October is Global Awareness Month, an opportunity to reflect on the positive impact that an inclusive culture has not just on society but business.
While progress has been made towards creating diverse and inclusive workplaces, there is much work left to do. We celebrate the progress made and challenge businesses around the globe to continue the shift toward equal work opportunities.
Brenda Gaddi, Managing Director and Founder, Women of Colour Australia
“Workplace diversity is usually viewed through the prism of gender. However, there are other under-the-radar issues that are just as important but are often unacknowledged and woefully underrepresented. Gender diversity in the workplace is often overlayed with broad platitudes that seek to advance women’s representation without critically questioning which women are most likely to benefit, and which ones get left behind.
“Gender equality and the fight for racial equality are inextricably linked and need to be tackled together. It is time for corporate Australia to acknowledge that First Nations women, women of colour (women with intersecting and overlapping identities), migrant and refugee women from the Global South face additional challenges and barriers in the workplace that stem from a history wrought with racial exclusion and segregation. As such, organisations need to approach their diversity initiatives with an intersectional lens because when gender and race intersect, it creates specific, unique challenges for women of colour.
“For Diversity and Inclusion initiatives to have a transformative impact, organisations need to ask the fundamental question; is our workplace safe for all our employees, in particular, employees from minoritised and racialised communities. How can an organisation cultivate a workplace culture free of racism and discrimination? The Board, the Executive Team, CEOs, senior executives, and founders need to radically examine their own unconscious and deliberate biases, and thoroughly interrogate their own blind spots. Bring in DEI experts with lived experiences to facilitate these hard conversations. Conduct DEI audits performed by racially and ethnically diverse consultants with lived experiences to address gaps and inequities in their organisation’s existing systems and structures, with specific attention to their talent hiring, retaining and promoting practices and policies. Are these practices and policies truly inclusive? Are we attracting and retaining talent from underrepresented communities?
“With the rise of ‘woke’ culture, Australian businesses must step up their game when it comes to improving DEI policies. A good starting point is to apply an intersectional lens at the core of their initiatives. Otherwise, they run the risk of well-intentioned changes to be short-lived, or worse still, detrimental.”
Priyanka Bromhead, Founder of we are the mainstream
“D&I policies are outdated and old-fashioned. In 2021, we need businesses and leaders who are intentionally intersectional in their approach to hiring and nurturing workplaces that are human-centred and psychologically safe for the most marginalised communities.
It is up to those with power and privilege to shift and redistribute resources to those who are under-resourced and face barriers to access. Leaders and HR teams need to consider intersectional hiring quotas if they want to shift workplace cultures away from the typical stale, pale, male demographic and have a more wholesome and flavoursome work community. Yes, these quotas seem tokenistic but what’s the alternative? An archaic merit-based system that doesn’t consider the lack of equity and access to resources for marginalised and under-resourced communities.
“Change management, improvement science and transforming organisations is only part of what we do here at we are the mainstream. We hold leaders accountable for the cultures they create; companies and leaders claiming an all-White, predominantly male executive as ‘unintentional’ are lazy and complicit in the perpetuation of inequity.
“It is only the brave and bold leaders who take proactive and preventative measures that lead to authentic, sustainable and meaningful cultural shifts.”
Inga Latham, Chief Product Officer, SiteMinder
“Diversity and inclusion remain a prevalent issue in the workplace, particularly across STEM-related industries that are notorious for being male-dominated. Even in 2021, diversity outcomes in STEM continue to fall short, with less than 1-in-4 key management leaders being women, and even lower for those who identify as First Nations Australians or as living with a disability.
“To truly shift the dial, we need to see a practical and implementable vision for systemic change. This can take the form of goals for inclusion and more targeted policies to address unique needs and/or challenges that people from different backgrounds, cultures or identities face when entering the workforce.
“For women, this can include increasing visibility through more promotions to leadership roles, building more equitable parental policies, closing the gender pay gap and creating better workplace flexibility. The key is for organisations to lay the foundations for all team members to thrive through top-down initiatives that foster compassionate, balanced work environments, in which everyone will benefit. Top-down is just the start, however. Critically, leaders need to ensure their teams have a voice and are empowered to influence policy and culture, to create environments in which they can be themselves and grow their careers.”
Amy Nguyen, Co-Founder, Zen Tea Lounge Foundation
“Whilst employing a diverse workforce is critical to hopefully one day achieving equality in business and society at large, having diversity in your team isn’t the only strategy companies should be looking at. Achieving diversity will only come when it permeates all business decisions.
“Businesses need to be more mindful about their supply chain as a whole and put diversity and inclusion above the bottom line. Without that, D&I commitments are hollow promises. This can be anywhere from supporting diverse-led businesses through the gifts you buy employees to the hand soap you buy or the tea your staff drink. For instance, at Zen, we are a diverse-led foundation that primarily supports women of CALD backgrounds who are survivors of domestic violence. We are one of the few not-for-profits supplying tea to corporations, and that in itself says a lot about corporate supply chains and the value they place on profits over social good.
‘Business supporting diverse-led businesses is one of the simplest ways we can take steps towards a more equal corporate playing field.”
Jasmine Workman, Senior Marketing Lead APAC, Shopify
“Diversity of thinking comes from different individuals and communities with unique perspectives and experiences, who can bring new ideas to the table. It is through this, that innovation and creative solutions are born to become the small businesses and entrepreneurs that drive the Australian economy today. Women-owned businesses like Active Truth and Yevu are a growing segment of the economy and women account for over half of the businesses built on Shopify in Australia. The impact of diverse entrepreneurs on the world is enormous, as their successes create a ripple effect that drives communities forward – that is, to touch the lives of their employees, families, communities, customers, and suppliers.
“At Shopify, it is our goal to nurture an ecosystem that allows for people from all walks of life to achieve their own economic independence, become business leaders and strengthen the communities around them. Through partnerships with social enterprises that work with specific communities such as SheEO, a support network for women and non-binary people, our priority is to make entrepreneurship accessible to everyone. We believe that by creating opportunities for anyone to start and grow their own businesses, we can empower people across all dimensions of diversity to thrive and become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Ian Yip, CEO, Avertro
“Avertro is diverse by design. As a result, we have a rich tapestry of experiences, opinions, and perspectives to draw upon. This is particularly critical in helping to ensure we reduce the risk of any blind spots that may arise when making important decisions.
“A common problem that we’re starting to see in organisations that claim to value diversity is their views are very one dimensional. I had to point out to an event organiser recently that their diversity-themed event had not given any thought to the topic beyond gender. To their credit, they admitted that I had a point and set about addressing the gaps.
“True diversity and inclusion in any setting must be multi-faceted and holistic. Without it, organisations are compounding the problem and delaying real progress by taking one step and thinking they’ve completed the journey when they instead should have taken ten.”
Jess Wilson, CEO of Good Things Foundation Australia
“Diversity ensures we can get different perspectives on a topic and test our assumptions, but we always need to be open to really listen to those diverse voices beyond a tokenistic level.
“One of our aims at Good Things Foundation is to use digital technology to break down traditional barriers that have previously kept people out of the workforce, from CALD communities to people with disabilities. We need diversity in experience, cultural background, gender and sexuality. Digital skills, confidence and affordable access shouldn’t be a barrier to diversity in the workplace as the world shifts online.
“During Get Online Week, we collaborated with Down Syndrome Australia to hold a roundtable on digital literacy for people with intellectual disabilities as part a project we’re working on with them. We have two project officers with Down Syndrome work with us on our project team and it’s their voices that are the essential ones in each conversation.
“From a not-for-profit perspective, it’s also important to remember that inclusion needs to be not just within our work teams but with the people we support. We cannot create equality unless diversity is taken into account at every level of our operations.”
Danling Xiao and Anett Petrovics, Co-Founders, Reco
“As female founders coming from diverse backgrounds – first-generation Australian immigrants and lesbians – we value diversity. We have been lucky to work at workplaces that embrace diversity and cultures. Thanks to that, we were able to express our creativity, contribute our knowledge and develop our careers in an open, safe, and respectful environment.
“But in a broader sense, we feel there is still so much work that needs to be done at workplaces, especially in the corporate space, politics, tech, science and finance sectors.
“The more our careers grow, the more we sense our responsibility to help create a diverse and inclusive culture. We’re setting an example for many women, immigrants, and people in the LGBTQI community, that there are equal opportunities for everyone, but we need to work hard for it, and we’ll continue to do so.
“We want to create a culture that truly respects everyone equally as human beings, who are valued, appreciated and respected – rather than looking at each other’s differences. We believe it will connect us at a much deeper level and make us a stronger community to overcome humanity’s greatest challenges in our era.”
Alex Frolov, CEO and Co-Founder, HypeAuditor
“Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen the issue of diversity thankfully rise up the agenda as more and more businesses ramp up their Diversity and Inclusion efforts around the globe. As a tech company that is set on a global stage, HypeAuditor is lucky to have offices and work with teams in various different geographies, from different backgrounds as we increasingly tap into the diverse global talent pool. The pandemic has forced businesses to adopt remote working, which has also opened up a whole new perspective on what’s possible in terms of upping the ante on diversity efforts.
“Technology makes our world smaller, giving companies of all sizes the freedom to recruit the best people, wherever they are. The conversation around workplace diversity has progressed beyond just gender, and now also encompasses race, ethnicity, age, ability, language, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, or sexual orientation. With the technology available and the fact that the pandemic has proven that remote working can be just as effective, there is no excuse for a lack of cultural diversity in the workplace if companies are serious about it.
“Nurturing a culture that promotes diversity within the organisation is also vital and needs to be run in the company’s DNA so that every employee takes it as their own responsibility by introducing colleagues to their culture and background and share what they would like others to know and understand about their different cultures. Through sharing, comes great understanding, compassion, and diversity of thought.”
Read more: What gender equality looks like for female business leaders in 2021
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