Qantas, ANZ and Lendlease open up about their diversity and inclusion efforts – as new figures suggest 30% of workers experience discrimination

Diversity is important to Qantas, but there is more to do. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
  • Consulting firm BCG’s new diversity and inclusion report found only 21-28% of diverse groups received a benefit from a company’s investment in diversity and inclusion.
  • Qantas, ANZ and Lendlease executives shared their insights on how far their companies have gone toward addressing diversity and inclusion targets.
  • More than 30% of employees have experienced discrimination when they have children.

The importance of diversity and inclusion isn’t new but these three companies are making strides toward greater representation.

During the launch of Boston Consulting Group’s latest report, ‘When Good Intentions Aren’t Enough: Getting tangible outcomes from your Diversity & Inclusion Efforts’, executives from three of Australia’s biggest companies – Qantas, ANZ and Lendlease – joined a panel to share their insights on where their company currently stands on diversity and inclusion.

The report found that more than 30% of employees experienced discrimination in the workplace. It noted that 41% of women with children surveyed experienced discrimination compared to 34% of women without children. Men with children have also reported experiencing discrimination (39%) compared to those without (27%).

Qantas Group Executive, People, Culture and Corporate Affairs, Lesley Grant highlighted that while there is a lot of “great work being done” at the company, “we certainly want to do better”.

“If you think back 30 years ago, we were really a transport engineering business so of course [the] predominant workforce was male,” she said. “[Today] we’ve got 30,000 employees and 155 different cultural backgrounds in our organisation, so we represent Australian society well and truly.

“I think some of the things that we are doing better are around gender diversity. When we look at female representation on our board at 40% and 30% of senior leaders being female in the organisation, we’ve made some good progress.”

Grant herself is an example of the strides the company has made. She previously served as CEO of Qantas Loyalty, becoming the first female CEO of a Qantas Group subsidiary company.

Further, in 2017, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce announced that Qantas would vote yes to marriage equality; something Grant said was a risk for the business. “We saw it as a business issue most importantly,” she said. “We took a stand to support our people, to support our customers and also our shareholders.”

But despite the progress, Grant emphasised that the company still has further to go.

“We have such a high percentage of men in technical roles across our organisation, that’s an area we need to do better,” she said.

In 2017, Qantas launched the Nancy Bird Walton initiative to attract more girls and young women to technical roles across the organisation, including pilots or engineers. Further, the company has a commitment to have 40% of its pilot cadets bring female within 10 years.

In terms of what the company could improve upon, Grant mentioned its Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander programs that deliver internships and traineeships, and its supplier programs.

“We also have a strong commitment to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suppliers to our organisation but this is not where we need it to be or want it to be so I think that’s the next real opportunity for us,” she said.

ANZ Group Executive, Talent and Culture, Kathryn van der Merwe identified some of the company’s strides in terms of diversity and inclusion, such as being a founding member of the Diversity Council of Australia and bring the first Australian bank to introduce an indigenous traineeship program and register a Reconciliation Action Plan.

“One of our great features is our vibrant and active set of employee networks across a range of different areas … that are supporting gender diversity. And we’ve just started three new ones this year, around faith, cultural diversity and mental health.”

Van der Merwe further highlighted ANZ’s Spectrum Program which supports people with autism.

The biggest challenge for the company however, remains creating diversity at the senior levels of the organisation. “Roughly a third of our senior executives … are females so there’s still work to do,” she said.

Lendlease Chief People Officer Michael Vavakis highlighted that the three main areas for the company are inclusiveness, flexibility and gender diversity. He said the company aims to have 30% gender diversity in our senior ranks. “We’re not there yet but we are working on it very hard – we increase by about 2% each year,” he said.

Vavakis emphasised the company’s focus on flexibility, and said it needs to be incorporated into how the company works upfront. “We’ve said [that] if we’re going to allow people to be flexible; how we deliver our projects has to change.”

The BCG Australian research was part of a global BCG study of approximately 16,500 employees of large companies in 14 countries. It involved a survey of nearly 1,600 people who work for companies with more than 1,000 employees.

Speaking at the event, BCG Senior Partner and Managing Director Anna Green highlighted that existing diversity and inclusion programs are not as effective as they could be in tackling the right set of issues that people of diverse backgrounds face.

It found that globally, only 21-28% of diverse groups received a benefit from the investment in diversity and inclusion. In Australia, that statistic is even lower, sitting between 11 and 18%.

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