MIKE CANNON-BROOKES ON DIVERSITY: ‘It is more important than ever for us to stand up for what we believe in’

Jessica Mauboy at Sydney’s Mardi Gras in 2016. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images.

The gay and lesbian Mardi Gras festival kicks off in Sydney on March 4.

In the lead up to the annual reminder of the fight to Australian companies are getting behind the LGBTQI community to show their support.

Companies such as the ANZ bank are proud supporters on the Mardi Gras and have been dressing up their cash machines as “GAYTMs” since 2014.

This year Atlassian, a strong supporter of inclusion and diversity, will fly three rainbow flags from its office on George Street. It is the first time the company has ever swapped out the “Atlassian” flags — a well-known fixture above its CBD office.

Mike Cannon-Brookes. Photo: Supplied.

“At Atlassian, we always talk about living our values,” said co-founder and co-CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes.

“We have a long track record of publicly advocating for inclusion and equality in Australia and globally, and the flags are another way we can live our values of acceptance and inclusion.”

What gets measured gets actioned

Cannon-Brokes says in today’s political climate, “it is more important than ever for us to stand up for what we believe in and take action where we can”.

“We are proud to be actively progressing the conversation around diversity and inclusion in Australia.

“When it comes to leadership, I think we’re doing a good job of sharing our journey and being open and transparent about our progress – wins and misses – and the challenges that exist.

“Loads of research shows that diverse and inclusive teams are more creative, more innovative and are better at solving complex problems. We work hard to make Atlassian a more diverse and inclusive place to work, and are proud of our progress.

“Moving the needle forward on these issues is good for Australia, good for business, and just simply the right thing to do.

“I’d love to see more companies get serious about measuring diversity, in the same way we’re measuring other core business metrics. Since we know that diversity is an important input to innovation, business performance, employee happiness and retention, it’s something we should be paying attention to and taking action where needed.”

The Atlassian rainbow flags. Photo: Supplied.

Atlassian’s head of global diversity & inclusion, Aubrey Blanche, is currently in Sydney and spoke to Business Insider about how companies, and individuals, can increase diversity.

“At Atlassian, we live our values, and that means everyone is an equal member of the team,” she said.

“Having the opportunity to learn from people who are different from ourselves makes us more empathetic: we’re able to see humanity in people dissimilar to ourselves, instead of just seeing stereotypes of ‘others’.

“This is as relevant for minding the bottom line of a company as it is for being a citizen of an increasingly globalised, and therefore diverse, world.

Aubrey Blanche. Photo: Supplied.

“I took the Atlassian job because of the culture the founders had built and from day one, I felt included as an LGBTQI person,” she said.

“I’m proud to be part of a company who is committed to ensuring we’re creating a more equitable and inclusive world.

Here’s are Blanche’s top tips for increasing diversity in a business or personal context.


Adopt a growth mindset: Focusing on “rockstars” and “the most talented” is self-defeating and diversity killing. Adopting a growth mindset–the idea that people can grow, change, and develop, rather than viewing their talent as fixed–creates an environment that increases diversity and helps everyone reach their potential.

Audit yourself: Are women — or any other underrepresented group — being hired at the same rate they’re applying? Use data to track and inform your hiring, not your instincts. Apply the same method to promotions and equal pay for equal work.

Branding matters: How do you present your employer brand? Is everything about competition, or the pizza and beer you provide to employees? A great marketer will know that if you only send one message, you’ll only attract one type of customer. Look at the value that you’re offering prospective candidates: Does it appeal to people from a variety of backgrounds and life stages.

Make the option to negotiate public: It turns out, when the “rules of the game” are public, men and women tend to negotiate at the same rate. When it’s unclear, men often get an advantage because women are less likely to negotiate. If you allow candidates to negotiate, say so and make the terms clear.

Forget meritocracy: Research shows that the more an organisation believes it is a meritocracy, the more likely its employees are biased or to engage in discrimination. Aiming for equality of opportunity is much more likely to actually build a meritocracy. Invest in that.


Fix your broken network: What is the distribution of genders and cultural backgrounds in your 1) LinkedIn network 2) Twitter followers 3) your referrals? Commit to re-balancing to 50/50 women/men, and an equal distribution of cultural backgrounds.

Stop the interruptions: Count how many times people are interrupted in your next meeting. It’s a good bet that women are speaking less, and being interrupted more. If it’s you, stop. If it’s someone else, interrupt the interrupter and give everyone a chance to fully contribute.

Stop relying on referrals: As people, we’re significantly more likely to know people who are already like ourselves. Referrals are some of the fastest ways that we can make our teams completely homogeneous, limiting their potential and increasing the likelihood that they make poor decisions.

Stop trying to hire the unicorn: Most people write a job description as a laundry list of specific experiences that a “suitable” candidate should have.

It’s significantly more effective to write your requirements as a set of skills and abilities, and to think of them as the minimum skills that someone should have on day one. Make “nice to haves” obvious. Don’t artificially limit the quality or diversity of your candidate pool because you’ve made up a bunch of requirements that…just aren’t required.

Candidates from under-represented groups often only apply for jobs when they meet an overwhelming amount of the requirements.