Aiming high on D&I at the Summit

This week one-hundred representatives from business, unions, civil society, and government will gather in Canberra for the Jobs and Skills Summit.

On announcing the Summit, the Treasurer and Prime Minister in a joint release said, “Our goal is to build a bigger, better trained and more productive workforce; boost incomes and living standards; and create more opportunities for more Australians to get ahead and to reach their aspirations.”

If you are going to have a Summit, best you aim high.

Parties are positioning themselves; agendas are out there. Business has been talking productivity, worker shortages and migration; the ACTU has been focused on wages, job security and collective bargaining; civil society organisations are focused on aspects of fairness and equality.

D&I at the core of priorities, problems and possibilities

At Diversity Council Australia (DCA) we are calling it the D&I Summit, because diversity and inclusion (D&I) sits at the core of the priorities, the problems and the possibilities on the Summit agenda.

Before the Summit has even begun, areas of agreement are emerging. The political environment has changed, and with that brings a change in priorities and different approaches.

The facts are also stark. The labour market is tight, wages are constrained, inflation is going up and all the while we have 3.3 million potential employees who are unemployed or underemployed sitting on the sidelines in the lead up to the Summit.

Marginalised groups on the sidelines

Soon to be released DCA research into inclusive recruitment looks at who is on the sidelines (spoiler alert: it is those from marginalised diversity groups) and we work through what employers can do to tap into this under-utilised and under-leveraged group of potential employees.

Diversity and inclusion has as much a place in addressing worker shortages as it does in retaining happier, more effective workers – and great diversity and inclusion makes workplaces safer and minimises a variety of risks for employers.

Our Inclusion@Work Index shows that workers in inclusive teams are eleven times more likely to be highly effective and effective workers are productive workers. They are six times more likely to provide excellent customer service and happy customers are great for business.

Diversity and inclusion work isn’t just what we think. Our work is based on our extensive research in Australian workplaces over decades.

Employers who do the work to actively create and maintain diverse workforces with actively inclusive practices are more productive, more innovative, and better places to work..

Understanding drivers of gender pay gap

To fix things, it’s important to understand them. Diversity and inclusion can also help us tackle some of the key themes identified by the government and on the table at the Summit. Take, for example, ensuring women have equal opportunities and equal pay.

Our recent research She’s Price(d)less found that without deeply understanding the drivers of the pay gap it is not possible to design effective interventions to address it.

She’s Price(d)less found that those key drivers are gender discrimination, the impact of unpaid caring and workforce participation, and the type of jobs and industries that women work in.

It is time to progress to the ‘doing the work’ phase on the gender pay gap and as the Summit approaches we see a fair bit of doing. The government will adopt the Respect@Work recommendations, care is on the agenda, and there’s the intention of making pay equity an objective of the Fair Work Act.

The gender pay-gap and experience of women at work is on the agenda – good and overdue. Diversity dimensions are many, often intersecting and compounding in their impact. There is more to do about the experiences of those from marginalised groups, and especially those who experience marginalisation at the intersections of personal and structural disadvantage.

A focus on D&I can help us tackle the major systemic drivers of some of the issues in focus for the Summit, for the economy and for the country, should not be under-estimated, under-stated or undervalued.

The work of diversity and inclusion can deliver for all those heading to, and represented at the Summit and, just as importantly, for those on the sidelines.

Lisa Annese is CEO of Diversity Council Australia.