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Australia’s elites lack diverse representation

4 March 20151 comment
Photo credit: Stephenf Peak

Photo credit: Stephenf Peak

Australia’s leadership ranks still lack cultural and gender diversity, while significant barriers to employment participation persist for other diverse groups, according to diversity advice group the Diversity Council Australia.

More than ever before, Australian employers must rethink what they’re doing on diversity and inclusion, the council says.

Diversity Council Australia (DCA) CEO, Lisa Annese, said employers can’t expect to get the most of their people talent or harness the benefits of a diverse workforce if they don’t put adequate resources or strategies in place to drive change.

“Recent Australian data published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency found employers are continuing to fail to maximise their talent pool by insufficiently supporting the needs of their diverse workforce,” she said.

“It’s clear that a diversity policy alone isn’t enough. What’s really needed is for organisations to properly resource and support their diversity function, as well as develop a comprehensive strategy with clear objectives and accountabilities,” Ms Annese said.

“There’s no quick fix here – employers need to do the hard yards. Strategies like actively sponsoring women and other diverse talent into leadership positions, addressing bias at every level, adopting broader definitions of what leadership looks like, and public accountability via reporting on measurable outcomes will actually deliver results,” she said.

The DCA says that in 2015, Australian employers can expect continued scrutiny of their diversity efforts from internal and external audiences including employees, regulators and the broader community.

The council’s statement comes as Germany is drafting a law that leading listed companies must allocate 30 per cent of seats on non-executive boards to women from 2016 onwards, and other countries are undertaking similar actions.

It also comes after the Migration Council of Australia launched the Discover Diversity campaign – backed by leading business figures including Commonwealth Bank CEO Ian Narev, Optus Chairman Paul O’Sullivan, Transfield Services CEO Graeme Hunt, Ernst & Young (EY) Chairman Michael Wachtel, Santos CEO David Knox and Accor Hotels COO Simon McGrath.

The campaign aims to promote cultural diversity in the workplace.

As a major Australian employer, CEO of the Commonwealth Bank Ian Narev said the company’s diverse workforce was an asset in its banking business.

“Cultural diversity is one of Australia’s greatest assets. As a major Australian company, we will be successful only if we have a long term focus on making our workforce more diverse, and our culture welcoming and inclusive so all our people can thrive,” Mr Narev said.

“The pressure will be on for more Australian companies to show more progress,” Ms Annese said.

“Failing to deliver better outcomes on diversity is not an option for those organisations wanting to access the best talent, retain an engaged and productive workforce, or indeed be seen as an attractive employer.

“In our experience, organisational strategies such as harnessing cultural diversity, rethinking the leadership model, mainstreaming flexible careers, and a better resourced diversity and inclusion function, are key to making progress. During 2015, we look forward to supporting employers’ diversity and inclusion efforts to achieve better outcomes,” she said.

Helen Matovu-Reed
AMES Staff Writer