M2woman Journey to Excellence Forum – 21 June 2019: Panel Discussion

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 second half of the transcript of the panel discussion. The first half of transcript appeared in M2woman July / August 2019 issue.

 

Carly Flynn: Often the argument for quotas is that you’re not appointing on merit. Does it just make it harder for you to look a bit deeper for more diverse candidates?

Dean Taylor: I hear a lot of blokes saying, ‘Oh, they only got in because it’s a quota.’ It’s their excuse. The other interesting thing about quotas is when you’ve got ambition, you want to see that people like you can achieve that. Maybe there’s an echo in quotas that’s going to come through a generation of people getting on board, so people now, in their twenties and thirties go, ‘Well, actually I want that. I can see that, I can get that and it’s actually attainable.’

We shouldn’t forget the amount of social change we’ve gone through in the last 20 years and where we’ve come from. I think quotas could be a way of enforcing that social change to get things moving so people can see that that is possible and then the meritocratic way will actually come through.

Rebecca Thomas: Jayne Hrdlicka, to me, is the best example that to be very successful in that role and she has tangibly been very successful in terms of that business. I think that’s a great role model that will bring people on and will bring them through. The worst position, and I have seen it on boards, is women who have been appointed because the Crown has decided that they’re going to have a 40%.

It does not serve those women well to be in that position. Often a number of male colleagues will pressure them and actually make their life more difficult. I don’t think it serves women well that have found themselves in those positions and I’ve seen that work in a very negative way. The best example is to be bloody successful and for people to follow you in that role.

CF: What are the ways that women can ensure that they can be successful and continue upskilling?

RT: Stretch assignments is the thing I always say. Those of you that have read Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and looked at the various strategies that she comes up with. Put yourself out of your comfort zone in order to propel yourself forward at a faster pace, take on roles that you’re not comfortable with. Building new skills by doing that is a big part of developing.

CF: Can they get there in the first place? Is that where self-confidence and authenticity comes in?

RT: No, I think that imposter syndrome thing comes out. They do think they need 12/10 points in order to be qualified to apply. The man thinks he needs four and he’s fully qualified to apply. I think that is about self-confidence.

CF: We need to ditch imposter syndrome, don’t we?

Kaye-Maree Dunn: Yeah, that’s hard. Just going back to the quota conversation. I think that particular part is around equity and so you’re already way, way, below the starting block for circumstances beyond your control. I see quotas as an opportunity to help reset the balance. However, you still have to earn your place.

Ultimately, it’s been my experience and my observation. If I look at the medical profession, many people will moan about the fact that there are quota systems for Maori and Pasifika doctors. But if we look at the quality of those doctors that have come through that quota system, it wasn’t just based on their ability to compete with other doctors in the room. They actually bought a whole stack of wonderful soft relational skills that enabled them to forge great relationships with their clients, with their patients. That’s the magic that can come when you actually open the door.

I just see quotas being an opportunity to open a door to other people. I’ve also seen it with young people. Where our boards will say ‘We’ll have these token young people come and hang out with us.’ But in actuality, they realise by opening the door, these young people bring some great perspectives, great ideas, that they would never have allowed in if they didn’t open the door.

Ultimately, if we’re ever in a position to get people through the door, we have to say ‘You’ve got to keep your place. You’ve got to be competitive.’ That leads into your second question Carly, which is around success. Even though I did say men and women are equal, it does piss me off somewhat when you’re applying for a role, or you’re in a position, and your male colleague is getting paid more, but you’re doing the same job.

I actually don’t understand that. If we are doing exactly the same mahi, yet a male colleague right across the board, whether or not it’s in the private or the public sector, they’re still being paid more. I still don’t understand that.

CF: That’s a confidence thing though isn’t it? Isn’t that a man asking for what he wants and what he believes he’s worth?

KM: This is an inherent bias that could be taking place in the workplace, and that’s a multi-layered challenge. Are we shy to ask for what we believe we deserve? Is it that men tend to do that more? Do we feel shy, or ashamed, but want to be recognised for what it is that we do? I think that’s multi layered, but a bit of a challenge too.

Kristen Lunman: Growing up, I excelled in sport. I competed at a national level with a couple of sports. In school, I made sure I was graduating top of my class. The world was my oyster, wasn’t it? Until I landed in an organisation where the first ten years of my career was flailing. I was hungry. I’ve always had a growth mindset. I liked to win. And I just couldn’t break though, so I actually bounced around three organisations because I kept coming up against these barriers that I could not climb over.

I now chalk that up to that I didn’t have a male sponsor, so I was reliant upon a male to pull me over those barriers. Keep in mind this is probably over 20 years ago. I’m still angry about that which is why I’m involved in this space. With respect to pay, I sat next to a guy who made $35,000 more than me. We were hired at the exact same time for the exact same role.

Now, you’re right, I didn’t negotiate it because I didn’t know how, so that’s the first thing. But really? $35,000. I think of what that could be invested in my retirement. It’s not okay. Women coming in to our office, I say ‘What are your salary expectations?’ I make sure that I have equal gender representation going through the recruitment process.

CF: What do the women say when you say that?

KL: Well the men actually are aware of the market rates and so they will just state a number. Now, I don’t know how much research they’ve gone into and if they’re aware of their worth.
Women say, ‘Well, I’m currently on this salary and it would be great to make this,’ and they will go three to five thousand higher than that salary. Now, I would never pay them that. I could because then I can hire two people, but I won’t do that.

CF: I’ve noticed a change in the representation of the media that I’m seeing, whether it’s in billboards, or ad campaigns, in that it is more diverse. Is this what clients are asking for you?

DT: Absolutely, and there’s nothing to motivate commercial people than commerciality. We absolutely want to show a breadth of ethnicity and show a modern New Zealand. But if you go to any advertising agency in New Zealand, you won’t find ethnic diversity at all. Why would you have a load of privately educated white people advertising to a country that doesn’t reflect them whatsoever?

I think there’s a conscious effort now to make sure that you go out. Is it done for the right reasons? I’m not sure. It’s probably done because social media will kick up hell if it doesn’t happen. I think that’s probably half the reason. The great thing about social media is that everybody’s got a voice, we’re shining a light on this now. People can’t get away with it.

YouTube came out in 2005, Facebook in 2004, so all of this social change has happened for the right reasons because everybody’s got a voice now. The world broadcasts back, so I think that’s a good thing.

KD: It’s a challenge. Ultimately, this is a conversation around equity and there are a few layers inside of that. The impact of colonisation here in Aotearoa -what does that mean? How does that impact our frames and our thinking?

The second layer on top of that is the quality of our incomes here in Aotearoa. This is about class. We’ve got colonisation and then we’ve got another one around class. Last week, I was on a panel with a woman who has cerebral palsy. The barriers that she faced in trying to get some work. She was highly qualified. She has her Masters in Religious Studies and some other amazing qualifications, but people only saw her disability. They didn’t see her ability. The third challenge that I see is our perception. So we’ve got this wonderful rainbow of people across the spectrum.
We’ve got the rainbow community. We’ve got those with access and ability needs. You’ve got Maori and Pasifika needs and requirements. The truth is in a workplace, it’s pretty hard. It’s pretty hard to feel like you’re doing the right thing and try and keep everybody happy, but also know I’m actually operating from my own lens, my own bias. It’s been really interesting seeing workplaces take on these unconscious bias workshops and start to talk about unconscious bias.

There’s also this other layer which is around institutional racism. For us to be exploring and talking, so what does that mean for an individual applying for a role? Firstly, are we even getting to the starting plate? Are workplaces even looking for amazing diverse talent in some of the diverse communities here in Tamaki Makaurau? Everybody’s putting a lot of attention into the poverty of South Auckland. That’s one perspective, but do you see the riches of South Auckland? The riches of the families and the communities that love one another, that will give their last dollar to their neighbour, that share their food, that laugh and play. They love their culture. There’s this wonderful added layer of New Zealand society that a lot of people aren’t aware of because of the lens that we hold.

Then on top of that is around privilege. Of course, I could talk about all the challenges and the fact that, from a deficit perspective, Maori and Pasifika people could be considered bottom of the heap. But in actuality, that narrative is changing quite significantly. We’re seeing more Maori and Pasifika people coming through feeling confident and capable and competent in their culture and the doors are opening because people are realising that that perspective is a rich one that will add so much value and a competitive advantage to the marketplace.

DT: We work very closely with Tourism New Zealand and it’s now the biggest factor that we’re marketing across the world. The Maori culture is our uniqueness to the world. Our topography can be replicated everywhere, but Maori and their stories and the nature of storytelling is something that should absolutely be treasured by every New Zealander.

I’ve done research groups in the UK and America, about what people want from New Zealand, and Maori culture is absolutely the number one thing that they want. They want to learn, and New Zealand Tourism have got a great saying, which we live by, which is: you arrive as a visitor, you leave as whanau. It is a wonderful way to look at how people come to this country.

CF: Sam Stubbs talked about not investing in New Zealand companies that haven’t improved on their diversity within five to seven years. Nothing like pulling money from companies to make them sit up and think, right?

RT: We’re looking for diversity. We’re obviously looking through a financial lens, as well. But we’re looking at companies with a balanced scorecard and we’re trying to see that they score highly on that. And is there a reason for that? In our view, it’s about risk management. We associate good, diverse businesses as being less risky. They tend to be better run. If people identify trends early, then they can solve for them. It’s a proxy for a very well-run business.

CF: Kristin, what are the benefits of diversity to you?

KL: I’m in the innovation space and so from a selfish perspective, innovation needs creative tension. We need conflict and we need to rely on the facts. When you’re in a group that’s largely homogenous, you all tend to have similar viewpoints and you agree. It’s easy to get on with life when everyone agrees.

But in a diverse environment, and I’ve witnessed this through the last 10 years in this space, is that you actually do need that healthy tension and conflict and different viewpoints, because you can always go back to the metrics, and go back to the customer and what’s the best customer outcome and the best solution. For the innovation space, that’s certainly one of the most advantageous things that we’ve got going in our team.

I’m also very intrigued with this bottom up approach of investor activism and community movements. We’ve seen it with me too. We’re seeing backlash with Facebook. This is people getting together and fighting back as communities. While I think it is necessary to do top down approach, I’m also very supportive of this investor activism and supporting of not investing, not using companies because they don’t align with our values.

RT: Can I just say if you exclude companies they won’t change. By excluding them, you’re just telling them that they’re not part of our universe. You haven’t engaged them on the issues and what you want to see in order to make them of investable quality. That’s the long-term gain; actually engaging them to change. They don’t change straight away, it takes time.

DT: If you don’t invest in them, don’t they start to take notice and realise they’re missing out on this cash?

RT: I’m afraid not in New Zealand, no. The numbers just aren’t big enough and if you’re an index investor as Sam is, you’re going to invest in all of them anyway. You’re just buying a blanket allocation to the whole market. The way that things change is through a process of engagement.

DT: If companies with more diverse boards get invested in more than the ones who haven’t got diverse boards, isn’t that pressure in itself?

RT: Yeah, I think that does work if you’re at least having the conversation to start with. New Zealand has been very poor stewards of investor’s money. KiwiSaver has changed that. Sam’s wall of money argument is true. What’s changed is that lots of Mums and Dad’s in New Zealand own a bit of those companies through their KiwiSaver scheme. Historically, property has been the favoured asset class in New Zealand because it’s very tax advantaged. We are moving into a different phase around investment and I think that it will grow over time. It is very important that they are included in KiwiSaver schemes for a number of the companies.

DT: It’s a good time to be ambitious in New Zealand. It’s a good time to be everybody in New Zealand because we’ve seen everybody having a voice. People have to play ball now. If you do have a dream, you do want to be something, the chance of you getting it is much more likely now than it was in the dark days before the internet.

The internet’s a force for good and it’s a force for bad, but it has outed a lot of behaviour that was simply unacceptable. I think it is a good time to be ambitious and your goals can be more easily achieved.

CF: Rebecca, I just want to talk to you about getting more women into finance to make the industry more relatable.

RT: My starting position is that everybody should take responsibility for their own financial future. That’s a boring, dry subject and I understand why most people don’t bother with it. Apathy is a major issue. For me though, the change in New Zealand is going to come about. It’s a bottom up, under, top down.

The KiwiSaver and regular savings which are growing very rapidly are going to change people’s attitude to having those savings. People are going to recognise that they’ve actually got something that they’ve built up over time. That’s one of the main forces for good. But from a bottom up point of view, I do think that women need to educate themselves and, particularly the Government needs to do something around financial literacy.

Financial literacy is very low here by international standards. The Commission for Financial Capability put a curriculum together to put into New Zealand schools for financial literacy. The biggest change we could make is actually having that in the curriculum. Finding space in the curriculum which they say they can’t find. The Ministry of Education says they can’t find space in the curriculum now. But starting at school, starting early and then empowering everybody from the beginning, I think that’s the answer.

KD: I totally agree with Rebecca. What we found with Maori Women’s Development, Inc. is being whanau-centred around financial education. Enabling families to have conversations around their money story has been very, very empowering to understand not just the way that you spend cash, but to understand the world of economics and understand how money flows. To understand how banks work and also to understand this world which seems so far away for many whanau. This world of investing.

Coming back to that earlier question around equity and access. Our people don’t have ready access to the knowledge tools, and information to actually participate as equals in this economic system that runs Aotearoa. There have been lots of doors closed. Lots of information that’s not been made available. We are now having to lead the charge and not just learn about how to make your dollar stretch.

Because we’ve found that if you speak to a woman on the DPB who’s trying to raise her three children, she doesn’t have the capacity to be thinking about what am I going to do next week. She’s just got to think about right now. She’s got to feed her family. She’s got to make sure that the power goes, and she’s got to make sure she can get her kids to and from school. When you’ve got those levels of realities around finance, how do we work with that?

What we found is by enabling our people to talk about trade, to talk about mana. Because before money, here in Aotearoa, we had a whole other currency and in fact the bartering economy is quite strong. Because the reality is that many families have to survive. How do we survive without access to all of these tools and resources? That’s a major.

Then finally around business. There are a whole stack of amazing Maori and Pasifika women-led enterprises that would never get to see the light of day with many investment companies. There is a whole stack of organisations that are doing great work because their focus is on social wellbeing. If we look at this broadened view from governance around sustainability and diversity, the question that I also have for these organisations is: are you also knocking on the door of these communities that are doing great work? Trying to lift families out of poverty and working in a different way that you might be used to exploring and explaining.

I’m really excited and interested to see if we can actually kick down the doors so that our financial institutions and our investment companies can actually start to look at social enterprises, Maori enterprise and the other layers of the economy in a completely different way.

DT: There’s something we need to remember that most of us have only got a foot in one world, and they’ve only come from one world. I’m not saying everybody, because I don’t know everybody. But when you’ve had a foot in two worlds, it’s like the idea of global warming. You don’t really care about global warming if you’re struggling to put food on the table. You care about struggling to put food on the table.

It’s very interesting for us to look at it from a middle class point of view about what we think about diversity and what we think about this. But actually it’s about trying to put your mind with the people we’re talking about and where we come from, and the need to understand that a little bit more. Rather than just my point of view of my position in life.

CF: I’m interested in each of your thoughts to conclude around what programmes, what ideas, what changes, actually work to bring about real change?

DT: I’m a big believer in hard work and trying to create a life for yourself where you can achieve. You’re putting that around yourself. Being in a company that’s going to allow you to do it. A lot of companies I don’t think do allow diversity. They may say it, but are they putting things in place?

Childcare, flexible hours, all the rest of it, to make sure that you can work how you need to work to get the work done. Are you in the right place? Always believe in a brighter day and work extremely hard would be my view in that sense.

We have a rule at Contagion. Everyone can bring their dog to work, but it’s three barks and you’re out. It’s all about creating an environment that’s a family environment. We invite kids into the office during school holidays. We’ve got a room for the kids, we’ll give them iPads. They can do colouring in the office.

That’s where we talk about family values. It’s not just a morality thing, we embrace family. We think that’s the most important thing. We get more work out of people in four days a week from 9:00 till 2:00, than we would do people working seven days. We think it works extremely well for us.

RT: In terms of any advice to women that I mentor, I would say really understand the strategic value that you bring to the business. Have that mindset of what is the business objectives. How am I contributing to those? Be able to deeply understand those. Be able to communicate those. Be seen on really important projects. Say no to the ones that aren’t important and will allow for visibility.

With a respect to raising daughters, if any of those in the room have them, there are four traits that women CEO’s found at HBR. Harvard Business Review found the four traits that they found that these women had in common, was courage, resilience, managing ambiguity and risk taking.

There are four things to be very mindful of. I know it’s easy as a parent to say be careful, be careful. Are we encouraging them to be courageous, brave and not perfect, and resilient? Are we encouraging them to be okay with unstructured situations and not having a plan, and having to figure it on themselves, by themselves? Those are certainly traits that I try and pass on.

KL: I would invite all women and your daughters please to get into technology. Future technology is going to solve some of the biggest challenges that we have yet to face in the future and we need it to be inherently good. Right now it’s not inherently good because we have an imbalance in technology.

Women, particularly ambitious women, care about purpose. They care about outcomes and technology has to have positive outcomes, and again it can solve the world’s challenges.
Be a product designer. Design the products that we’re using on our phones of tomorrow. Design amazing things that will solve some of the world’s biggest challenges. Please consider a future, a career, a shift into technology or for your children.

KD: I echo that sentiment about encouraging more people to understand technology. It’s today and it’s the future. I’m definitely not going to say I am the voice of all Maori, because I’m not one. I don’t have the right to do that. I just have a view. But I definitely am strong to advocate for the need to have more of our people participating in the systems that govern and have quite significant impact on our lives.

I think we’ve got this view that Aotearoa New Zealand is a great country. We have a great country. It has been born off the backs of very hard-working New Zealanders that really care about their families, their work and doing good. But if we scratch below the surface and we reflect on what we saw take place in Christchurch, the recent foreweigh around Oranga Tamariki, significant impact on methamphetamine, and the fact that New Zealand is one of the highest users of meth in the world. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry here in this country and we’ve got some significant challenges ahead of us.

When I think about some solutions that we could deploy, just be smart collaborators. There’s plenty of money going around. What isn’t going around very well is that we keep talking to the same people and we keep trying to come up with great ideas without cross pollination. We tend to just stick with what we know. The challenge is how you can bring quite diverse groups together to enable us to work smarter together as individuals, as families, as communities.

My final thought is that everything starts off firstly in your mind, but secondly within the household. We need to start to focus in on the type of change that can happen as families. This is where the greatest conversation around our values, our capabilities and our desire for the future economic potential of Aotearoa actually sits around our dinner tables and having real conversations with our children about responsibility and our obligations to continue to make Aotearoa greater than what it is today.

RT: There are a lot of programmes at the moment. Most people’s inboxes are probably full of women in leadership conferences every five minutes. We’ve got fairly full employment in New Zealand. You can probably find a job if you’re not happy where you are. I would say find a culture and an environment that suits you as an individual. Don’t put up with a toxic corporate culture if you don’t like it. Vote with your feet and have a lot of self-confidence.

I’ve met many, many more female entrepreneurs in New Zealand than I’ve met in many other countries. Very successful women in the entrepreneurial environment, rather than the corporate environment. I think that a lot of women have chosen to go their own way and do their own thing and we’ve got a very strong SME economy at the moment. You should look after number one, and you should put yourself in an environment that you find enjoyable and helps develop you.