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Diversity and Inclusion is more than a gender issue

14 October 2016

WWC panel

The diversity and inclusion debate has never been more important. To that end, the top strategy on the topic is to open up the conversation on equity in as many ways, and on as many fronts, as possible.

The recent Women World Changers events in Melbourne and Sydney, held by The Growth Facility and in which Westpac was a sponsor, aimed to do this by engaging and attracting business and community leaders – male and female – to exchange ideas, engage in critical dialogue and find new ways to address the issues we face at work and in the community when it comes to ensuring we are diverse and inclusive.

Gender, for example, is just one line in equity.

If we are to create meaningful change and growth in business, the economy and people, we must also take into account cultural capability - issues around ethnicity and religion; sexual identity; age; ability and disability.

People, as lawyer, executive and conference presenter Mai Chen pointed out, are more than just men and women. They are a complex package of abilities and experiences and she confidently stated, we will be employing people for their cultural quotient (CQ) as much as their IQs and EQs in five years’ time.

Aurecon’s Giam Swiegers is a Founding Member of the Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick's Male Champions of Change Group. This Group includes top male CEOs and Chairpersons from across Australia who, “use their individual and collective influence and commitment to ensure the issue of women’s representation in leadership is elevated on the national business agenda.”  Giam, as part of a panel discussing the importance of getting male buy-in to diversity and inclusion, noted that anyone who cannot practically demonstrate an ability to work in diverse teams is “unpromotable”.

Diversity and inclusion isn’t an option but a core part of business strategy at Aurecon. Giam’s reasoning for this is threefold: for business to succeed and grow it needs new ideas and answers. New ideas and answers don’t come from doing the same thing that’s always been done, especially when that same thing, for example hiring or promoting the same sort of person you have always hired or promoted, is failing to produce successful outcomes.

Secondly, clients and customers are diverse and to relate to them businesses need to reflect who they are – they need to share in the customers’ experiences.

Thirdly, the different problems clients and customers have will require diversity of thought if business is to solve their issues.

WWC Westpac And Hala Gorani

The conference then took us to the experiences in the media of Hala Gorani (above middle with from left to right Westpac's Jane Kittle, Ainslie van Onselen, Bernadette Inglis and Sandra Casinader).

Hala has worked for CNN for 20 years and currently anchors The World Right Now with Hala Gorani. She has reported from every country in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. She is a multi-award winning journalist with a passion for news as it happens but with the facts at its core.

Her presentation focussed on women in media and the media portrayal of women, as well as the importance of online sources used in combination with professional journalism in which the facts are checked and where analysis accompanies the collection and dissemination of news.

It probably comes as no surprise that when we use online sources we are monitored and our interests are assessed. Facebook for example uses an algorithm which reads our posts and then feeds us stories and information which interest us. Talk about preaching to the converted.

Covering the Bataclan terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015, Hala interviewed the sister of one of the perpetrators to show a young man who in his last conversation with his sister sent kisses to his family and cat. Many deplored the fact that Hala’s interview humanised ‘the killer’. Her argument: it is important to push back on a story and offer something more than a predisposed point of view if we are to understand the complexity of the issue.

Her insights on power - based on many years of interviewing and reporting on the people who hold it - were also exciting. She could count on one hand examples of people in power who have walked away from it when it was time: Nelson Mandela and Charles de Gaulle were two examples she gave. As for those who have wrested power for themselves by sublimating and eradicating the democratic process, they have an existential reason for not wanting to give up their unlawful power – the safety of themselves and their family. Power, she noted, is difficult to let go and is anything but diverse and inclusive.

In the all-encompassing crises of war in the Middle East, women’s rights and gender equity issues have been lost. Not surprising when we see the conflicts. However, the over-arching narrative that we can’t do anything to change what’s happening is untrue. There are solutions but those in power have to have the will to find them.