Bringing diversity into leadership

Renee Leon

Image from IPAA Victoria

How can organisations foster an inclusive environment? IPAA Victoria shares insights from their fellows and public purpose sector leaders who joined their recent Diversity in Leadership webinar.

The Victorian public purpose sector operates in an ever-evolving landscape. A key driver of change is the growing diversity of its workforce and the value – and need – for workplaces to foster a safe and inclusive environment for professionals to deliver high-quality value to the sector and the broader community. 

Key sector statistics shine a light on what diversity looks like in 2023. According to the Victorian Public Sector Commission employee demographics, almost a fifth of public sector professionals weren’t born in Australia and 17.5 per cent of professionals speak a language other than English with their family and community. The Australian Human Rights Commission reports that there is a “persistent lack of cultural diversity” among leaders. 

Through the lens of exploring the complexities of diversity and inclusion, IPAA Victoria held a Diversity in Leadership webinar on Wednesday 6 September 2023 to explore two critical questions: (1) Why is diversity in leadership roles important? and (2) How can everyone, including existing leaders, contribute to supporting and ensuring a more diverse workplace across the public purpose sector? 

Impressive speakers Karen Lau, General Manager, Strategy and Stakeholder, South East Water, Moana Weir, Local Jobs First Commissioner, Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions, and facilitator Dr Marija Maher, Chief Operating Officer, Victorian Ombudsman, each provided a unique perspective, surmising that while great progress has been made in the public sector, the sobering reality is that more needs to be done to keep diversity and inclusion on the agenda.    

Dr Marija Maher opened the discussion by asking each speaker to share their personal and career journey. The three panellists all touched on their experiences with their own name or family and the pressure to change it to something more Anglo-centric and easier to pronounce yet each agreed that one’s own cultural background helps to shape someone as a leader. In the ensuing conversation, the panel explored threads of core values of leadership, and the importance of integrity, and offered advice to professionals of all backgrounds on how to create a culturally diverse and inclusive workplace. 

really core part of leadership is establishing an inclusive culture … diversity is not inclusion. Representation is excellent, but unless you have an inclusive culture, the gains of having a diverse cohort in your workplace may be lost.Moana Weir, Local Jobs First Commissioner, Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions

Below are some of our favourite speaker highlights.

How do leaders foster a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace?

What have you personally done or what have you observed others do to improve diversity in an organisation at a leadership level? 

What can every single one of us do to act to improve diversity in organisations, regardless of where we might sit within the organisational hierarchy? 

IPAA Victoria would like to thank their impressive speakers for their personal sentiments, practical advice and insights that everyone can consider and apply in their workplaces.  

If you are interested in how else IPAA Victoria is fostering dialogue on the important topic of diversity and inclusion, please visit our ‘Connection through Collaboration, new skills and celebration’ Strategic Theme page.