Diversity & Inclusion is everywhere this week - time to engage everyone in culture change

Hillary Clinton & Julia Gillard this week announced a new plan to tackle bias in politics

Hillary Clinton & Julia Gillard this week announced a new plan to tackle bias in politics

It’s been another big week of riding the equity and inclusion wave, with gender and diversity continuing to make headlines. We have seen more and more voices calling out inequities across the globe, and more excitingly, significant action being taken to address this challenge.  

Whether we are talking about the #GrammysSoMale campaign after another awards night dominated by men in the music industry, or both men and women calling for greater diversity after this year’s Australia Day honours, equality is a hot topic. With women making up only a third of the honourees this Australia Day, award winner Tracey Spicer shared her concerns, saying such an uneven balance ‘makes no sense when women comprise more than half the population, and undertake the vast majority of unpaid labour in our society.’

Meanwhile the economic business case was proven once again for gender, cultural, and ethnic diversity in leadership in the latest global McKinsey report. So why would you not prioritise diversity and inclusion to increase productivity? Obviously the numbers alone have not been enough to drive real systemic culture change. Last week, Forbes magazine published an opinion piece “Forget the ‘Business Case’ For Diversity and Inclusion” that expressed the ridiculousness of always needing to make a ‘business case for D&I (although as we know it does exist).

I have to agree with the Forbes article after leading D & I change for 25 years in the banking, energy and the tertiary sectors. What we know is that the business case alone is not enough to drive systemic & cultural change to unleash the potential of diverse workforces. Instead, it is the sharing of people’s lived experience of feeling excluded that shocks leaders out of their comfort zone. These personal stories force leaders to be aware of their blind spots, and encourage them to look at the D & I challenge with ‘new eyes’ or a ‘diversity lens.’

The power of lived experience stories has been demonstrated recently, with Uber (finally) hiring its first chief diversity and inclusion officer.  It should have been pretty clear that they had a diversity problem, seeing as women made up less than a third of their company, and that there were no black or Latina employees in leadership. Yet it wasn’t until the release of engineer Susan Fowler’s blog post, publicly revealing the toxic and discriminatory work culture, that they were forced to act. Hopefully this isn’t just a tokenistic gesture, but a deeper and long-term cultural shift.

Alongside these calls to action has come greater progress in recent weeks. Leading by example is New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinta Arden. She’s challenging the traditional assumptions that females who have a baby are not reliable leaders, by demonstrating how she and her partner will work together to support their expanded family.

Also showing the way are Julia Gillard and Hillary Clinton, who announced that they are joining forces to challenge negative stereotypes faced by females leaders who aspire to political careers, caused by unconscious bias. Even in sport, change is happening, with the ICC announcing women will get the same billing as men at the World Twenty20 in Australia in 2020. I was particularly excited to hear the women will even get to play their final at my favourite ground the MCG, just like the men, just as it should be.

So, every employer has a choice – to be reactive and be stuck in a tolerance and compliance culture, or, to be courageous and take action to strategically embrace the future. If you want to learn more about companies who are making a difference and leading the way in cultural change, take a look at a few first-hand examples of organisations that are well on the way to achieving their diversity and inclusion goals.

Image via Sydney Morning Herald

Fiona KrautilComment