Back to Basics on Diversity and Inclusion in Workplaces
Monday, 8th February 2016 at 11:18 am
CEO of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese, explains what organisations are doing to achieve greater workplace diversity and inclusion.
Last year when Justin Trudeau was asked why the first cabinet of his government would be made up of half women and half men, he simply responded: “Because it’s 2015”. Not only did his response make international headlines, it struck a chord with audiences around the world.
Trudeau’s simple answer highlighted the absurdity of the need to question why we would have a gender balanced executive team. When presented with equity and diversity in a management team, our first response, problematically, is to question why.
So now a few months on and we are well and truly into 2016, what’s changed? What are Australian organisations doing to achieve greater workplace diversity and inclusion?
Well firstly, we need to look at what’s happening within organisations. Diversity Council Australia in collaboration with the University of Sydney’s Business School, Macquarie University and the Australian Human Resources Institute surveyed Australian organisations to assess and benchmark their diversity and inclusion practices. This ground-breaking survey has found that a large percentage of Australian organisations under-resource their diversity and inclusion (D&I) policies despite the well-established business benefits of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
The results of the survey, Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia, show that many Australian organisations fail to adopt “measureable goals or accountabilities” related to their diversity and inclusion policies. Only 41 per cent of surveyed diversity and inclusion practitioners reported that their organisations measured the outcomes of their D&I initiatives.
Many practitioners have also reported a significant under-resourcing of their initiatives, including insufficient budgets with 39 per cent of practitioners reporting that their budget was not sufficient to adequately fulfil their role. Of those surveyed, 38 per cent of practitioners reported they had no D&I budget at all.
The results of this survey highlight a number of changes that need to occur before we can improve the state of play for Australian organisations. Organisational diversity and inclusion initiatives need to be better resourced and funded. They also need to be monitored and measured so that they can be adjusted if required. Evaluation is critical for demonstrating the impact and return on investment, and subsequently securing ongoing organisational commitment to and resourcing of diversity and inclusion initiatives.
An ongoing process of monitoring and evaluation is also critical for ensuring that lessons are learnt where things didn’t go as planned and for building on our strengths and successes. And finally, people need to be held accountable for achieving outcomes from their diversity initiatives. If there are no consequences for failing to make progress, then what’s the incentive to get it done?
There are in fact many incentives and they relate directly to significant inequalities that continue to exist within the Australian workforce. The proportion of women in senior management and leadership positions remains low across many sectors, the gender pay gap sits stubbornly at 17.9 per cent, unemployment and underemployment of people with disability persists and indigenous people continue to face many barriers gaining meaningful employment. These are but some of the challenges that employers face if they want to reap the benefits of a more diverse and inclusive workforce.
DCA is often asked by organisations to advise on the latest and greatest diversity and inclusion initiatives that are being implemented in Australian workplaces. The findings of this survey suggest that maybe the latest leading practice “innovation” could actually just be evaluating the effectiveness of existing initiatives and adequately resourcing them.
It may sound simple, but sometimes getting back to basics is all that’s required.
About the author: Lisa Annese has been CEO of Diversity Council Australia since June 2014.