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Annual Diversity Lunch: Formalising Diversity As Part Of Major Organisational Change September 12, 2016

The five key insights captured from the event were:

More than being the right thing to do, diversity attracts better business performance. Research proves that there is a positive correlation between GDP per capita and gender equality. EY’s research with the Peterson Institute shows that when companies have over 30% of women in leadership, they can expect a 6% increase in net profit. As promising as this sounds for organisations, The World Economic Forum in its global gender gap report estimates it will take 117 years to achieve global gender parity in the workplace. Businesses need to help accelerate this goal, and benefit from the social and economic outcomes.

Gender quality on boards leads to better performance and share price. From 2005 - 2014, boards with a higher than average percentage of women outperformed by 36% those below the average. This outperformance was across return on equity, net income growth and price to book value. Eighteen months ago, the AICD set a target of 30% women on ASX 200 boards by 2018. ASX 20 companies are already at 28%, above the 8-9% of the past, meaning we’re in striking range of reaching the 30% target. However, many smaller companies have only one woman on their boards, and 11 of the ASX 200 have no women at all.

It’s easy to identify gender disparity, but cultural - or identity diversity - is harder. Assumptions are made on an individual’s background, and in today’s multicultural society, this can present many complexities and disparities in the workforce. The blueprint for success still imposed on Australian institutions is outdated and privileges a male, middle-class, Anglo Saxon workforce. In Australia’s multicultural environment, we need to ensure a diverse range of people and voices are represented in the workplace.

Inclusive leadership has a cascade effect at every level. Bringing people from diverse groups together to work towards a common goal is what drives results. Leadership is about championing for change and influencing behaviour at every level. It’s about engaging your people and demonstrating flexibility and agility. Some of these traits don’t come naturally or automatically, but they can be taught and learnt. Companies can’t innovate from a place of uniformity.

Leaders need to create a dynamic workplace culture that embraces different points of view to carve out a competitive edge.

Flexibility is an enabler, not a solution. Organisations can deliver high quality service while prioritising employee needs and providing a flexible workplace. In order to maintain a good work-life balance, both men and women need flexible working hours, taking circumstances such as family, disability and mental illness into account. Businesses need to be mindful of individual needs and create balanced work flows. Flexibility should become part of a company’s internal culture. Workplaces need to recognise that employee engagement varies from person to person, and can be enhanced across the enterprise through a supportive workplace culture.

Video Event Highlights

The Australian, September 12, 2016   (http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/news/women-talk-too-much-make-board-meeting-long/news-story/ae82caa99043dad26c9b3f4791493e6d)

Australian Financial Review, September 12, 2016  (http://www.afr.com/brand/chanticleer/woolworths-chair-calls-for-tougher-board-diversity-targets-20160912-grefuj)

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