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Business study says Australian firms can do more to promote diversity and inclusion

Business study says Australian firms can do more to promote diversity and inclusion

The research was carried out by the University of Sydney Business School

A study carried out by the University of Sydney Business School (USBS) has concluded that Australian companies could be doing more to promote diversity and inclusion (D&I), and that doing so will boost business performance.

The study, entitled Benchmarking Diversity and Inclusion Practices in Australia, found that approximately 4 out of ten companies (39%) who responded to the survey had no diversity and inclusion budget.

The results were drawn from 281 responses, with many of those companies having more than 1,000 staff.

‘I think the budget issue is quite a complex one,’ said Associate Professor Di van den Broek from the University of Sydney’s Business School to SBS.

‘Sixty per cent of our respondents said they had a budget but a lot of those who had a budget said it was inadequate to push through the diversity and inclusion agenda that they wanted.’

Another key finding was that only 41% of diversity and inclusion practitioners said that their organizations measured the outcomes of their D&I initiatives.

This is despite the fact that an increasing number of companies are recognizing the business benefits of promoting diversity and inclusion.

Indeed, on a more encouraging note, the study also found that ‘64% of D&I practitioners who report an adequate D&I budget said that their D&I initiatives were somewhat/very effective at improving business performance, compared to 39% of those with no D&I budget.’

Other studies have found that people perform better when they feel supported at work. A study by UK organization Stonewall concluded that, ‘concealing sexual orientation at work reduces productivity by up to 30%, and people who are out in supportive workplaces are more creative, loyal and productive.’

The Sydney study concentrated largely on linguistic and cultural diversity, but again emphasized the business case for employee groups to more accurately reflect the societies they serve.

‘There is a strong business case for diversity and inclusion,’ said Dr Dimitria Groutsis, Senior Lecturer at USBS. ‘It leads to contributions to the bottom line so there is confounding evidence that if we have cultural and linguistic diversity that represents the broader Australian population, it’s representing your customer base, it’s representing your client base it leads to a business outcome.’

Dr Groutsis told Gay Star Business that the survey focused on general initiatives and who D&I practitioners are, with 9% of respondents identifying as LGBT, and 23% saying they were born overseas.

The study’s findings echo recent comments made by Paul Zahra, the former CEO of upmarket store chain David Jones. When Zahra became CEO of that company in 2010, he became the first openly gay CEO of an ASX200 company.

‘I believe that people have the human right to show up as themselves at work,’ he said at a recent talk at the Queensland University of Technology Business School.

‘Authenticity in the workplace creates a powerful workplace culture and is great for productivity and is also great for business.’

Commenting on the survey, Dawn Hough, Director of workplace LGBT advocacy group Pride in Diversity told Gay Star Business, ‘Most organizations now understand the business case for diversity and inclusion, but putting it into practice is still a challenge for many. We need to look at all areas of diversity, not just gender … and when talking gender, we certainly need to move past the binaries of male and female. Times are changing.’