Executive Panel Discussion on Diversity

On Wednesday 20th July, Dr Tim Soutphommasane (Race Discrimination Commissioner for Australia), Deborah Hadwen (CEO Tata Consultancy Services) and Alison Monroe (CEO Sageco) formed a panel to discuss the topic of “Diversity in hiring: the right thing to do or does it add to the bottom line?”

Diversity Lunch

The following is a top line summary of some of the discussion and the key takeaways offered by the panel followed by some other areas of discussion.

  • There is a strong bottom-line business case for having both culturally and gender diverse organisations.
  • A homogenous team or organisation is much more susceptible to blind spots.
  • Australia has been a world leader with regard to social mobility and multiculturalism however this has not translated into cultural diversity at the senior levels of business.
  • It is key to have strong measurements in place to measure any shift on the diversity spectrum whether that be ability, gender, age or culture.
  • There was an open question about whether the business community felt it could concentrate on more than one diversity issue (gender) at a time, but a strong feeling that the business community had to.
  • It was agreed that meritocracy is a wholly appropriate way of advancing employees, providing it is a level playing field.
  • The panel suggested that organisations did not make diversity all about the business case because businesses shifts in terms of what it measures as being important. A multicultural, multi-gender and multi-age approach to workforce is not only economically the right thing to do but also socially the right thing to do.

The panel felt that there was a strong case for diversity in the workforce not only from the pure perspective of a business case but also for the social benefits of inclusion. There was also a feeling that the business community could play a leading role in furthering the debate and outcomes of a broader diversity discussion.

Businesses have to put in place a baseline measurement from which to measure progress. There is precious little data on cultural diversity as a benchmark when compared to that of gender or age. It is imperative that some measures are put in place.

Encouraging diversity within organisations is not just about bringing in new talent at the bottom the organisation but also about keeping the diverse employees that you have. There needs to be as much focus on retaining employees as there is about attracting them in the first place.

Organisations needed to have a look at what the potential barriers to success of employees from diverse backgrounds were. The migrants and the children of migrants tend to outperform when it comes to HSC and tertiary education, however they don’t emerge at the senior levels of organisations. We need to create an escalator of opportunity.

The panel was asked to wind the clock forward three or four years and elaborate on what they would hope would be in place at that time. The point was made that most likely the change in 3 to 4 years’ time would be quite small but nonetheless significant so that we should not assume that a small change was a waste. It was also hoped that there would be more data collection on diversity and more targets for establishing more diverse workforces. There was some conversation about wishing the conversation on gender diversity would move from women being seen as a victim in terms of diversity to them stepping forward as well. Last but not least, there was a hope that pay for all would be fair and equal.

Diversity Summary.fw

Articles or studies referred to by the panel

Leading for Change. A blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership. Australian Human Rights Commission July 2016 https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/publications/leading-change-blueprint-cultural-diversity-and-inclusive

Women Matter http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/women-matter

Why Diversity Matters http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/why-diversity-matters

Is there a payoff from top-team diversity ? http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/is-there-a-payoff-from-top-team-diversity

Women’s Positive Impact on Corporate Performance https://www.credit-suisse.com/us/en/articles/articles/news-and-expertise/2014/09/en/womens-impact-on-corporate-performance-letting-the-data-speak.html

Westpac’s Equilibrium Program http://info.westpac.com.au/equilibriumprogram/

Older Women Matter https://www.dca.org.au/dca-research/older-women-matter.html