Journey To Excellence Full Panel Discussion – Part 2

On Friday 15 February, 300 guests at Cordis 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 Tui Te Hau, Director of Public Engagement at National Library of New Zealand; Kate Daly, Director of People and Communications at BNZ; Rob Campbell, Chair of Skycity Entertainment Group; and Vanessa Sorenson, Enterprise Director of Microsoft New Zealand. 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 second half of the transcript of the panel discussion that first appeared in M2woman March/April 2019 issue.

I’m interested to hear your thoughts on quotas because it’s something this country doesn’t want to legislate, but if you look at other countries that do have some quotas, that’s where they’re making the biggest impact with diversity.

Tui Te Hau: I’ve definitely benefited from being a Māori woman and being able to apply for scholarships and those sorts of things. I won a scholarship with Global Women and I could never have done that programme without having won that scholarship.

And on the other hand, I’m like, ‘But no, don’t judge me. I’m not just Māori, I’m all these other things’. So I’m in between these two worlds. I could not have had those opportunities, but also, I am more than just that part of me.

Kate Daly: I was quite anti targets because I, as a female, wanted to be on a leadership team because I wanted males to respect me. I wanted to be there because I was good enough, not because they had to put me on because I was a female. But, when I look at the only countries in the world that are making meaningful progress, it’s the Nordics and they have quotas.

We’ve been at this now for 10 years as a country. We’ve had Male Champions of Change and we’ve had all these great initiatives, but we’ve made no progress. Maybe it does take something really bold like quotas to force spillage on boards and execs to get the talent through. The talent is there, I think we just look for a stereotypical type of talent. So, unless we meaningfully make progress, that’s the fastest and best way to do it, from what you can see internationally.

There’s the argument around quotas that it’s just box ticking. So, do you as the employer manage that, Vanessa?

Vanessa Sorenson: I was also dead against it and looking at it, it hasn’t changed. It’s really, really, really tough. But certainly, within Microsoft, we’re really struggling to encourage women to go for the technical roles. I spend my personal time going out to schools, in fact even trying to encourage my own 13 year old daughter to consider a career in tech, and she wants to be a dancer!

It is still really, really tricky, so what I’ve done since I’ve been at Microsoft, is our leaders have to actually showcase that they have absolutely interviewed and gone out themselves to tap women on the shoulder. We’re going to give them that opportunity, because you can teach anyone the stuff. If we can’t teach people when they start and actually give them the time and energy, if they’ve got all of the other values, then actually that’s our bad.

We’ve been very lucky to have a whole heap of new roles come in for Microsoft locally, and I’m so proud to say that 70 percent were female, because we had to go out there and find them. It wasn’t simple, we had to sit down and say, ‘No, this isn’t that boring engineering coding role. You’re going to go out there and talk transformation with businesses. You’re going to be in the thick of what they’re doing, this excitement and round journey’. It’s phenomenal.

I think some of the guys are sitting there going ‘holy crap’. In fact I heard that the other day, they’re going, ‘Well what about us?’ So, I was like ‘Yeah, what about you? You’ve got to change as well’. That’s for everybody.

Rob Campbell: I think the issue here is misunderstood. There are already quotas at board level. There are quotas for white men and we find white men to fill board positions, whether they’re qualified or not. So, all that we’re going to do, all we need to address is, what is the quality of the quotas we’re applying. It’s like any other business issue: you do need to measure it, you do need to establish targets, and you do need to explicitly try and work towards it. So I have absolutely no problem with quotas; the problem is the quota is the wrong one at the moment.

I know you’re not a big believer in unconscious bias, Rob. So, how do you bring that unconscious bias or conscious bias to the fore and help people walk in other people’s shoes and get that empathy?

RC: It is a fact that men come through on a production line, just as women come through on a production line, they just happen to be different ones. Our top management are largely produced on something like the production line that you’ve talked about. We have to disrupt that in some way and that’s a responsibility of leaders to make sure that we do disrupt that.

That does require some interventions, such as quotas. It requires some interventions, such as re-education of some of these people on the way through. We’ve got a responsibility to expose people who are in our management groups to a wider range of experiences so that they can achieve that. But the best thing to do is to simply get on with it. I’m not a great believer in unconscious bias, other than the fact that if you really were not aware of the need for more diversity at the board level, then you are genuinely unconscious. I do think we let people off on this. These outcomes are conscious. People want the outcomes to be the way they are and that’s how they get maintained and replicated; they don’t happen by accident. The only way we change that is by having quite strong interventions and quite strong leadership, otherwise they’ll just go on being replicated.

Is there a sense in New Zealand business that we’re all looking after ourselves?

VS: I think what systematically is happening now, is the new buzz word ‘agile’. I think that’s going to be a flow-on, rather than ‘where do you want to get to?’ Taking on things that you wouldn’t otherwise, so then you are letting go of some of those things. Microsoft’s a pretty flat structure. I was quite surprised by that. To get more out of situations, you just have to collaborate.

I’ve learnt that bringing people in consciously, the mild-mannered ones or the people that sometimes you would just talk over, I certainly as a leader have made a massive shift in my own mind around that. I think those are going to change. I think a lot more flat structures, a lot more agile sprint teams, getting rid of general managers, they’ll then become vice-presidents. That will make a massive shift to that and take on things that you wouldn’t otherwise. Collaborating and getting the best outcome is when you totally include the people you wouldn’t normally otherwise.

I’d like to hear from you just finally before we ask for some take homes, how can we fix this? The numbers are not improving, they’re not improving at all.

KD: I think it’s genuinely a top down, bottom up. I think organisations have to focus on the pipeline coming in, they have to be very overt around Māori, Pasifika, and gender, and making sure that there’s a really good balance coming in. We are doing a lot now. Females have kids and they decide they don’t want to come back to work because they actually want to stay at home, and that’s fine, that’s great. If you know you’re going to have a cliff between 32 and 36 of women leaving, you’ve actually got to overcompensate for that somewhere before they get to that age, so that you don’t have this massive drop-off of people.

I think organisations have to be overt. They absolutely have to look at pay parity, because we know that that is when a person’s career accelerates the most, between 30 and 40, in terms of your seniority and how quickly you move up an organisation. It’s when your pay accelerates the most and it’s when females are off on maternity leave. I think organisations have to address that as a part of the problem to bringing females back.

I think there has to be some sort of top down drive around quotas and making it happen, because until you get really strong board, senior management, middle management, populations that have a lot more diversity, I don’t think you’ll really create the culture where diversity is celebrated. I don’t know what it feels like to be a Māori or Pasifika, who has grown up in a low socio-economic environment and have to come in and survive in a corporate.

My parents were corporates so that’s what I know and that’s why I’ve been successful. I don’t know what it feels like to be them, I don’t know what it feels like to be gay, I don’t know what it feels like be in the communities that we need to fix this. I think it won’t be until we get really good representation from those groups and people who actually know how it feels and actually have empathy from a personal level.

TT: I think organisations, corporates, New Zealand, need to focus on actually what the benefits of diversity are. What is the value of us having more diversity? This is the right thing to do, it’s going to make my business better, it’s going to make the nation better. I think that’s a place to start; that’s the external.
With internal, it’s more women, more Māori and Pasifika, people of minorities, putting our hands up and saying, ‘I want to do this, I’m up for it.’ Then as part of that, calling on support, and the rest of us supporting.

Also, check your bias. I recently did unconscious bias training and I was like, ‘I’m a Māori woman, I’ve got this sorted. I know what that’s all about.’ Actually I’m a bias machine! Actually being aware of your own bias and how can actually enable more people to come on through.

Was the unconscious bias training useful?

TT: Yeah, they talked about how merit is a way that actually we exclude people. Also team fit, ‘Oh, will they fit with the team? I’ve got this team that looks like this and I’m just not sure if they’re going to fit in.’ That’s a big way that we exclude a whole lot of people.

One of the things that it’s taken me a long time to realise, is that it would be great if we learnt all our lessons with unicorns bouncing on rainbows that came and said, ‘Here’s life’s lesson.’ That often doesn’t happen like that. So that kind of tension sometimes, not too much of it, but that is what creates things and we shouldn’t be afraid of that. You need to manage it and not have it get out of control, but actually a little bit of difference is actually all right.

VS: I think challenge with respect. I think we’ve all got to take a look. Anybody here that’s a leader, that’s bringing on people, we just have to be the change. Hats off to the banking industry, there are three incredible women leading these large banks in New Zealand. We’ve got to see more of that.

There is a movement and we need to be having the continued conversation. I certainly feel way more valued and supported than I did 20 years ago. Looking at the young women entering our business and hearing them saying they really do feel included.

We’ve got an incredible LGBTI community, including an amazing guy called Stephen. We were asked to do a careers day conversation at Baradene College where my daughter goes and I took Stephen. We’re there in the chapel and he opens and says, ‘Hi, I’m an openly gay man.’ His speech was all about feeling empowered to come to work being his authentic self and that he felt supported.

I was just going ‘Wow, this is what it’s got to be about.’ My advice is be the change in this room. Go and ask and absolutely challenge with respect.

Find an incredible leader like Vanessa. The fact that you’ve got employees that are that comfortable in their skin is a real testimony to how you’re doing it.

RC: I do believe our society is changing for the better and that we are making enormous progress in respect to many of these issues. We’re just not making it in the area where I work primarily, which is a bit of a disappointment.

The thing I believe is that it’s like any other addiction. If you’re addicted to gender and equality, it’s probably because you think you benefit from it. To break people from it, you need to stage intervention. So you need people to be pretty firm about the harm it’s doing to the individuals in your business or in your community. You need to be firm about the harm that it’s doing to the people at the top too.

I think the biggest thing we can all do here is recognise that we’re all imposters. I’m an imposter, half the time I don’t know what I’m doing and I’m making it up as I go along. That’s true of your Chief Executive as well. That really sexist person who’s insisting that you must have someone who looks like this or that to come on to the board or in that position – they are as insecure as you feel about your job as well. They may project security, but it’s almost certainly, in my experience, not true.

What we’ve got to do is be open about the fact that we’re all imposters. We’re all trying to make it up, we’re all trying to do the best we can, and sometimes you just have to intervene to make it change.

KD: I agree with Rob. I feel very positive about the generation coming through. They’re very socially aware, socially conscious. They really passionately believe in diversity, it’s just a way of life for them. They don’t actually see it as a problem. We’ve got an amazing generation of people coming through, it’s just they’re 20 years away.

Audience Questions

I work for a reasonably large company, female CEO, all male board and senior leadership team. It’s very clear that she is very happy being the only rose among those thorns. What do we do about women who sabotage women?

KD: Be honest and tell them.

RC: It’s not uncommon, I’ve observed that. Just this week, I’ve had a situation where there was a woman who the board and senior management team thought should be appointed to a role. So we arranged for the woman to meet with a couple of our senior executives. She came in and spent the hour talking to the men and ignored the woman. And the woman, I’m very pleased, complained about it and said she didn’t think she would make a very good member of the team and told us why. I think that was really good.

It does happen and I’ve seen it in many instances in my currently and past working life. I think it is part of that insecurity and imposter syndrome. The only answer I can really see for it is for us to develop the ability for that radical candor, that ability for people to speak up without it seeming like a personal attack. Without us needing to feel that we have to be defensive about it, but look at the issue in a more caring way and more thoughtful way. Your observation is right and the only answer I can see, it’s just another version of the insecurity issue to me.

KD: I would talk to her. I have worked for someone similar and I just said to her, ‘You need to be a role model for diversity within the organisation. We need to work on a plan and a programme and think about how we want this to turn out for our people.’ Work them through what that looks like for the organisation and then get to the glaringly obvious gap.

I would sit with her and try and get the buy-in around what we want to do from an organisation and how we’re going to see that move. What we want to do to develop females in the organisation and then get to the, ‘Well they’re looking up and this is what they see.’

TT: It’s hard to know what’s going on in her world. I work with a lot of younger female entrepreneurs and they’re so amazing and they’re so accomplished at such a young age. I had to check myself because I found I was in a situation with a number of them where they would say ‘I want to do this and I want to do that.’ I’m thinking in the back of my mind unconsciously, ‘Oh, that took me a really long time to get this. I’m thinking you’ve got to earn your stripes.’

And I went, ‘Hang on, you’re actually holding back these women.’ I had this assumption that they had to earn their stripes, they had to go through the same hardships that I did. Those next generations coming through, maybe they’re leapfrogging me and that’s great. It’s amazing how even when you feel that you are really dedicated to the course, you do still have to check yourself.

How do you get Māori and Pasifika people to put their hands up for more leadership roles?

TT: In my world with start-ups, there were just hardly any Māori and Pasifika businesses coming through. What I decided is that we have to plant seeds. It is about developing programmes and it is about building that pipeline.
One of the things that I’ve really come to embrace is the book Wayfinding Leadership. It’s actually a very New Zealand indigenous leadership model. It’s based on the fact that a lot of our ancestors found their way here on boats that weren’t very seaworthy, travelling huge distances using their understanding of celestial navigation and ocean currents. In a lot of the workshops that I lead, I talk about those frameworks, drawing on our heritage.
The future is so chaotic and so dynamic, we need to be drawing on all of these different frameworks for New Zealand to survive. What I found is putting it into the talent that leadership is actually in our DNA.

VS: It’s early days, but one of the things that we’ve done is team up with other enterprises. Air New Zealand is a great example. We’re going out to communities that otherwise we wouldn’t touch. We’re doing a hui down at the Viaduct and getting a lot of these school children in to go, ‘You could work here.’

We’ve got to inspire and open our doors, because it’s not the most inclusive environment. Our partnership with TupuToa and Ngati Whatua, we’re increasing the interns coming in. Next Saturday, I’m presenting out at Manukau to show they could have a job in this type of organisation.

It is one step at a time and it’s something that we’re very, very passionate about. I think it’s beneficial to link up with other similar organisations, so your efforts are joined up, rather than everybody doing a smaller similar thing.

KD: When I was at Fletcher Building, we put a leadership programme called Whakatipu in place. It was specific for our Māori future leaders and the whole programme was really built around how we gave them the tools to be comfortable putting their hand up. It was about their leadership, their personal why, connecting to what was important to them, and then understanding how to navigate corporates.

We partnered them with a Māori leader in the organisation and we built career plans with them. We got their manager involved and then we managed it from a very planned way. When we had roles that came up, they were uncontested, that person was directly appointed and then we put really strong support and mentoring around them to make sure that they were successful. That worked really well. They had 50 percent promotion rate off that programme with 18 months.

RC: I think these programmes are very important and they are a genuine responsibility for businesses. There’s a lot happening in communities in this respect, getting themselves organised and getting together. There’s a group who are self-organised from within the Māori community in the north. They are doing a lot of work in bringing people together and introducing them to businesses and preparing them for entry to these sorts of products.
There’s a very interesting young guy who is from Tokoroa, who has got a thing called Tumeke Enterprise. He goes around schools and he’s organised quite a big hui in Auckland. His next hui is in Tokoroa to get young people along to meet with and spend time with people from business, often quite senior business people. I have great hope in those self-generated community organisations and our need is to link up with them and to blow a bit of warm air on the embers that they’re creating and bring it through.

KD: We partnered with Michael Moka, who runs a company called Indigenous Growth. He also helped build out ASB’s Whakataria, so he’s quite experienced, he built the programme. He would be well worth talking to, to help you build something out like that.

I came to New Zealand four years ago from Russia. We’re talking about all those minorities, women, Māori, LGBTI, but there’s one more; immigrants. I haven’t heard one story saying that they came to New Zealand and they were welcomed to the workforce. Do you think it’s a bias? And is there anything that can be done?

KD: That’s an absolute bias. I speak quite a bit at HR events and I talk on this topic frequently, having had a friend who had gone through it as well. It is one of the worst things that we put in place—you don’t have New Zealand experience. But you might happen to have come from India and work for a company of millions and millions of people and had experience 10 times what anything in New Zealand could give you. It’s terrible and it’s something everyone in here as a hiring manager can address. Give someone a chance. We have some amazing people coming into this country.

My sister-in-law ran Accentures Mergers and Acquisition Legal Team globally and she can’t get a contract general counsel job because she doesn’t have New Zealand experience. She is one of the top global M&A lawyers and no one wants to talk to her.

How do you get New Zealand experience if no one wants to give you a chance? I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s a real issue. We bring people into this country because of their skills and education and then we don’t give them a chance. We all have a role to play in trying to address that.

VS: We’re pretty lucky at Microsoft because people globally want to come to New Zealand because they’ve already been part of the organisation. We’re really fortunate we have a huge representation of different people.
But it’s events like this, it’s speaking up, it is the good old-fashioned networking. We are a culture that loves recommending people. Don’t give up, keep having a voice, reach out to leaders. The amount of people that reach out and say, ‘Can I meet with you?’ A lot of times you will get a yes. Be a specific around what you’re wanting to do and hook onto someone that can help you.

When you were talking about the bullying response, you used the term whistleblower. It’s quite a negative term. Do we need to actually start changing the language and terms we use to describe these things?

KD: The term whistleblower is punitive and not constructive. I think of all the cases I’ve been involved in where people have stood up and spoken up, they’re enormously courageous. It’s a very difficult thing for them to do, because they have a fear of repercussions and often the complaints are about their boss or a co-worker. They make it knowing that their work environment is going to forever be different and difficult. They’re normally very courageous and I have a huge amount of respect for people who do that. I agree, I think whistleblower is not a particularly positive term.