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Promoting the Business Benefits of Diversity

15 August 2014 at 1:03 pm
Staff Reporter
A passion for diversity has led Lisa Annese to lead Diversity Council Australia, a Not for Profit that works as a workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia. Annese is this week’s Changemaker.

Staff Reporter | 15 August 2014 at 1:03 pm


Promoting the Business Benefits of Diversity
15 August 2014 at 1:03 pm

A passion for diversity has led Lisa Annese to lead Diversity Council Australia, a Not for Profit that works as a workplace diversity advisor to business in Australia. Annese is this week’s Changemaker.

Prior to taking on the role of Chief Executive Officer in June, Annese was the Programs and Member Services Director for DCA where she specialised in providing advice and education to DCA members to improve business capability in diversity management.

According to DCA, she played a key role in broadening DCA’s services to members, growing its member base and contributing to public debate on diversity.

In 2011, she was the first dedicated Diversity Manager at Corrs Chambers Westgarth who later won the Lawyers Weekly Firm Diversity Award.

At Corrs Chambers Westgath, her achievements included the publishing of an ASX Compliant Diversity Policy together with ambitious public targets for women in partnership, overseeing the industry partnership with the Melbourne Business School's Gender Equality Project and a role on the steering committee for the Australian Human Rights Commission's Older Workers and business growth strategy forum held in September 2012.

Annese has also worked for the then Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency (EOWA) where she developed the first ever census of ‘Australian Women in Leadership’, the first-ever ‘Business Achievement Awards’, the creation of the ‘Employer of Choice for Women’ citation and the development and implementation of the policy framework for the EOWA Act (1999) with Australian businesses.

For her contribution at EOWA, Lisa was awarded a Medal for Significant Contribution to the Australian Public Service in 2001. She also co-authored Chief Executives Unplugged: CEOs Get Real About Women in the Workplace, which was named a “must-read business book” by AFR/BOSS magazine in 2005.

What are you currently working on in your organisation?

I am proud to be leading Diversity Council Australia as the independent, Not for Profit workplace diversity advisor to business.

Our work is all about delivering productivity benefits as well as more equitable outcomes for people who represent the diversity of our community.

What drew you to the Not for Profit sector?

I wasn’t so much drawn to the Not for Profit sector as drawn to working in the diversity space.

There’s plenty of evidence to support the business benefits of diversity but we still have a long way to go before our workplaces are truly diverse and inclusive.

There are signs that we are moving in the right direction in areas like women in leadership and flexible working, but there is still much more to do.

What is the most rewarding part of your work?

I love everything about DCA! The intent, mission and vision, the contribution it makes, the amazing team of people working here and the fact that it is the best living example of a truly flexible workplace!

I’m excited by the prospect of improving diversity capability in the Australian labour market – DCA has a lot to offer employers in this area.  I’m keen to challenge current thinking in diversity.

For example, the notion that women cannot ‘have it all’ or need to ‘lean in to succeed’ or that promotion on ‘merit’ always delivers the best candidates – these are issues that can and should be discussed and debated.  

I also enjoy contributing to public debate on diversity in the media and in public forums – the more we are out there talking about the benefits of diversity, the more likely it will be that employers get on board and make positive change.

What has been the most challenging part of your work?

There’s so much I want to achieve; so many ideas and not enough time and resources to implement them!

A key challenge will be to secure support for those new projects that I know will provide real value to our members as well as provide tangible workplace improvements. The answer lies in generating great ideas that our members and partners will be keen to support.

I consider my greatest achievement to be …

Yet to come at DCA in the not too distant future with some exciting projects we are working on!

But so far, I am very proud of helping to establish our Annual Diversity Debate as the premier diversity event and fundraiser for DCA, as well as my role in influencing the environment for gender reporting in Australia.

Prior to this, I was proud to be instrumental in developing the first ever women-in-leadership census for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (formerly known as the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Agency) as well as designing the very first Employer of Choice for Women citation.

Favourite saying …

“It is not our abilities that determine who we truly are, it is our choices.” Albus Dumbledore via JK Rowling in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

I am a massive fan of the science fantasy genre and believe that although the action takes place in an alternative universe, that it addresses relevant moral themes such as the redemptive power of love, the nature of power and the need to take a stand against evil.

What are you reading/watching/listening to at the moment?  

I am reading Tara Moss’s book, The Fictional Woman.  She powerfully argues the need for a feminist approach within the context of a beauty-obsessed culture. As a mother of three daughters, I’m concerned that our girls will always be judged or somehow limited by what they look like instead of who they are or what they can do.

Through your work, what is your ultimate dream?

Not just through my work, but through the collective work of diversity practitioners, progressive business leaders, human rights activists and academics, my ultimate dream is the elimination of all things that separate human beings from one another and keep us in such conflict: racism, sexism, homophobia and any form of discrimination against people who are different.  

I want to create a better world for my daughters.

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