Australian leaders actions speak louder than words, as they publicly step up to increase inclusion.

Australia has a long history of women excelling in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, such as Anna Meares many medals throughout her career. Finally in 2018 we see women and men having an equal chance to win medals.

Australia has a long history of women excelling in the Commonwealth and Olympic Games, such as Anna Meares many medals throughout her career. Finally in 2018 we see women and men having an equal chance to win medals.

Last week we saw a historic gender equality milestone achieved in sport when the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Chairman Peter Beattie announced with pride that for the first time ever at a multi-sport event there will be a 50-50 gender balance for the medals on offer, with an equal 133 events and medals for both women and men. 

In the same week we saw personal leadership from Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Waratahs boss Andrew Hore, who publicly committed to meet with Rugby superstar Israel Folau to discuss his conduct on social media after he wrote appalling homophobic comments on Instagram. The comments were condemned by Pride in Sport, the joint venture between the Australian Sports Commission and Human Rights Commission to which Rugby Australia, NRL, AFL, FFA and Cricket Australia are parties. They labelled Folau’s comment as ‘appalling’  based on 'their concern of the effect these homophobic comments can have on younger sporting fans;'  while publicly restating their commitment to ensuring 'inclusive environments that respect the diversity of all Australians that must extend to the sporting fields, in the stands and broader sporting cultures.'

 A public debate has also emerged surrounding Folau’s right to speak out as an individual and hold his own views. Despite my agreement that everyone is entitled to their own opinions, it’s important to remember that elite sportspeople remain role models for wider society, particularly children, and thus have a heightened responsibility to what they choose to share publicly. As a professional rugby player, and thus a paid employee, Folau should publicly represent the views and operate within the values of his workplace, which Rugby Australia’s leaders have demonstrated aspires to be one of inclusivity and equality.

Meanwhile driving global change we saw personal leadership from Australia’s first female PM Julia Gillard, who has taken on a major new global gig as inaugural chair of the London-based Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. Recognising we’re living in a “pivotal moment” for unblocking women’s careers given the #MeToo response and similar movements, the organisation’s ambitious aim is to help dismantle female leadership barriers by focusing on evidence-based solutions in every field.

I loved Gillard’s metaphoric description of a ‘glass labyrinth’, strongly highlighting the complexity that women face in progressing their careers. This term combines the well-known concept of glass ceilings, together with the academic research that’s also identified glass cliffs, sticky floorsglass walls, and bamboo ceilings, that many D & I practitioners have recognised and challenged over the past 30 years since we have had anti-discrimination policy in place.

I also agree with Gillard that it’s important to identify the unconscious bias that impacts from right back at the start of careers – including, in my experience, who gets selected for key roles, who gets to work on high visibility projects, who gets taken by their boss to the informal lunches and dinners with strategic partners and clients, and who gets mentored and sponsored as high potential. This reminds us it’s important to look at every stage of people’s careers, not just women in leadership, to understand where their career paths get blocked so that targeted interventions can be made that will actually work.

It’s great to see positive leadership across different industries on this issue and such solution-based progress being made. We do have a great starting point already, with consistent evidence from Australian and International best practice of what works in organisations – the 7 critical D & I success factors as below. We know that if organisations implement these 7 steps they will make change, so there’s no excuse to not get started now. Just remember it has to be all 7 steps to achieve success, not just some, and although leaders have a critical role to play, everyone has to get involved.

7 Critical D & I Success Factors

1.     Develop and implement a diversity vision, business case and strategy;

2.     Provide leadership from the top with visible internal and external communication;

3.     Build inclusive leadership capability – these are specifically defined now;

4.     Provide targeted HR policies, systems and processes that deliver D & I outcomes;

5.     Engage all employees on the diversity journey;

6.     Implement effective governance structures, targets and metrics to build accountability;

7.     Build a flexible and inclusive workplace culture for all employees.

To implement these 7 steps effectively it’s critical to take a systemic view across your organisation’s ecosystem to observe and identify the roles leaders, individuals and teams are currently playing in either advancing or hindering diversity and inclusion.

With an effectively designed mapping process, our experience shows you can engage and mobilise leaders and staff, beyond the usual suspects, to identify the equity, diversity & inclusion challenges, and develop and test hypotheses as to the cause rather than the symptoms. Through this, the actions you then take will have real impact by strategically shifting staff mindsets and culture to increase diversity, inclusion and performance

At Diversity Knowhow we partner with internal change agents who tap into our expertise to help them accelerate the pace of change. If you would like more information on how we can assist your organisation please contact us today.  

Image via Yahoo Sports/AP Photo/Alastair Grant

Fiona KrautilComment