Moving Beyond Diversity

17 May 2021
Robert Perry, Manager Thriving People, SBC

It’s been a whirlwind ride since I took the reigns leading SBC’s Thriving People programme. The encouraging feedback from our members, so enthused to see people and community at the heart of our strategy, has strengthened our resolve to set an ambition for a thriving world of work that is flexible, inclusive, and sustainable.

Given the programme’s recent launch, I thought I’d set out what this ambition means in practical terms, share a couple of key insights driving our work, and how you can get involved as we call on our members to deliver the impact that no single organization can achieve alone.

A shared ambition

SBC’s ambition of ‘growing prosperous and inclusive businesses and communities’ requires businesses to support the wellbeing of their employees and make a positive impact on their communities. As we transition towards a zero-carbon economy, there is an opportunity to speak with one voice on these issues, and it is critical that we do so now. I believe it is a responsibility as much as an opportunity, for the private sector to lead that paradigm shift.

Covid reveals our (fr)agility

Aotearoa has been fortunate to escape the hardest-hitting impacts of the COVID pandemic, but it has still exposed inequality in ways that makes it hard to unsee. Everyone has been affected – and no story is the same. Diversity and inclusion is at risk during crisis. Rangatahi and wāhine are bearing the brunt of COVID-related job losses, while globally the pandemic has pushed back the closure of the gender pay gap by a generation. Businesses that have relied on immigration to fill labour and skill shortages must look at different ways to bolster their workforce.

Partnering for racial justice in business

We’ve also seen a rise in racism during the pandemic as people, through fear and ignorance, laid blame for the spread of COVID towards our Asian and local Pacific communities. I was shocked to see how pervasive that racism is – research shows 93% of Māori in Aotearoa experience racism everyday. I encourage you to read Whakatika: A Survey of Māori Experiences of Racism, to educate yourself on what we are silent on.

If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable – embrace it. Creating positive tension is critical to working together for racial justice, and through actively building belonging in the workplace, we can ensure our minority communities are supported in the business sector. Diversity isn’t just for optics, it’s proven to be beneficial for creating stronger, more experienced teams, capable of making bigger impacts.

The alphabet got it wrong

So if the business case for diverse and inclusive workplaces is proven, why has increasing leadership and action yet to bring the scale of change we need? Not to oversimplify it, but one perspective is that 'I' comes before 'D'. There's a great article here by Lily Zheng outlining the truth - if we are to fully realise the benefits of greater diversity, we have to create workplaces where people are enabled by inclusive leadership and  can trust that their organisation is willing to make bold changes for good.

Help us, help you

SBC is committed to working with our members to develop solutions to the critical issues of raising living standards, improving future employability, and growing skills for the future of work. Our ‘Moving Beyond Diversity’ initiative is one of four priority programmes we’ll be launching over the next 12 months, and our first action is holding a series of wānanga to encourage honest conversation, impactful collaboration, and sharing of first-hand experiences to learn how we are best able to create authentic, inclusive workplaces where everyone feels a sense of belonging, so that people, business and communities thrive. You can join us here.