M2woman Journey to Excellence 21 June 2019 Forum: Audience Q&A on Diversity & Inclusion

On Friday 21 June, 450 guests at Pullman Auckland joined an expert panel of business leaders to discuss the hurdles to Diversity & Inclusion in the workplace and define the solutions. The panel featured Rebecca Thomas, Founder and CEO of Mint Asset Management; Kaye-Maree Dunn, Director of Indigital Blockchain Limited; Kristen Lunman, FinTech Innovator and Founder of Hatch; and Dean Taylor, CEO and Founder of Contagion. Hosted by broadcaster Carly Flynn, the panel discussed hurdles they’ve experienced while trying to challenge the status quo, while also looking at solutions that we can all take back to our workplace. The following is the audience Q&A that followed the panel discussion.

Carly Flynn: Dean, as a leader in communications what campaign would you run to effect change in diversity and inclusion?

Dean Taylor: We’re doing a campaign at the moment for a charity called Spend My Super which is just being launched in about three weeks’ time. It’s $300M dollars’ worth of retirement funds that don’t get claimed in New Zealand. This is going out to the wealthy New Zealand saying ‘Hey, pledge your super to this charity’, and it’s all about case charities.

Essentially this is the ad that we did about diversity. You’ll see a factory and there’s thousands of babies going down a conveyor belt. Every fourth one gets pushed off for a less fortunate future. At the end of the ad they say: ‘You can make a difference. You can change this factory.’

All the charities and the strategies are very similar. All the charities are children’s charities. This has been a lucky generation who are coming through, coming towards the end of their lives.

So their legacy is feeding back into the future of New Zealand to be better, more diverse, more equal opportunities for everybody in their own inspiration and ambition. That will be out in about three weeks, it’s been a good thing to be involved with.

CF: Kristin, do you think there is a skill shortage in New Zealand? Or do we have our eyes closed to some untapped talent out there?

Kristen Lunman: I don’t think there’s a skill shortage at all. I grew up in Canada, though my family’s from here, so I’ve just come back full circle, and I’ve been astounded by the creativity. I think we design some of the best products in the world here in New Zealand and so, as a leader in innovation space looking to innovate, there’s absolutely no shortage in my pipeline to grab great people.

CF: Kaye-Maree, with the buzz of diversity and inclusion discussion and conversation, surely progress is to start increasing in the next few years, but what do you foresee in holding this up?

Kaye-Maree Dunn: If we are comfortable with a particular perspective and an idea about how the world is and what it should look like, then we’re going to be restricted by that. I think that’s probably your number one barrier.

Secondly, if we think about the recruitment of talent, what kind of questions are we asking and where are we actually casting our net? When you ask the previous question about a skill shortage, how many people here have caught a taxi and the driver of that taxi is so well qualified, they’re a doctor?

I’ve been driven around by a bone doctor, a paediatrician. All sorts of skills, but we are unable to utilise those skills and that talent, and that also exists within New Zealand communities. I think we have all the solutions that need to solve all the wicked problems that we’re facing right now. It’s just an openness and a creative way to enable those solutions to be brought to life.

I think it’s really important to test on what your values are as a business and how can you test those desirable behaviours, as opposed to ‘do you have the experience? Or have you done this?’ Because we know people that oversell and undersell themselves.

We certainly test on growth mindset, drive, passion, hunger and then how can this person contribute to the mission? And that can come from all different skillsets.

CF: Rebecca, does your business put as much emphasis on disability, cultural, age diversity, as it does on gender?

Rebecca Thomas: Yes, it does. We’ve got a very, very diverse workforce. We’ve got the most diverse workforce of anybody in our industry, both by age and by gender. And so yes, we do, we do. We practice what we preach in terms of a business. There are way too few women in finance. That is a factor. We deal with a lot of Iwi clients. We’ve got 14 Iwi that invest with us and we participate in developing their capability around financial skills when they work with us.

KL: I’m the oldest on my team, which, although I think it’s old, it’s not. We can improve in that way, absolutely. We’ve got gender parity, but we’re not representative of New Zealand yet. We’ve got some work to do.

KM: We run the risk of being in the echo chamber. I was at an Asia New Zealand hui. They held a really amazing hui. The young people that are coming through are just next level leadership qualities.

We had different migrant, refugee, individuals that were speaking Te Reo Maori like it was not a thing. It was just completely normal and natural, and they kept asking why is this not normal and natural.

I’m finding that the millennial communities and a lot of young people are actually normalising Te Reo Maori in a way that’s quite amazing.

There is safety and security within Te Tiriti O Waitangi. But when there aren’t enough support systems embedded in and around you, then what do you do? It made me realise that, although I am an advocate for our people, I also have to use that privilege to open doors for other people as well.

We just have to also be conscious that we are bringing people in with us. Because Aotearoa is for all of us, not just a few.

DT: We’re looking at people who believe in great ideas and a brighter day and they believe in their clients and their co-workers. Those are the questions. Who is the best person for the job? That’s really where we come from.

CF: What would you say is the most difficult part of implementing a diversity and inclusion programme?

DT: We went through this about four years ago. We decided to change how we were hiring, and we made a particular effort to go out and try and find Mums returning to work.
We had to change quite a few things in the company, and I suppose through ignorance, we didn’t know whether it was going to work, and actually it’s been the most outstanding thing we’ve ever done.

It’s about putting yourself in uncomfortable positions. Thinking about things in different ways. Whether it’s decisions about ourselves or decisions about your organisation. If you’ve got a hunch that it’s going to be right, it probably is going to be right. And I think that’s the thing for us. You’re looking for great people who want to do a great days work and be fulfilled with that work.

RT: We haven’t had any problems because we started really with a desire to build, a business with the best people from a range of backgrounds. New Zealand, historically, has not been a shining star in the world of financial services, so naturally we looked for a very diverse and broad group of people to come together.

We call ourselves the ‘United Nations of Funds Management’ as a business. We have New Zealanders as well, but we have a real mixture of people.

Important things that are around flexible working. I think our men appreciate the opportunity to do childcare. We’ve just had a guy who’s just been on Paternity Leave. We’re in that age now where we’ve got a number of people who are just starting to have families. It’s just part of our DNA. We didn’t change.

We just started from a position of wanting to hire the best people and giving them the best environment in which they could work.

CF: If you could offer one piece of advice to the audience today about cultural, age, disability, what would it be?

DT: Try to see the world through their eyes. That’s the biggest thing for me in our business. With staff, try to understand their position. If you only ever see things from your perspective, it’s quite a linear world.

KL: I like to be uncomfortable. I think that’s really important to be uncomfortable and challenge ourselves that we all have biases, and to be okay with that.

KD: I think ask good questions. Ask yourself ‘Am I doing the very best that I can to cast my net as far as I can to get the greatest talent in the room? And then the other one is, ask for help. If you don’t know how to do something, just ask. Somebody somewhere will have the answer.

We talked about the beauty of the internet. The good and the bad. Auntie Google’s a pretty amazing tool these days of asking, how do we do this? Or how can I connect or engage with people? We feel shy. Nobody wants to look silly, or not on top of things. But we’re also not asking really great questions and I’d like to encourage people to not feel shy to ask for help when you need it.

RT: I think that in any business, often the tone is set from the top and so the culture that the main leader creates in the business, which is that she can be called an idiot by anybody who actually works for her, that she’s willing to make mistakes herself and admit to them.

That environment of encouraging people to engage with one another and then a healthy debate is really the best culture to have in a business, and nobody’s got a linear view of what’s right.

CF: What is your company’s view or stance with flexibility? Because it seems to be easier for Senior Management to ask and get what they want.

DT: I’m a big believer that Senior Management should be by a long way the hardest working in the company and flexibility should apply to everyone. If you’re not offering flexibility I just think it’s morally corrupt.

How do you ask for flexibility? I think people don’t have a problem with it if you set out your policies that you’re flexible in the first place. My wife and I have an interesting system. I tend to get up around 4:30 in the morning, but I finish work around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. My wife likes starting work at 9:30, but she likes finishing at around 6:30. You try to find things around that.
I understand that we have a company. However, there’s got to be an element of flexibility because the work has to get done and there’s a trust with your staff that you’ve hired the right people and they’re going to get the work done. There’s a mutual trust going on that you don’t even need to ask because the work gets done.

KL: It’s not even questioned that I work with technology. We can work from home and so, while I love being in the office just for that feeling of comradery, it’s not obligatory. Mondays are great because we have meetings on Mondays.

We have lots of people who do creche drop offs, and school pick ups, and not once would we ever introduce someone as part-time. This is something that I was horrified in early years, is that the Mum’s were introduced as part time. ‘Oh, she’s part time,’ even though you knew that she’s pulling out five days of work in a four-day period.

Flexible work for us, even if it ends up being four days of working time, I know the output is a full-time job. And with technology, we don’t even question it. It’s inherent in our culture.

KD: I feel that I’ve been very lucky in my career in that what I deem is normal is actually quite abnormal in the workplace. We’re very whanau-orientated. As long as you get the mahi done, wherever you’re working from, should be sweet. If you need time off for your family.

We have Tangihanga leave which is where you need to maintain your cultural obligations to your family, hui events. We recognise that by you participating in those cultural activities, it actually makes you a better worker, or a better contributor, rather to the vision of the company.

I found it quite strange that businesses expect you to leave your culture at the door and that you have to become a bit of a robot. I’m seeing that workplaces are becoming much more open and flexible both to mothers and fathers so that they can actually maintain what is the fabric of society, and that’s our families.

That really has been my normal. I expect it to be so, and therefore I put that on the table pretty much on the get go. But we also welcome that from people coming up in the workforce and therefore can we ask those questions to newcomers to say ‘Do you have any whanau obligations that you might need to take care of? And can we create this space of that to be okay?’

RT: We’ve got that culture, but the reason it works is because everybody supports everybody else. Everybody knows this is the norm and a guy is going to pick his children up from school at 3 o’clock and somebody’s got a new baby and they’re not getting any sleep, so he needs to go home. It’s just the norm.

DT: We have a big sign over our workplace that says ‘New Zealand business does help’. The business makes New Zealand a better place. I think it’s easy to vilify business. But business feeds families, it brings opportunity and it’s being proud that you’re in business and creating that opportunity.

The Tall Poppy Syndrome in New Zealand is unusual and we should aim to knock that down because prosperity brings prosperity to all families.

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