Marcella Lazarus: Face of WOB for Standing Out in the field of Cultural Diversity

An executive Director, committee member and business owner experienced in founding and growing a business with expertise in organisational culture and transformation, Marcella has been a Women on Boards member for 15 years and is a member of WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee.

She brings solid experience in community consultation and engagement, particularly with people with a disability, or who have a culturally or linguistically diverse background (CALD) and is experienced at influencing and advising across Executive, Boards and Committees. Marcella is also a Graduate of AICD.

Congratulations on being chosen as a Face of WOB for Standing Out in the field of Cultural Diversity. What does this mean for you?

I have been a proud WOBer since 2007 and am truly grateful for all of Claire and Ruth’s guidance and support over the last 15 years. Outside of the WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee, as Managing Director of Growing Organisations, I devote many hours to coaching women leaders to achieve their best and encouraging them to ‘Go for Gold’ and aspire for a more senior role. 

Being chosen to be a Face of WOB is a huge privilege which I plan to use to help other women, especially from diverse backgrounds to achieve their dreams. 

Why is Cultural Diversity on Boards so important to you and what are your proudest achievements in this field to date?

Since joining Women on Boards’ Cultural Diversity Committee at the beginning of 2021, I am amazed how much we did despite the pandemic, but we are only just scratching the surface so far.  

The highlight for me last year was publishing the inaugural Counting Culture Survey and Report. I spent many hours discussing how exactly to draft the survey questions and what to measure with the guidance of the Diversity Council. It was satisfying seeing the number of people engaging in the survey but appalling to read everyone’s stories of discrimination and exclusion. We have a long way to go! 

What have been the biggest challenges in creating change and making a difference in this field?

I think the biggest challenge in creating change in this field is the general lack of awareness and understanding in Australia about what it’s really like for women from non-white backgrounds.  I still hear so many men and women saying that people are appointed to leadership roles and board positions on ‘merit’. 

They do not notice that so many board and leadership teams are filled with people who all look the same and who know each socially from the same schools/universities. There are thousands of well qualified and experienced women out there who aren’t networked so don’t get to the short list. 

If more women and men considered and promoted diversity of all kinds, including culture, disability, gender, religion, etc, at board level then we would have boards that reflected the rich diversity in Australian society.  

Why do you think it so important for more women to be involved at a Board and leadership level in promoting cultural diversity?

Diversity on boards has been proven to increase board and organisational performance. It’s logical to promote diversity, but people resist as they are afraid of difference and those that don’t look/sound like them.