A celebration of IWD 2020

Journeys from close and afar...

SPP and Arup were delighted to host an International Women’s Day twilight event celebrating inclusivity and diversity in the workplace.

The theme of the event was developed by SPP Principals Noel Leung and Gill Cashion, and Arup Principal Finola Reid, who really wanted to give an edge to the IWD gender diversity debate. Noel points out that “one of the greatest things we can do in these conversations is invite everyone to join in.”

So began the consolidation of an inspiring line-up of panel speakers, who each talked about their personal experiences, and the many benefits that can be achieved when diversity and inclusivity is embraced within an organisation.

Keynote speaker Rohini Kappadath, General Manager at the Immigration Museum, shone a light on what diversity means to her, saying “Diversity and inclusion dance hand-in-hand; diversity is our shared common humanity; it has its unique markers; accept the differences as the norms.”

Growing up in Calcutta, she continued, “Diversity was a daily diet. We didn’t try to definite it; it was just a shared reality.” She brings this mindset to her current work and her team, embracing diversity and inclusivity as part of the everyday.

Jieh-Yung Lo, Director at ANU’s Centre for Asian Australian Leadership, agrees that Australia has come a long way in terms of embracing multiculturism. In his role, he sees diversity not just about gender, or culture, or race, or age, saying “the interesting part of the conversation is the intersectionality of diversity.”

He continued, “In light of the coronavirus, a leader at ANU was quoted as saying ‘Viruses don’t discriminate, why should we?’”

This resonated with Jieh-Yung, who continued “Diversity must start with leadership at the top – but everyone in the room has to understand they have a role to play to help dispel the myths that oppose diversity.”

Charity Mosienyane, Associate at Arup, agreed, and urged the audience to challenge what success looked like saying that, in many businesses, “when you see success looks a certain way, you don’t know what to do to achieve it. ‘Success’ (as an aspiration or a vision or an achievement) needs to represent diversity. Therefore, success also needs to be authentic.”

In unpacking what we need to do to embrace diversity and inclusion in business, Charity reflected on her employment onboarding training on unconscious bias, where people’s own perspectives are revealed to be layered with pre-conceived and unconscious prejudices. Her advice is that “we need to keep our daily biases in check”.

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"One of the greatest things we can do in these diversity and inclusion conversations is invite everyone to join in.”

Noel Leung, Principal

Kenneth Christie, CFO of Australian Bank at NAB, applies many day-to-day checks at work to cultivate diversity. He gave the fantastic example of how he de-identifies resumes of many of our institutionalised labels in his recruitment.

Ken continued to say that when recruitment was based on skills, and a getting to know and understand the incumbent for who they are, you end up with a genuinely diverse team. “Then you can focus on helping those team members unpack their strength, leverage their skillsets and, finally, to help them grow.”

Rohini agreed, calling for the next generation of leaders in Australia businesses to “be brave; shine a light on your unique talent, and skills.”

In closing, SPP Managing Partner Phil Noble challenged the room to think about one thing you could do today to really embed diversity into your team to gain a real advantage (yes, advantage out of diversity and inclusivity), and provoked us all with a parting thought – ‘Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.’

Noel Leung is a Principal at SPP