Has D&I become just another acronym?


These days boards and leadership teams use the acronym D&I (Diversity & Inclusion) with as much confidence as they say M&A, EBITDA or COGS. So has D&I become just another acronomy in the business lexicon?


Claire Braund, Executive Director of Women on Boards, speaking at a webinar on culture, equity and inclusion co-hosted with The Governance Institute on 4 February, said that improved gender balance in the boardroom and throughout organisations has contributed to people thinking the D&I bit is all done and dusted.

“It’s all very well to say three of our 10 Board members are women. But how are they diverse and how are they being included? You’ve got on the D&I Committee - but what does that actually mean? What do you do on it? Why are you there and how are you having an impact?”

Claire was joined on the webinar "Diversity is half the circle. Culture, equity and inclusion are the other half" by:

  • Megan Motto, Governance Institute of Australia CEO
  • Dr Marlene Kanga AM, Non Executive Director of Sydney Water Corporation &  Air Services Australia
  • Catherine Fox, Walkley Award winning journalist

What does it means for Boards to be genuinely ‘inclusive’?

Dr Kanga spoke from her personal experience. “I like to say I’m at the extreme end of the spectrum of diversity - being a woman, a woman of colour and an engineer: I've copped it all. It's three strikes against me,” she told the moderator - Walkley Award-winning journalist and author, Catherine Fox.

“The diversity issue is almost easy. You can say, ‘Yes, we’ve got a diverse workforce’. But the business case or the case for innovation, progress and performance comes from inclusion. This is where the rubber hits the road.”

Why it is so important to have a diverse workforce?

“You've got to say to your team, to your people: we want you because you are different, we believe you have something new to say, something fresh to bring to the table, new ideas,” said Dr Kanga. “And this is going to help us to innovate, manage risks and be far more efficient and effective in the business world. That's the driver that we need to talk about.”

Also up for discussion were the topics of ‘gender fatigue’, addressing the gender pay gap, how to confront unconscious bias, the differences between diversity and inclusion and how to measure them.

“Diversity is a numbers game,” said Megan Motto. “Inclusion is really about culture and it’s a complex business - it’s intergenerationally ingrained; ingrained in our institutional structures, in our customs, our tokens, our family and our language. It takes a long time to unpick all of those systems and cultures that have made us who we are.”

How can diversity and inclusion could be tackled?

Megan said there are “wonderful examples of organisations that are really getting to the crux of what's causing the problem in the first place”.

“It’s about how do we de-engineer those constructs that are keeping us from really having inclusive cultures?”

This was a thought echoed by Claire, who said the answer doesn’t lie in just one solution, such as recruitment and retention. “It’s really going back to culture and attitude and how you treat people.”

Women on Boards CEO said the webinar is a must-watch for anyone with an interest in diversity and inclusion.

"Great webinar, highly commend watching this if you have any interest in diversity, inclusion. The webinar was robust, brave , thought provoking and entertaining"

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