Community attitudes are shifting fast… are you at risk of diversity blind spots undermining your company’s reputation and talent?

This photo of 2 junior champions receiving 50% different prize cheques for surfing the same ocean, on the same boards, with the same amount of difficulty, caused a social media outcry last week

This photo of 2 junior champions receiving 50% different prize cheques for surfing the same ocean, on the same boards, with the same amount of difficulty, caused a social media outcry last week

Based on events last week, I think the seismic shift in the public expecting organisations to deliver gender equity, fairness and inclusion continues – with the public calling out gender bias and inequality continuing to make the news – this week in the surfing world!

This powerful image of pay inequity at the Ballito Pro Junior Surf Competition portrayed a gender blind spot that caused a public outcry. In my view it was not a good look for the sponsor Billabong to blame the World Surf League for the unequal prize money. In response to the public outcry, World Surf League Australia Manager Will Hayden-Smith told Triple J's Hack program the payment for the competition is ‘very complicated,’ with ‘men getting double the prize money only because there are double the competitors,’ he said. Again not a good look!  

Meanwhile at a global level, the World Surf League issued a statement from Los Angeles in response to the incident, that it had ‘instituted pay parity’ in recent years at the Championship Tour level and was ‘in the process of instituting [it] across other disciplines.’  The big question for now is how long is the public willing to wait to achieve gender equality? Surely it’s easy to address things like the under-18 surf awards that involve relatively small amounts of prize money of 400 and 800 Rand immediately.

In some industries, public pressure continues to drive education and transformational change more rapidly, with gender and cultural equity blind spots finally being tackled at the Oscars. We saw a major diversity play by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences taking a strategic step to diversify its ranks by adding more women and people of colour after years of outrage.

Issuing a record 928 invitations to actors, directors, and film industry professionals with 49% of invitees being female, and 38% being people of colour, we should see greater diversity of thought to inform more diverse awards, as this more diverse group of nominees vote for winners. However, there is still more work to be done as the latest round of new additions only brings overall proportion of female members to 31%, proportion of people of colour to 16%.

Back at home in the Australian university sector, it’s great to finally see gender blind spots being addressed through university participation in the national SAGE /Athena SWAN program. I applaud the UNSW Faculty of Engineering for appointing Lucy Marshall as inaugural Associate Dean for Equity and Diversity, the first position of its kind in an Australian university.

Having highly visible and credible experts sitting at the senior decision making table is critical to help make visible the systemic and cultural challenges that block the diverse talent pipeline. This is particularly important in STEM disciplines such as engineering, which suffer from the leaky bucket syndrome despite a 40% female PhD cohort at UNSW. These leaders also have a critical role in securing adequate business resourcing to address these systemic challenges.

Addressing another gender blind spot, it was great to see Canberra footballer Hannah Mouncey being invited to participate in the development of a transgender athlete policy, with two government departments to meet Australia’s biggest sporting bodies this week. The building of such an inclusive policy really shows how far we’ve come with LGBTIQA+ inclusion in Australian sport.

Another major blind spot needing to be addressed in many organisations’ D & I approach is to focus on the accessibility and inclusion of Australians with disability. I agree with Alcock who noted last week that too often D & I strategies only target gender, race and sexuality inclusion (in my experience the “top 3” identity approaches to D & I that exclude everyone else). Too often organisations are silent on creating accessibility and inclusion for the 4.5 million Australians who have some form of disability (equating to 20% of the total population), according to the ABS.

The research evidence is indisputable, (and has been around for a long time), demonstrating that hiring people with a disability brings many benefits to organisations with 89% identifying positive benefits. It’s time to address this blind spot by educating staff about disability, debunking myths caused by unconscious bias, and addressing the fear and stigma that people still hang onto in many Australian organisations.

It’s not hard to do as part of a broader D & I approach, and I congratulate the AFL who last week addressed this diversity blind spot as part of their broader D & I approach, by holding a very successful national inclusion carnival to demonstrate ‘football is a sport for everyone.’ The carnival showcased talented players with intellectual disabilities representing their state or territory.

Finally, a huge opportunity to address gender blind spots and inclusion in the tech industry has been identified, with a report last week highlighting that women could be the answer to expanding the tech workforce, with 100,000 tech jobs required in the next 5 years but only 5000 ICT sector graduates a year. It’s a well known fact that the ICT sector has a diversity problem with only 28% of those working in the field being female, and just 12% aged over 55, comparing with 45% and 15% respectively across all professional industries.

To achieve this goal over the next 5 years and eradicate the gender and diversity blind spots, ICT organisations will need to take action to ensure their workplaces are welcoming, respectful and inclusive. Vital to this is greater promoting of opportunities to a wider range of people, and addressing the 20% gender pay gap. As the numbers of women in ICT haven’t shifted over recent years, many ICT companies will need to do more than they are doing now to ensure they do shift the numbers and the culture dial.

Although I agree the tech problem can’t be solved overnight I have seen the difference organisations can make, shifting the numbers and the culture within 3 years, with a strategic, leader-led diversity and inclusion approach. This approach leverages the business strategy, mobilises leaders and unleashes staff potential to drive structural, systemic and values driven culture change, and is driven by:

1.      Sharing the workforce data and lived experience of diverse staff to increase awareness of the diversity challenge and opportunities

2.      Educating leaders and staff to notice and mitigate unconscious bias through adopting a capability mindset

3.      Developing robust metrics and holding leaders accountable to grow diverse talent and lead by example

If you would like some help in equipping your leaders and staff to eliminate unconscious bias, and work effectively and confidently with diverse colleagues and customers, I would love to help you here. We have a range of proven diversity, inclusion, unconscious bias and inclusive leadership training that we customise to meet your needs that will assist your people to identify and call bias, and get involved to help accelerate your D & I journey to high performance.

Image via SBS