Diversity & Inclusion

Nothing Like the Facts on Diversity and Inclusion to really tell us where we’re up to

In Australia, we’ve been talking about diversity as an objective since women got the vote with Federation in 1901. Given this early start, it was a surprise to see some of the data points within the National Diversity and Inclusion Survey released today.

Given this early start, it was a surprise to see some of the data points within the National Diversity and Inclusion Survey released today.

I had the pleasure of speaking on the panel at today’s launch at Sydney University, and I was torn between feeling disappointed at what I was hearing and feeling wildly optimistic about the wealth of opportunity in front of us.

I thought I’d share a little of the survey with you, as I know this is an area of interest for many of you in our FlexCareers community.

Firstly, let’s be really clear, I did find it to be an extraordinary set of results – full of facts that are, in 2015, just amazing!

Here’s a taste –

  • Only 1 in 4 people who lead D&I professionals thought their function was influential
  • Only 46% of organisations saw D&I as a baseline practice for their business
  • Only 41% of organisations measures outcomes from D&I programs and work (29% are ‘thinking about it’)
  • While 90% of organisations complete external reports (for Government agencies for example), only 61% report to their own Board or ‘C Suite’ team
  • Only just slightly over 50% of respondents thought their D&I work was impacting ‘fairness and justice’ in their organisation.
  • Most diversity programs were driven by trying to attract talent (68%) and being an employer of choice (59%), whilst improving business performance and impact on society were both lower (51%) and improving innovation and creativity was lowest (35%)

Given we’ve been doing Diversity and Inclusion for so many years, and in earnest for at least 30, these data points are pretty surprising. That said, the fact that we’ve got so much still to do, means we are nowhere near the point where we can say anything like “we’re not sure what to do next”. In fact, we know what to do – get Diversity and Inclusion mainstreamed into every business and make sure it is goal-driven, measured, well communicated, and transparent (to employees internally and also externally to potential employees). Also, make sure every people leader is skilled and comfortable leading a diverse and inclusive team.

During the launch, I was also fascinated as we listened to the research professors. They opened up some real challenges for us to balance as we move forward with this critical agenda.

Challenge 1 – Individual versus Community

As we ask organisations to flex to individual needs, we are often breaking the community aspect. For example, individuals, often without sufficient organisational power, are being asked to ‘look after themselves’ – ‘negotiate’ for themselves if you like. They are disconnected from like-minded communities and miss sharing experiences of what works and what doesn’t, (for working parents for example). The research shows that when individuals without a lot of organisational power have to fend for themselves, it has a very negative impact on diversity.

To address this challenge, we will need to not only understand individual need, but genuinely support diverse groups and aggregate needs. We’ll need to build not only individual flexibility, but also strong (and powerful) communities of support at the same time.

Challenge 2 – Financial Numbers Only Approach

Research has long shown us that measurement is critically important (that’s why the ‘only 41% are measuring’ is so disturbing), but it also shows that ‘only measuring financial impact’ overweights this area and discounts all other positive impacts. For example, we forget to look at employee well-being, promotion and talent statistics (or the pipeline for the future leaders), and progress towards equal pay.

If we want to truly drive diversity for a business AND social agenda (for the good of the whole society and future generations), we’re going to need to look at a much broader set of metrics, including well-being, promotion, talent data, flexibility and pay.

Challenge 3 – Deregulation

Although the survey and research is Australian, we did discuss some global trends. There were many (predominantly European) examples provided, where a distrust of regulation and a fear of ‘over government’ had led to a reduction in government rules and policies impacting the diversity area. For example, reduced regulation in diversity goals, pay equity rules, childcare support and the ‘rules’ around recruiting. The outcome has been that large parts of the industry (particularly recruitment) end up being largely deregulated completely.

The challenge we have here is that we haven’t made a lot of progress without good policy and guidelines being set. For example, its long being argued that greater visibility to the details of the pay gap, would be very helpful in addressing it. Keeping it largely confidential has kept the gap at 19.2% between the genders.


The survey was undertaken by a partnership of the University of Sydney, Macquarie University, the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) and released publicly this morning. All in all, it’s an interesting report and well worth a read.

The advantage of real data and proper research is that we break down the myths. Diversity and Inclusion becomes a real story rather than a PR story. When we know the facts, we can take the right steps to develop more diverse workforces and more inclusive and flexible workplaces for all of us.

The Survey simply showed that we have a long way to go. Now, it’s up to all of us to keep moving this whole agenda in the right direction. And it will take ALL of us to get it moving, for our generation and the next.

Click here  to access the survey results.

About Rhonda

Rhonda has spent her career on the people stuff, working with some of the biggest and best companies all around the world, but she has always thought – “we could do this better. We could make work (and leadership) better for all of us – more inclusive, more real, and more ‘human’.

She fundamentally believes that inclusion, good leadership and treating each other as equals, is not only foundational for good people practices in organisations but equally of more equitable and prosperous economies and communities. In short, if we include as many people as possible in work, then we start to build the sort of community and society we all want to live in.

Rhonda is also co-founder of mwah, a Community, a Toolkit, a Think Tank, and a Boutique Consultancy, all aimed at Making Work Absolutely Human. A knowledge base and a community of all the real stuff you need to lead and work with people, today and in the future.


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