Inclusion is a mindset, not an initiative

Today I had the pleasure of being part of an amazing panel discussion at the launch of Talent’s inaugural book, Human: Global perspectives on diversity in tech.

We were not talking about statistics or figures today. We were speaking about the challenges we had faced in our work life, and what meaningful differences individuals and organisations can make to create inclusive workplaces. Ultimately, it was clear that inclusivity is not about ticking a box and implementing a policy or two – it’s ongoing, it requires empathy and it’s about shifting mindsets.

The book itself features first-hand accounts from 25 inspiring people around the world. All the people in this book and my fellow panellists today were very open and generous with the vulnerability in which they shared their stories.   

My fellow panellists were Zoe Brissett from Salesforce, Kerstin Oberprieler from PentaQuest and Troi Ilsley from Isobar. Moderator and leading Diversity Consultant, Troy Roderick, also offered his reflections on the stories in the book, and the impact of intentional inclusion on business success. We also had a moving Welcome To Country by Yvonne Weldon, who is the Current Chairperson and Cultural Representative of Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council. It was an honour to hear her story as a proud Wiradjuri woman.

Troi Ilsley is a young Indigenous woman who has transitioned from rural Victoria into working in tech. She spoke about her experiences moving to the city and working in an environment where she didn’t see any other First Nations people. Troi offered our audience some valuable insights into what companies can do to help Indigenous people feel included in the workplace – which can range from Reconciliation Action Plans, to small gestures like signs that feature Indigenous artwork and Acknowledgement of Country.

Zoe Brissett discussed some of the challenges she has faced as someone with cerebral palsy and a hearing impairment. Before the event I read an interview in which Zoe said she had once overheard a recruiter say: "Don't worry about the next candidate, we are only doing the interview to be seen as doing the right thing." Devastating for me to hear as CEO of a recruitment company who finds this sort of comment and closed mindedness abhorrent. Although, perhaps these sort of recruiters are why the industry itself has such a bad reputation.

Zoe shared some of the ways Salesforce supports accessibility and equality more generally. They encourage all employees to be allies by following four simple steps — ask, listen, show up, and speak up. These things cost nothing, are incredibly easy and make a massive impact.

Kerstin Oberprieler spoke about the obstacles she has faced as a woman working in gamification and the gender imbalance in tech. A particular highlight for me was hearing how she looks for “quirkiness” when hiring people for her company, PentaQuest. She seeks out difference as not only does it lead to more creativity and innovation, but it also makes the office a more fun place to be. I couldn’t agree more! Kerstin also highlighted how important it is to see diversity reflected not only in senior roles in workplaces, but also in the mainstream media.

I was blown away by the strength of these panellists who not only shared their experiences but provided the room with so many valuable insights into what companies can do to create diverse and inclusive environments.

I myself had a few personal experiences to share this morning, and in the spirit of being vulnerable and authentic I will share them with you as well. I spoke about my fear of being exposed as a gay man when I was working as an investment banker back in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a difficult time and social bias and therefore discrimination was a real thing. The fear of been exposed definitely impacted my ability to be the best I could, and the maximum positive impact I could have on the organisation.

Since becoming APAC CEO of Talent, what I am most passionate about is creating an environment that encourages every single person to be comfortable enough to be authentic and bring their full selves to work. I am also dedicated to building a team of open, embracing and genuinely caring individuals.

My main take away from today was that diversity and inclusivity is not about policies and loud statements. It’s often about the little things that come from a genuine desire to see all people as individuals and to make them feel included. The little things you can do can have a huge impact. I know this to be true and companies that understand this and get it right have more innovative results, they have lower attrition rates, a better reputation and happier employees. All these benefits have a positive result on a company’s bottom line. It’s about kindnesses that can make a person feel accepted and included, they can have a huge impact.

Thank you to our wonderful panellists and our moderator Troy Roderick, as well as everyone featured in Human. 

You can read the full book here