‘Diversity cannot thrive without a culture of inclusion’

A comprehensive study of New Zealand workplaces has looked at how they are responding to D&I challenges

‘Diversity cannot thrive without a culture of inclusion’

Organisations in New Zealand are seeing and responding to a plethora of diversity challenges, according to annual research carried out by Diversity Works New Zealand in partnership with Massey University.

Diversity Works New Zealand Chief Executive Rachel Hopkins said this year’s results have given a clear indication of areas that workplaces across the public and private sectors need to focus their attention.

The survey investigated if women were well represented in decision making and executive roles. It revealed that most organisations have female representation at the leadership/decision-making level (93%).

However, it’s not at a level commensurate with the contribution women make to our workplaces. In nearly 40% of organisations, women make up less than a quarter of the leadership team. Moreover, about 70% of organisations reported that fewer than half the people in their leadership team were women.

“Gender equity is becoming more of a priority for New Zealand businesses, ranking significantly higher in our survey this year than last. But having a policy on achieving better gender equity is not enough,” said Hopkins.

“Do you have programmes or interventions in place to ensure you meet your targets and are you on track?”

Ageing was the only diversity issue considered less important by organisations in 2019 than it was in 2018, and it remains the diversity issue for which businesses are least likely to have a programme or policy in place to address.

Massey University Pro-Vice Chancellor Paul Spoonley said this doesn’t make sense, given the demographic make-up of New Zealand.

“Through the next decade, we will see a doubling of those aged 65 or over – and it’s clear that 65 is no longer the age of retirement. Given this structural and numerical ageing, and ongoing challenges of skills scarcity, it is puzzling that so few firms have policies on ageing.”

The survey also looked at what action can be taken to remove bias from the recruitment and promotion processes.

It revealed a growing awareness of the impact bias has on workplace decision making, with 63% of organisations indicating it’s an important issue compared with 42% in 2018. One of the biggest areas of concern noted was that bias affects decisions around recruitment, promotion and pay, up from 19% of respondents in 2018 to 54% this year.

“There are simple strategies organisations can put in place throughout the whole employee life cycle to mitigate the impact of bias,” said Hopkins.

“We are regularly working with our members to review their processes and recommend changes. Usually these don’t involve any extra cost or changes to policy.”

Moreover, the research looked at initiatives for recruitment and career development for people living with disabilities.

New Zealand has 228,000 people of working age living with a disability who are not employed, and research commissioned by the Blind Foundation shows that the unemployment rate for people with a disability is 50% higher than the unemployment rate of the total workforce.

However, disability in the workplace was selected as an important issue by less than a quarter of organisations responding to this year’s survey.

“Our survey showed that private organisations are less likely than the public sector to have a policy to address accessibility in the workplace,” said Hopkins.

“Employers who leave this potential workforce untapped risk missing out on skilled, highly motivated workers.

“There is a huge amount of expertise and support available to help employers connect with this talent pool and successfully include them in their organisation.”

Moreover, the organisations reported that the most common method of addressing diversity in the workplace was giving it consideration in relevant HR policies, an approach adopted by 67% of respondents.

However, these policies are only effective if they are followed throughout your business and utilised by all staff.

“Diversity cannot thrive without a culture of inclusion,” said Hopkins.

“The hallmark of an inclusive workplace culture is confident, inclusive leaders. How are you supporting your people leaders to understand and implement your diversity and inclusion vision day to day?”

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