VIEW: Diversity is being prioritised over inclusivity in our workplaces

We know diversity in the workplace leads to stronger innovation, culture, collaboration, and profit margins, but what about inclusivity? In the corporate world, the two terms are often bucketed as ‘Diversity & Inclusivity’ or D&I when it comes to department names, roles, or initiatives.

However, Gemma Saunders, Founder and Lead Consultant at Workplace Edit, argues there is imbalance between how the two issues are prioritised within businesses.

Gemma says, “Although many people talk about D&I, their priorities are really about diversity – the mix of people. There are great examples of organisations who are truly focusing on inclusivity however generally, across Australia, the D still leads the I.”

The key leadership trait critical to effective inclusivity

In Gemma’s experience as a workplace experience consultant, she’s observed many business leaders and leadership teams as they navigate, develop and implement inclusivity strategies.

In her view, the way feedback is listened to and acted on by business leaders is the secret to success.

She explains, “Examples of getting it right really shine through when you see the behaviours of curiosity, vulnerability and empathy at all levels.

“Good organisations are dedicated to listening and acting on feedback and, importantly, looking at gender and demographic disaggregated engagement and HR data to see how different employees are truly experiencing their organisations. The not-so-good have all the marketing material & shiny PR but employees are reporting a different story.”

Getting inclusivity discussed beyond HR

While boardrooms and executives are discussing innovation and business transformation, diversity and inclusivity initiatives and challenges are typically limited to discussion within HR teams or, at the least, are seen as an HR-related issue, according to Gemma.

Rather than being treated separately, gemma believes diversity and inclusivity needs to be part of discussions around major business priorities. She explains that innovation and transformation “isn’t possible in a sustainable way without inclusivity.”

The road to inclusivity

While there are many things businesses and individuals can be doing to promote inclusivity in the workplace, Gemma shares two actions she sees are low-hanging fruit.

Gemma says, “Two things I believe are key to inclusivity are ‘flex for any reason’ flexible work schemes, and parental leave equality meaning the removal of secondary and primary labels in favour for equal parental leave. The flexible working piece acknowledges we all have lives outside of work and shows a big symbol of trust extended equally to employees. The parental leave piece supports empathy with all genders participating in care-giving, reduces the gender gap and just makes sense given our kids don’t refer to us as parent primary and parent secondary.”

About the expert

Gemma is on a mission to redesign workplace experiences so they genuinely work for more people and more organisations. Gemma has led game-changing overhauls to parental leave policies, flexible working and talent acquisition models resulting in sustainable change and multiple awards. This goal is what inspired Gemma to start Workplace Edit which focuses on changing the workplace practices, systems and behaviours so workers get the best from their workplaces and workplaces get the best from their workers.