HR Roundtable 2017 Key Takeaways – Diversity of Thought

By Posted on : 13 Nov 2017 0 Comments

For our last Parity Plus event of the year, Parity Consulting hosted its HR Roundtable event on the 9th November.  This year on the topic of Diversity and Inclusion, we welcomed our speaker for the day Heather Geary, Oceania Diversity & Inclusiveness Leader from EY. Heather has over 10 years’ experience as a D&I practitioner and her key areas of expertise include gender and LGBTI equality, disability support, inclusive leadership and cultural intelligence. In her professional career at EY, Heather has worked towards reducing the gender pay gap to less than 1%, as well as influencing male take-up of parental leave from 6% to 16% of all parental leavers over two years.

Victoria started the morning with a clip from the movie Anchorman, where a group of middle aged white men are asked what diversity is. “Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era” answers Will Ferrell’s character, Ron Burgundy. Thankfully organisations globally take an active approach in recognising and driving D&I within their organisations.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, we are 170 years away from seeing economic parity between women and men. But according to EY, we have taken a big step backwards in economic parity, with recent statistics showing we are now a disappointing 217 years away. Here is the link to EY’s “Women – Fast forward” initiative, tracking exactly how long until global gender parity in the workplace – we have it bookmarked to keep an eye on how we are tracking!

Despite this disappointing news, Australia is making progress:

  • Moving up in the rankings from 46th in 2016 to 35th in 2017 out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report;
  • Australia listed Diversity and Inclusion 4th on the list of important global trends in the workplace according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends Report 2017Link to Report. Australia came only second to Japan, who ranked D&I 3rd in importance out of the 11 global trends.


Heather highlighted to the audience that D&I is often seen as a moral factor, but the need for it in a business, especially in today’s world, is a necessity.

Companies with diverse teams are 45% more likely to improve market share, 70% more likely to capture a new market, and research has shown that companies with 30% female executives could add up to 6 percentage points to its net margin.  The more ‘included’ employees feel, the more innovative they are at work, with Heather pointing out that employees are 3.5 times more likely to contribute their full innovative potential when they feel included.

Heather spoke around some of the strategies to look at for getting the unconvinced onboard, adding that it was not always a man that needed to be convinced. One of the most important factors to keep in mind is to be authentic. A gentle entry into D&I are:

  • flexibility,
  • diversity of thought, or
  • mental health.


Getting to know someone’s ‘drivers’ and then going from there to find something they can get behind is a great way of starting a more in-depth conversation about D&I. One size rarely fits all and it is important to understand the individual and tailor your approach to them.

For any organisation, it is necessary to have a D&I toolkit. Heather shared some examples from EY’s D&I toolkit which included a Roadmap, Targets, Accountability, Initiatives and Integration. Ensuring there is a strong, clear and uniform message across an organisation simplifies the actions and expectations required from the employees within the organisation. This also ensures that globally, the message and language is the same and stays consistent. An example of the targets EY has are:

Heather shared with the audience an individual reflection exercise, where you list ten team members/clients in order of most favoured to least favoured. Looking at this list, reflect on how you treat the two people at the top of your list, compared to the two people at the bottom of your list.  Ask yourself:

  • Why do you feel differently about the top 2 and bottom 2?
  • What would be different if you treated the two people at the bottom in the same way you treated the two people at the top?

Heather shared that in most cases, the 2 individuals at the bottom of the list improve their performance once they are treated the same as the individuals at the top of the list.

Another interesting exercise Heather gave the audience was an ‘Inner Circle’ mapping exercise.  How often do you find yourself reaching out to a close friend, acquaintance or client for advice, only to have them just nod and agree with your suggestion or idea? Although this may be reassuring, an individual’s way of thinking needs to be challenged in order for them to think outside of the box (ie diversity of thought). This exercise from Heather involved thinking of 5 people who you seek out advice from on problems, challenges and decisions. Filling out the below table, if they share the same characteristics as yourself, make a dash (-), and if they are different, write down the difference. If any of your advisors share more than 4 characteristics with yourself, cross them off the list. What you are left with are those individuals that will challenge your thoughts and ideas and give you a diverse perspective.

To close out the morning, Heather took to the room to answer questions from the audience:

Q1: What have you found to be the biggest challenges when implementing diversity strategies?

Heather touched on communication being key and helping people to commit their time and ensure they all work together was a challenge. Teams and organisations need to be working together towards a target in order to achieve the necessary result.

Q2: How can you create a tangible way to close the pay gap?  Has EY set aside resources specifically for this purpose?

Heather confirmed that with the pay gap, this was for like for like roles and based on a firm wide average. She advised that being a data-driven company, they ran the numbers and addressed the gaps by location, rank, part time or full time and laterals (internal or external), and went into process, details and data to justify any pay increases or changes. She also stated that EY has a separate budget to address pay gaps, so as not to affect another individual or team’s budget.

Q3: How do you not alienate non-diverse people and how do you tackle the backlash?

Heather advised that the message you provide should be clear. She also stated that in terms of talent in teams, organisations only want the best for their teams and not being able to achieve this due to not meeting or going against a certain status quo, and therefore ending up with somebody who is mediocre but ticks the diversity box is not an ideal situation either. Seeing people for their merits and ability is the best structure to follow.

She noted that Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer recently announced that 50% of its management positions, 3,000 positions out of 6,000, are now filled by women. Brian Hartzer claimed that this was a signpost that Australia is making progress for unlocking the potential for women.  To those men who have raised concerns, Hartzer has responded: “Good news! We are reserving half the roles for you, too.”

Being a leader in Diversity and Inclusiveness, gender equality is something Heather believes strongly in and with a particular passion for flexibility in the workplace for men, Heather encourages men to use paternal leave and take on the opportunities to take breaks and normalise this for them. She pointed out that Allianz is celebrating International Men’s Day on November 19th, and reminded the audience that gender equality is not about exclusion but about everyone and bringing them all into the discussion.

So how can we make a difference if we’re all the same? Diversity is all about difference. Inclusive leaders are able to invite, leverage and learn from different perspectives to create value for their people, clients and communities. From the team at Parity, we hope that you all took something away from the morning to implement or suggest to your teams, and we’d like to thank Heather for closing off our events for the year with such an engaging morning, and for renewing the energy, passion and understanding we need to keep in mind to ensure diversity and inclusion is a top factor for all organisations and teams for the future.

For information on our Parity Plus events for 2018, follow us on LinkedIn for regular updates. If you would like to speak to one of our specialist consultants, please call us on +61 2 8068 2016 or email us at 

If you enjoyed the event, please leave us a Google Review!