforts have focussed on hiring and promoting women, the main reason being that women make up 50% of the population. It has also been stated that they are comparatively easy to integrate into organisations since they have typically grown up in the same country as their male colleagues and tend to share prevailing cultural norms. Is there an assumption that employees from other under-represented groups such as older workers or different cultures are harder to integrate? Is this a good enough excuse for focussing on women rather than other groups such as those categorised by age group or ethnicity?
- The transport and logistics sector is a male dominant industry and is described as a non-traditional sector for women. Over the past 5 years the industry has had a 58% growth rate in employment but only 14% employed were women. Women in this sector face issues around discrimination, competition for senior roles, inflexible working arrangements, being overlooked for promotion when performing equally, and a lack of career opportunities. Why is this? Could it be that women simply aren’t interested in working in such an industry? If not, why not? Are some roles just more aligned with certain personality types, age groups or genders?
- Unconscious biases are associations we make between a group and a given attribute, for example, older people can’t learn new things. While individuals may have no conscious prejudice they can still harbour subconscious biases that subtly shape their behaviours at work. While anti-discrimination laws have succeeded in decreasing overt bias and acts of prejudice, there are still stories of bullying, harassment and ostracism in certain workplaces. Education about diversity and tolerance of difference is what is needed. How do we measure such biases and if we can measure them, should we only recruit people who don’t have biases, displaying an openness to all others?