Diversity & Inclusion

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

2 December 2020



“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Vernā Myers 

Real diversity and inclusion is good for business – but many organisations are still just ticking a box.

I make no bones that I am a passionate advocate for authentic diversity and inclusion practices to be in place across all industry sectors and our communities. Considering the benefits that come from a diverse workplace, I find it surprising that some companies are still just ticking boxes when it comes to diversity and inclusion compliance. These companies just don’t seem to realise that when they embrace diversity and inclusion initiatives, positive outcomes like a better workplace culture and a boost to their bottom line will emerge.

Respected industry resource, McKinsey in their Diversity Matters report, confirms the link between better diversity and inclusion and better company performance.

McKinsey’s research shows that gender diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to outperform their industry average, while culturally diverse companies are 35 per cent more likely to outperform theirs.

From my years in corporate roles, I have seen diversity and inclusion failures and successes and from that experience I share some observations below that I have made plus the importance of being committed and authentic about your diversity and inclusion initiatives.

Diversity goes beyond gender

I should clarify at the outset that diversity is not just about gender. Gender diversity is still an issue that needs addressing in Australia, and around the world; but if our diversity and inclusion dialogue is just about gender, it fails to include other forms of diversity – disability, cultural, LGBTQI, age, socioeconomic and beyond.

If you’re going to do diversity and inclusion, it has got to be real

Firstly, let me say, that the benefits that come with diversity and inclusion only come when there is “real” engagement – where a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in the workplace goes further than just having a policy or a code of conduct; it needs to go to the core of the company’s values and beliefs – it needs to go to its DNA.

Also, I believe for it to be real diversity and inclusion, it needs to be evidenced by a company’s actions. It is refreshing to see a company like Vend, a retail management software company, who have introduced a diversity process that includes hiring senior leaders in mid-pregnancy, scheduling functions around family commitments, and enabling employees to self-create company initiatives around diversity issues that are important to them.

Other organisations proactive in this area like Secure Warrior Code have demonstrated their commitment by providing specific resources to develop diverse talent, setting the tone with leadership, and ensuring all their communications reflect this – it is these types of real actions that help organisations create a stronger workforce and a high performing culture.

Diversity means that good business decisions come from a range of viewpoints
Secondly, real diversity and inclusion is beneficial to companies because it means decisions are based on the lived experiences from a diverse workforce – the other bonus is that your business is obtaining viewpoints that could potentially better resonate with a broader range of customers or clients. Beyond tapping into a larger target market, it’s important for you to have a team around you with different and contradictory viewpoints and perspectives. If you have people with the same point of view or similar life experience, you will see just through that one lens. If you are a leader you have access to a diversity of thinking and perspectives which ensures that decision making will be much more comprehensive, factual and balanced.

Diversity and inclusion is not just about recruiting people with differing viewpoints, real diversity also requires creating a culture at your organisation that genuinely values those different experiences and perspectives. The value that comes from true diversity is that your people have a sense of belonging and feel that they have a voice and the ability to contribute to your organisation.

Diversity cannot be implemented in isolation

The ability of your workforce to make a contribution highlights the second part of diversity and inclusion – the inclusion part.

One of my favourite quotes in this area comes from Damien Hooper-Campbell (Chief Diversity Officer at Zoom), who says, “If diversity is getting invited to the dance party, inclusion is being asked to dance when you’re at the party.”

It is great that you have hired a diverse workforce that spans age, gender, sexuality and ethnicity, but your organisation must also integrate your commitment to diversity and inclusion for your people throughout all parts of your business.

Diversity cannot be implemented in isolation – diversity without inclusion will result in just statistics reporting and box-ticking instead of real progress.

Don’t just tick a box because real diversity and inclusion implementation boosts your organisation’s bottom line.

As a final point, I also would like to emphasise that achieving diversity in the workplace isn’t a “set and forget” process. You still need to regularly review and assess your diversity and inclusion initiatives so you can ensure staff feel included, valued, and proud of their workplace.

I encourage you to develop and instigate real diversity and inclusion initiatives, because not only will you enhance your workplace culture, attract and retain engaged staff, but your business will be equipped to outperform non-diverse companies.

Take action, don’t just tick a box, because real diversity and inclusion, not only maximises the potential of your people to boost your organisation’s bottom line, it can also create a pathway to success for all areas of your company.