Diversity and Inclusion in Law
By Paul Garth
This is a brief summary of a breakfast event hosted by Pinsent Masons’ flexible legal resourcing team, Vario in July 2019.
Diversity is a fact, inclusion is a choice. It has to be embraced at all levels of an organisation.
SBS has diversity mandated by the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991, so to learn about the successes and challenges of ensuring diversity is respected and inclusion delivered, Justine Cooper of Brook Graham, sat down for an interview with SBS General Counsel, Lesley Power, in front of a live audience of around 30 at Pinsent Masons’ Sydney office.
Does diversity and inclusion mean the same thing to you as it does to me?
Justine set the stage with a definition of diversity and inclusion.
“For the sake of clarity we define diversity as both the visible and invisible differences that make each of us wonderfully unique. And inclusion is about creating an environment where we feel respected, connected and valued, where we can all bring our true and best selves together.”
– Justine Cooper
She described diversity as being about the differences between people, and inclusion as behavioural and is therefore a choice.
Well, obviously there are real commercial benefits to an organisation: building closer connectivity to customers, tapping into untapped talent pools to attract talent, fostering innovation, responding to societal expectations – and importantly empowering employees to feel supported and valued. The research is overwhelming, organisations that invest in building sustainably diverse and inclusive environments outperform against any number of success measures.
We heard from Lesley how celebrating diversity is built into the heart and soul of SBS. Lesley pointed out that it attracts people ‘like a magnet’, and the examples she gave showed how diversity and inclusion nourished, and empowered, employees of SBS. The result is a very productive, focussed and engaged workforce.
Great, how do you get a gold standard D&I program going?
Justine and Lesley made it clear that real and authentic change does not come from simply putting a diversity and inclusion clause in your employment policies, or a statement of commitment in your Annual Report. Though Lesley does see real benefit in grounding action in policy.
“After all the policy framework itself outlasts the goodwill of the people who come and go in businesses.”
– Lesley Power
But, the self-satisfaction of having a diversity and inclusion policy in place is not enough to make real change. The discussion highlighted the importance of genuine sponsorship from leaders to build momentum.
“One of my great gurus in this area, a lady called Avivah Wittenberg-Cox, cites CEO commitment as the number 1 critical success factor in changing.”
– Justine Cooper
A D&I structure to die for.
Lesley said that as well as diversity and inclusion built into the SBS Charter, there have been a number of employee led groups who have been empowered by the business. One example is the LGBTQI Group, which was partly born out of a very proud gay former Managing Director, who strongly believed in empowering people to bring their “whole selves” to work. That was followed by the Gender Equity Group. Now they are establishing a multi-ethnic, multi-faith group and an access group for people with different abilities.
Lesley strongly advocated the need for organisations to enable the creation of networks, be they social, formal, or informal (often all three). This allowed people to get involved, gives permission for conversations and allows space to share experiences.
“Solutions imposed by other groups rarely work. The groups itself will often understand what works best for their group and what is needed….They will advocate and try to identify the rubbing points and work out the solutions to the bespoke problems.”
– Lesley Power
But it cannot be just a set and forget solution. An organisation must put the framework in place for this to happen. At SBS, for example, each action group has an Executive Sponsor. Their job is not to direct the group, but rather to champion the group at the Executive level, to give them a voice at the Executive table.
This Sponsor also provides a link to the Inclusion Council.
The Inclusion Council is the overarching governor for all of the action groups. Its purpose is to fund the actions that come out of the employee groups, and to make sure it is not just a whole lot of talk.
Justine commented that despite the changing narrative – moving from a compliance-led focus on equal opportunities to inclusion – when we look at the representation of diversity in Australia there is still a very compelling need to focus on diversity initiatives and implement positive action to drive equity.
RAP, I’d be glad to.
The Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) at SBS was discussed at length by Lesley. It came into effect in 2008 and is a fantastic blueprint for the kinds of actions and experiences that are necessary to affect change in diversity and inclusion. Currently in its 4th iteration, SBS is moving towards the 5th restatement that sees the plan influencing and promoting real change outside of SBS, and into the broader community. It is a fantastic example of an internal action plan becoming an external influencer.
When Lesley became the Chair of the RAP in 2011 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people comprised approximately 2% of SBS employees. NITV coming into the fold of SBS in 2012 helped the organisation achieve their target of 4%.
But apart from the bare numbers, the NITV amalgamation brought the immersive experience and exposure to the lives of indigenous Australians that help achieve real change.
“Everyone who worked at SBS was so privileged to be able to learn and work along side some of the most talented producers in Australia, but people who are also living really diverse indigenous experiences. So that was a key driver to how our RAP 4 evolved. We created co-chair responsibility.”
– Lesley Power
Justine pointed out that many businesses will not have the foundation that SBS has: where inclusion is integral to its ethos, and where leaders are by nature inclusive. In those situations, exposure to a different lived experience than your own can be invaluable. An example of this would be reciprocal mentoring schemes, which have proven very powerful at Pinsent Masons with our LGBT+ and Alllies network.
“Any of those opportunities to literally shift your perspective is incredibly helpful.”
– Justine Cooper
Building the knowledge and awareness as well as the skills of people, not only to lead ‘inclusion’, the activities we are doing, but to lead ‘inclusively’ day to day in the moments that matter.
While there is no silver bullet, we see progress when we collaborate and share together, adopting an agile and growth mindset to test, develop and learn.
Don’t just help yourself.
A wonderful step taken at SBS was the recognition of partnerships as a key element in lasting change.
Lesley spoke of the RAP to illustrate where they have instituted different ‘wings’ connecting to the Action Group. Lesley helped found a Media Wing which collaborates on content and employment initiatives across the broader media sector in Australia. Partners such as News Limited and Newscorp, and Foxtel are engaged in that space with SBS.
“We want to create meaningful career pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, not just numbers and representational quotas…We want an indigenous CEO, board members, chair people. That is where the Media Wing is now focusing its energies.”
– Lesley Power
The morning concluded with questions from a very engaged audience. Both Justine and Lesley were very generous with their time and experiences and both indicated they are very happy to talk to people who have an interest in diversity and inclusion.
In addition to the summary of the themes discussed at the seminar, we’re also pleased to share with you a couple of resources that we hope you will find helpful in your workplace:
- A 7-minute Video Case Study demonstrating how Diversity and Inclusion became truly embedded in to an organisation
- Our maturity model of Diversity and Inclusion: as a way to consider where your organisation is at in their journey, and how to sustainably develop a diverse and inclusive environment.
We are developing an innovative online tool to help organisations assess what stage they have reached in the maturity model. If you would like to use this tool , please email us at the address below and we will make sure that your organisation is included when the tool is launched. We would love to continue the conversation with you, to learn and collaborate around the role that we can all play to progress and foster workplace cultures that celebrate our diversity.
Senior Consultant, Brook Graham
M: +61 466 276 191
T: +61 8 6500 2310
M: +61 450 569 199
Vario Account Manager
T: +61 3 9909 2521
M: +61 424 178 049