What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘diversity’? Do you think of enforced quotas on gender in the workplace? Does your mind go to questions of ‘meritʼ? Do you wonder about the number of women in traditionally male-dominated industries? Or, do you think of the cultural make up of your workplace; the racial, ethnic, socio-economic or educational background of your colleagues and bosses?
The reality is, ‘diversityʼ, particularly in Australia, is often used as a shorthand for gender diversity. Discussions on gender and gender diversity in workplaces are now quite commonplace, thanks to years of advocacy and activism pushing for greater representation of women across all realms of society. Initiatives like Male Champions of Change, and the Victorian Government’s ruling on all board and judiciary appointments must be 50% women, indicate the importance with which gender equality is now being treated. Although there is still a long way to go, major steps are being made in the right direction.
The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for other types of diversity. Racial and ethnic diversity in workplaces, particularly at senior executive and board levels, are not representative of our incredibly multifaceted nation. It means that we are not making the most of one of our greatest assets as a society, and it also means that something needs to change.
I am incredibly pleased to be working with Autopia on producing a two-part white paper series that addresses this space. Autopiaʼs “Re-Think: The Cultural Diversity Series” is all about investigating what diversity beyond gender looks like and how we can do things better. The first white paper of the series “Diversity Beyond Gender: The business case for cultural diversity“, looks at cultural diversity, specifically racial and ethnic diversity in workplaces in Australia. As a Sudanese-born, mixed background Aussie mechanical engineer, I have a unique interest in this space. Growing up in Queensland, engagement with cultural diversity was often accidental rather than intentional, and as such, I’ve seen levels of engagement that range from non-existent to exceptional. This white paper series is an opportunity to bring some of that lived experience, combined with research, to present a compelling argument for why cultural diversity – or cultural inclusion – should be something organisations think about seriously in order to ensure success in an increasingly complex and globalised world.
“Diversity Beyond Gender” introduces the concept of cultural diversity and why it is important for organisations in Australia, particularly given our geographic location. It looks at surveys undertaken on the experiences of Asian-origin employees, highlighting the business and moral case and finally, introduces the ideas of the ‘Values and Virtues’ case, which is an inclusive alternative view on diversity. Part 2 of this series presents recommendations on how organisations can engage with and improve cultural diversity in their workplace.
There are innumerable ways to discuss, engage with and encourage diversity in organisations. However, diversity is about creating an inclusive culture that values and uses the talents of all would-be members. Ultimately, inclusion is the goal. True inclusion allows all members of a team or organisation to feel comfortable in bringing their whole selves to work, and therefore, feel comfortable, welcomed and valued – something each and every one of us desire as humans. “Re-Think: The Cultural Diversity Series” hopes to provide the stimulus for us to start having this conversation, and I am so excited to see where it leads!