The DCA and INPEX Annual Diversity Debate to explore the ‘merits of merit’

Media releases
Topics Inclusion

The Diversity Council Australia and INPEX Annual Diversity Debate for 2014 will explore: Does promotion on merit give everyone a ‘fair go’?

The diversity event of the year, the debate will be held in Sydney on 18 November and will be moderated by one of the ABC's most respected journalists and host of ABC TV’s Q & A, Tony Jones.

Lisa Annese, DCA’s CEO said promotion on merit is a hot topic in business and the wider community.

“Research shows that women and people from culturally diverse backgrounds are not highly represented in positions of leadership in Australian business. Some argue that ‘merit’ is the only fair way for choosing the best person for the role, while others contend the ‘merit’ system is biased against diverse leaders who don’t get a look in. The debate will be a fantastic opportunity to explore both sides of the issue,” said Lisa.

At the event, a capacity crowd of up to 200 CEOs, HR directors and managers, diversity practitioners and business leaders will hear lively debate from a panel of high profile speakers as these early comments attest.

On the negative team:

Lieutenant General David Morrison AO, Chief of Army argues that merit does not give everyone a ‘fair go’:

“Let's stop kidding ourselves – it’s a man's world. The established norms advantage men. Men invented the system and largely run it. Given that, the fairness of ‘merit based’ selection should be questioned,” said David.

Dr Jennifer Whelan, former academic and Director of Psynapse asserts that people define merit in self-referential ways, i.e. ‘merit looks like me’.

“Organisations already insist they only hire and promote on merit. If this is true, and if merit is fair, then it must be the case that merit is disproportionately distributed among middle class, middle aged Anglo-Saxon men,” said Jennifer.

Jodie Hatherly, General Counsel and GM Commercial, INPEX argues that bias, both conscious and unconscious, takes too great a role in decision making for merit to be applied fairly.

“If the current figures of women in leadership roles and the 18.2% gender pay gap are representative of ‘merit’ in action, then it’s clearly not working and isn’t giving everyone a fair go,” said Jodie.

In contrast, on the affirmative team:

Tim Wilson, Human Rights Commissioner questions why we would promote anyone other than on merit and for being the best candidate.

"Real promotion on merit gives everyone a ‘fair go’ – promotion for other reasons gives license to those in positions of power and privilege to help their mates,” said Tim.

Patricia Karvelas, Victorian Editor and Bureau Chief with The Australian, agrees.

“Meritocracy is the cornerstone of Australia's education system which has produced Prime Ministers and public leaders from a variety of backgrounds,” said Patricia.

Julie Garland McLellan FAICD, prominent company director argues the need to remove the impediments to developing merit rather than appointing without it.

“Women are not a minority. We don’t lack merit; we come out of university better qualified than men. We don’t lack ambition; if a board seat is advertised we apply. What we need are clear career paths to the top," said Julie.