The power of leaders using bold action to increase visibility of diversity & inclusion facts, issues and solutions

Cate Blanchett alongside other female leaders speaking out for equality at Cannes Film Festival 2018

Cate Blanchett alongside other female leaders speaking out for equality at Cannes Film Festival 2018

Over the past week it has been inspiring to see bold leadership in both the LGBTIQ and gender space, with industry leaders sharing facts, increasing public awareness, and promoting diversity and inclusion globally and nationally.

In Australia this week, in support of IDAHOBIT (the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism & Transphobia) on May 17, we saw Deloitte partner with Google to launch a top 50 list of Australian LGBTI leaders across a wide range of professions, from corporate and creative industries, right through to trades.

The success of these individuals and their stories really do show that ‘inclusion works’ and ensures better outcomes, not only for individuals but for businesses too.' However despite this success, these leaders also reflect on how much work still has to be done to create inclusion for the 1 in 2 LGBTIQ workers who still don’t feel comfortable being out at work.

With the global theme of Alliances in Solidarity, 2018 IDAHOBIT activities are aiming to shed light on the overlapping dimensions of exclusion that LGBTIQ people face. This is based not only on their sexual orientation or gender identity, but also on other identities including their ethnicity, religion or social status. They also aim to highlight why building alliances is so important for achieving equality of opportunity for all, especially the poor and vulnerable. 

In another significant step towards greater inclusion for Australian LGBTIQ people, it was heartening to see the NT Chief Minister last week making an emotional apology to the LGBTIQ community for ‘state-sanctioned discrimination’ as Parliament passes legislation allowing historical homosexual convictions to be struck from records.

A further instance that inspired me this week was the impact of 2018 Cannes Festival jury president Cate Blanchett speaking out globally as one of 82 female actors, writers, and filmmakers, standing on the steps of the Palais at the Cannes Film Festival against gender pay disparity and supporting female voices in the industry. These 82 women represented the number of female directors who have climbed these stairs since the first edition of the Cannes Film Festival in 1946, in contrast to 1,688 male directors climbing the very same stairs in the same period.

In addition to making this point, Blanchett shared the data that in the 71 years of this world-renowned festival, there have been only 12 female heads of its juries, while the prestigious Palme d’Or has been bestowed on 71 male directors — too numerous to mention by name — but only 2 female directors: Jane Campion and Agnès Varda. These facts visually demonstrate the power of the data that is stark and undeniable.

I love this industry leadership shown by business leaders and celebrities sharing the evidence, demonstrating the power of diverse talent, and the need to take action to address past discrimination. They also show this can be achieved by taking bold and intentional action to deliver new solutions that create greater inclusion for everyone – it’s no longer about special treatment for the few!

In contrast, over the past week I was disappointed to see the lack of leadership shown by Rugby Australia in allowing the continued flow of homophobic comments from powerful role model Israel Folau. It is saddening these comments have continued with such potential to hurt LGBTIQ people, particularly young Australians, rather than leveraging the powerful national platform that sport can be for good in Australia. 

Also concerning was the lack of Liberal National Party leadership that allowed the dumping of Turnbull government assistant minister Jane Prentice from her blue-ribbon Brisbane seat, reviving the debate about the number of women in conservative ranks. One angry Coalition MP said she's "appalled" and multiple women are ready to quit the party as an apparent double standard appears to be building.

The evidence is clear - if we don’t consciously include we will unconsciously exclude.

21st Century leaders need to be bold, lead by example, and must intervene when they see systemic barriers excluding diverse talent to design new systems and processes in which everyone can thrive and do their best work.

Based on what we have seen over the past week, systemic issues that need to be overcome include;

·       Pushing diverse people out who don’t fit the narrow mould of successful leadership.

·       Allowing high performing individuals to breach the organisation’s values and expected code of conduct internally and/or externally.

·       Lack of personal awareness resulting in processes and systems being allowed to continue that deliver outcomes that are not diverse or inclusive.

As a final note, I strongly endorse the following two insights shared by the top 50 LGBTIQ leaders:

·       ‘Based on all of the corporate psychology that business leaders now engage in, leaders now need to start actually living the theory that they’re learning.’ - To build on this, I think leaders must apply a diversity and inclusion lens prior to making any decisions as part of their everyday business.

·       ‘If you’re not getting 100% of a person, you’re not going to get 100% out of them.’ - I think that people must feel safe to bring their whole self to work to do their best work, with the organisations' values becoming the boundaries for organisation “fit”, rather than an individual’s idea of “fit” that may be being informed by unconscious bias.

If you are interested in more information, case studies or training on how to increase the engagement and productivity of your workforce by valuing and leveraging your workforce diversity. please contact me today.

Image via Daily News - Andreas Rentz/Getty Images