In early 2021, I started hosting a series of LinkedIn Live interviews called Practical Inclusion. I wanted to develop a platform for conversations with leading Diversity and Inclusion practitioners working to create change, and especially highlight those individuals who weren’t having their voices heard.
Since it began, the series has grown—and continues to grow. I’ve created a playlist with the conversations on YouTube to bring together all of the insights and knowledge provided by my interviewees. Be sure to take a look and get in touch if you have feedback or ideas for participants. And follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my YouTube channel for updates.
In this iteration of Practical Inclusion, I speak to Professor Lisa Harvey-Smith. Lisa is an award-winning astrophysicist and author, and currently the Australian Government’s Women in STEM Ambassador. First appointed in this role in 2018, Lisa works to address gender inequities in education and careers in STEM across the country. Here, we reflect upon the importance of addressing the culture of organisations to increase Diversity and Inclusion and how to best work to create meaningful change.
Workplace culture can be very complex. Lisa says, “If you’re a member of a dominant culture [in the workplace], you don’t even realise there’s such a thing as culture. You just don’t see it, like a fish in water. They don’t see the water, that’s just where they live.”
She continues: “When you’re, say, a white person in a workplace that’s dominated by white people, you don’t notice that there is a particular culture there that would be potentially quite hostile to other people… Culture is very powerful and all pervasive thing. It’s everywhere, it’s in every corner, and you don’t necessarily notice it if you’re not affected negatively by it.”
Often, people from minority and under-represented groups are asked to work on improving Diversity and Inclusion in an organisation. However, this can become problematic when these same people are expected to do the work for free. Lisa explains that although Diversity and Inclusion was “never was part of my core business. I was always, you know, a scientist. But, as always, it’s people who are marginalised who often get to do the work for free.”
To implement Diversity and Inclusion strategies in an organisation, she encourages leaders to work with employees to create a working group. Or, if additional support is needed, to engage a consultant—like the consultants at Bree Gorman—to assess and suggest solutions to any issues. Lisa says, “You’re either getting to the heart of the issue or you’re superficial. You’re kind of playing at equality, playing at inclusion.”
It isn’t enough to hire a white woman and say your organisation has done enough to improve diversity. Diversity needs to be intersectional. This is something Lisa is aware of with regards to her own positionality:
“We give the same people a platform. And I’m absolutely guilty of that and very aware of that. And you know, you may have valid opinions, but they’re not ten times more valid than other peoples’ and that’s how much air space you get. So it’s about in leadership, I guess, making space for others. And I constantly have to be aware of it and often saying no to things and actually giving other people an opportunity is something that I think we can all do better if we’re in a position where we’re often asked to be platformed.”
Another way of making space for others is to look at your business’s hiring policies and consider how inclusive they are. Is it essential to list a particular requirement or skill, or could it be learnt on the job? Does an applicant need a specific qualification? If so, why? Keep asking why so you can get to the heart of whether the detail is necessary to include or not.
Be mindful of the language you’re using, too. “Words like outstanding and leader and striving [are] gendered words that actually put women off applying for jobs,” Lisa says.
“You’re not lowering the bar, if you don’t set those expectations,” she said. “You’re just being more creative and you’re giving people a chance who have the potential, and you have the capability to do that job really, really well and to bring new perspectives in.”
Bree Gorman works with organisations to increase workforce diversity and create an inclusive environment where all employees can thrive. Our team can support your business by providing:
If you’d like to know more, book in a complimentary 20-minute discovery call with us today or visit our website.
10 May 2022
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