How can HR build diversity in teams?

HRD talks to Atlassian's global head of diversity and belonging about approaching diversity at a team level

How can HR build diversity in teams?

For enterprise software company Atlassian, it’s important to approach diversity at a team level.

Atlassian’s global head of diversity and belonging, Aubrey Blanche, told HRD that teams have members with diverging perspectives, which means employees learn more and are more innovative.

“That means we need to create a sense of belonging on teams, which really drives engagement, performance, retention – all of those key metrics that you're thinking about as a HR leader that you know drives the business forward,” said Blanche.

“When we started looking at diversity at the team level, what we found was that many women were likely to be isolated on their teams.”

Indeed, when Atlassian conducted an analysis they found that 66% of their software teams had a female team member. However, at the time, only 13.3% of Atlassian’s technical staff identified as women.

“We realised we need to create connections for women across their teams, so we piloted a variety of programs in Sydney to do that,” said Blanche.

“We came up with something incredibly simple that we called our ‘Coffee Dates’ program.”

This involved taking out a Confluence page and putting out a call for all women in the office to sign up. It asked: “Do you want to be matched with another woman in the office to catch up and have coffee?”

“We ran that program, and what we found was we had incredibly engagement. It created these connections that their male peers were getting organically, because they were working together.”

Moreover, Atlassian also sought to build confidence for female team members, while building more balance.

Consequently, a program called “mentoring rings” was created and these were “very explicitly team-driven”. They involved six to twelve women getting together to teach each other about professional development topics – things like confidence, or how to give a great presentation, or how to advocate for yourself.

“What we found was that those mentoring rings not only taught people new skills, but created a community for them, and grew in their confidence because they had to teach their peers something, and so they learned that they could do it,” said Blanche.

“That, along with some more appropriate level changes, meant that we’ve actually been able to see our retention for women be on par with men, which is something that’s pretty rare in the tech industry, and I think that’s the metric that I care the most about.”

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