Blog Archives

The fundamental aspects of culture that schools must address to attract more teachers

A 40 per cent reduction in graduates going into teaching, coupled with the fact that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, means there are far more fundamental cultural and societal issues at play, particularly in regards to teachers in Secondary schools.

Recent financial inducements as part of the Federal election campaign to attract more graduates into school teaching are no doubt welcome. Teachers have never been paid sufficiently and certainly not in relation to the importance and value they have towards a society’s future.

Quality teaching and quality schools add immeasurably not only to economic success, but so importantly to social harmony and a society’s progress.

In Australia, the value of teachers has never been properly valued and respected. Now, more than ever, that needs to be rectified. To advance teaching as a profession, the voice of educators and school leaders needs to be heard and respected loud and clear.

However, the greatest reward and energy quality teachers get from teaching lies in seeing and participating in the learning by their students: seeing them grow and develop in their learning and understanding, and rejoicing in helping guide those students towards exciting futures.

So, apart from the importance of societal recognition of the value of teaching, the culture within schools (like any organisation) is integral to a renewed sense of value and reward within the profession – particularly given the added pressures associated with the past two and a half years of the pandemic.

Here are four fundamental aspects of culture that I believe schools must address in the current candidate short environment:

  1. Wellbeing and support: Is the culture within the school one that provides strong wellbeing and support for teachers? Is it one that recognises the demands of the profession and puts in place wellbeing measures that are customised to the needs of individual teachers?
  2. Student care: Is there a culture within a school where each teacher feels able to support the wellbeing needs of their students, needs that were already considerable pre-pandemic and seem to have grown exponentially in recent times?
  3. Learning and development: Is there a learning culture within the school that listens to the voice of educators and other staff and provides relevant, personalised professional learning that empowers staff in their fundamental purpose – to enhance the learning by their students?
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Is there a culture of coaching and mentoring within a school so that all teachers, from relatively inexperienced to those more experienced, believe their growth and development as professionals is enhanced by collectively and collaborating working with others?

Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He didn’t mean strategy was unimportant, rather that an empowering culture was critical to organisational success. Strong culture in an educational environment needs great strategy, but the latter won’t work without reflection and action on key measures to support teacher wellbeing and growth.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

Breaking the Bias: 5 things I’ve learned as a female leader

It’s rewarding to see other women succeed. I started my career in my mid 20s with a large multinational, led mainly by men who excelled in micro-management… they scrutinised all of our activities, imposed onerous activity reports and even questioned sick days. On results, my team were successful, but I didn’t aspire to their version of a manager – managing that way wasn’t my style. I left feeling burnt out, with a feeling management wasn’t for me.

As it turned out, every director I worked with subsequent to that early experience recognised my potential and encouraged me to go back into management. I’m glad I listened.

While challenging, management can also be incredibly rewarding, but the rewards begin when you start to think of yourself as a leader. The path to leadership was not smooth. I made mistakes – and learned from every single one of them! Most importantly, I learned that to be a leader, I also had to support and develop my team. I got a real kick out of giving them the tools (skills, experience and mentoring) to succeed and move on to the next stage of their career.

As a recruiter and team leader, I am in the unique position to be able to influence candidates and colleagues in their career choices, as well as to provide guidance to organisations on making unbiased hiring choices. I’ve encouraged both women and men to apply for opportunities that they may not ordinarily be considered for. For example, I placed a highly successful female Head of IT with a leading insurance company and recruited an amazing male executive assistant. I’ve coached businesses on the benefits of offering flexibility in their workplace: could a role be offered remotely, part-time or as a job-share arrangement to maximise the talent they attract?

On International Women’s Day, a day to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness against bias and take action for equality, I’m sharing five things I’ve learned as a female leader:

1. Understand the importance of being a leader.

How you show up, how you communicate and how you lead, has a direct impact on your team. I looked up to successful female leaders and learned how they operate (especially when I was working in male-dominated environments), but of course you can learn from men too. Take from them what you like and leave what you don’t, but ensure to make it you own.

2. If you are not a man, don’t try to be one.

Early in my career, I thought you had to be tough and demand respect like my managers at the time (mostly men), but I was wrong. Research has shown that women in leadership not only positively contribute to an organisation’s profitability, but also bring imaginative problem-solving skills and a high level of empathy – an essential attribute for a successful leader. Take pride in your diversity, whether it’s from a female or another perspective. By being yourself, and allowing your colleagues to be themselves, you will create a productive, stable and happy team.

3. If you are underestimated, use it to your advantage.

I’ve typically worked in male dominated environments, often been the youngest in the room and consequently, have been underestimated. When that happens, don’t take it personally. Even when doing your job to the best of your ability, you may not always find opportunities to demonstrate your knowledge or use your full skillset. Make an ally of those who can see your worth, pick the right moment, engage the stakeholders and you’re sure to impress when it counts.

4. A few words about instinct and inclusion.

It is not called ‘female intuition’ for nothing, but you don’t have to be a woman to listen to your gut when it’s trying to tell you something. There have been times when I’ve not listened to my inner voice in the past and I’ve lived to regret it. However, ‘gut feel’ can also lead to bias in recruitment, which is why we use a merit-based process that has been quality assured and is independently audited. Even blind shortlists (removal of candidate names) are prone to unconscious bias and AI is capable of learned bias. When building teams it helps to maintain an awareness of diversity and inclusion across candidates from under-represented backgrounds, such as people with disabilities, Indigenous people, people from Non-English speaking backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and diverse age groups, as well as gender diversity.

5. Flexibility in the workplace is the new norm.

Pre-covid, as a mum, I felt like I was expected to work like I didn’t have a child. Flexible working has evolved significantly over the past 2-3 years to include working from home, working remotely, part-time executive roles and created better opportunities for women who may have otherwise put their careers on hold. Flexible environments also benefit both parents, single mothers (and fathers) and carers.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity for everyone to reflect on what it means to be a woman in business. We still face inequality, but we’ve also come a long way. As a woman in a leadership position, I believe it is really important to encourage the next generation of women to go into management roles. And that’s a responsibility we all need to take on.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench, The world @work

Impostor Syndrome and Fear of Success: Renata Bernarde in conversation with Michelle Redfern

In this episode of The Job Hunting Podcast, Renata Bernarde is interviewed by Michelle Redfern, the founder of Advancing Women, an enterprise providing research and advisory services on workplace gender equality, inclusion, and diversity. Michelle is co-host of A Career That Soars – a platform for women to grow as leaders, the founder of women’s network Women Who Get It and the co-founder of CDW, Culturally Diverse Women. This episode was originally recorded for Michelle’s podcast, Lead to Soar, a podcast for career-women looking to advance inside an organisation.

Below is an extract from the transcript of the podcast:

Renata: “When women reach out to me, sometimes they are referred to by a recruiter or a headhunter who has called them and said, I have this opportunity for you. And they’re like… You know, there’s this CFO position. And they want me to apply. And then they think about it… and think, oh, I just had two kids, and I don’t feel like I can take on more responsibility… If somebody has identified you as a leader, it’s because you probably already have skills; they probably have already seen you perform those leadership skills needed at the top. And you’re saying no to that. Why?”

Michelle: “We have so many women mired in middle management. And they’re not breaking through. Now, there are a whole bunch of factors. Of course, that’s my workaround, fixing systems and bias and barriers and things like that. But also, for women, this is a two-way street. Get out of your damn way to figure out who can help you silence or quiet (at least for some time) that voice in your head that says, Not good enough, Not ready yet, This will be too hard, whatever… take a risk and seek the payoffs that go with leading at that level… more resources, being less vulnerable, more pay.”

The Job Hunting Podcast

The Job Hunting Podcast
121.Impostor syndrome and fear of success:
A conversation with Michelle Redfern.

» Click here to listen

To coincide with International Women’s Day this year, Renata has compiled a selection of The Job Hunting Podcast episodes celebrating women’s careers. In this playlist, you will find great interviews with leaders, experts, and recruiters who share what they’ve learned and offer inspiration, tips, and recommendations for listeners.

IWD 2022 Playlist: Celebrating Women

This article was first published on the The Job Hunting Podcast Blog.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Interchange Bench

Working towards broader cultural awareness and conscious Indigenous employment in 2022

As Australia considers a life with Covid-19 and the potential war on talent for staff, this year should mark the onset for a more aware and conscious Indigenous employment sector. This commitment means moving beyond written targets towards real action and pledges, far from entry-level roles and reporting to advancing Indigenous careers and leadership within large organisations and the boardroom.

Specifically, businesses must make efforts to focus on Indigenous career development and promotions into more senior roles, acknowledgement and action on racism and cultural load and for pay equity to span across the Indigeneity void. Efforts to ensure businesses acknowledge an Indigenous cultural licence to operate upon our lands and partnerships built beyond words to genuine commitments and relationships.

It is also the year we ask for listening and truthtelling, where the walls of businesses reach our communities’ streets and lead change in partnership with Indigenous voices and priorities.

To do this, the Jumbunna Institute has been working with leading employers to take on elements of cultural load and act as a safe partner to listen to staff to take organisations on this journey of change. It is work that embraces the discomfort from all, weaving truthtelling with leadership to develop a new conversation. We also work with organisations to take a more holistic view of their employees and promote positive action towards equity and inclusion, working on the intersectionality of a person’s identity.

2022 will be a challenging year as businesses continue to adapt to a rapidly changing pandemic environment. With an ever-changing landscape and uncertainty, it is now pivotal for organisations to commit to Indigenous employment towards real action. 

Photo: Nareen Young

This is an extract from an article originally published as Cultural allyship of Indigenous people in an election year – and beyond by Nareen Young, Professor, Indigenous Policy (Indigenous Workforce Diversity), Jumbunna Institute, UTS Sydney on the Diversity Council Australia blog.

Artwork: Andrey Kozhekin, First Peoples of Australia collection, iStock by Getty Images, 2021

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, The world @work

NAIDOC 2021: On ancient cultures, and modern workplaces

By Professor Deen Sanders OAM

Through his eyes…

Professor Deen Sanders OAM is a Worimi Man and Lead Partner at Deloitte. He shares his thoughts for NAIDOC week 2021.

As an Aboriginal person, it is my deeply held belief that every person benefits from living in better relationship with their community and country. So how do we do that in the context of the present day workplace?

For the last 200 years or so we have thought that connecting with community was something you could only do after first meeting your obligations to productively engage with the workplace of labour, machine or desk. Something I hear frequently these days is how COVID lockdowns and the general arc of changing workplace practices are moving us into a new relationship with home, family and community. For many this is a revelation, but it’s of little surprise to Aboriginal Australians because work was not separated from living, it was woven into the fabric of life. Cities were never going to entirely erase the heartbeat of country or overturn hard learned, ancient lessons, about how to thrive. Country, community and family were always at the heart of it.

Both modern workplace theory and my ancient culture tells me that cities and workplaces are also living systems and like all living systems, they should be measured in the strength of their heartbeat, rather than in the mere existence of a heart. Genuinely looking for the joy in Aboriginal culture as an enhancement to your workplace is a powerful way to find that heartbeat – and NAIDOC week is a perfect way in.

You probably have a Reconciliation Action Plan initiative underway for NAIDOC and that is good – but I also encourage you to widen the lens for your workplace. As corporate tools RAP’s can narrow our focus to acts of doing good (asking how can we help our Indigenous community) or worse, become a tool for benefit extraction (what recognition/ brand/ marketing benefit can we get?). There is utility in that approach. It is a good start and Indigenous Australia will strengthen from commercial alignment – but utility is a poor measure of a heartbeat.

I want more from our workplaces than this and I want more for our workplaces than this. Not because Indigenous Australia deserves more (although it does) but because we have gifts for you that extend far beyond the metrics in a RAP, and they will change how we succeed in this country.

NAIDOC is a way into that as a celebration of the diverse cultures and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. We invite you to see our history and achievements as not only measured in story, dance and art but also as a way to think about the world, a way to engage in productive relationships and leadership and to thriving in this country.

The 2021 NAIDOC theme of Heal Country, Heal Our Nation is a genuine claim. Healing our nation will come from healing our country. Creating workspaces that recognise the living relationship we have with the space around us and giving permission for people to sit, play and work in relationship to that landscape is the best measure of the strength of your heartbeat.

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia.

Read more DCA research on the topic:

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth)
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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, The world @work

NAIDOC 2021: From standing alone to standing together

By John Paul Janke

I’ve always had a special connection to NAIDOC Week; it holds such special memories for me.

In the 1970s, I remember gatherings and street marches in Cairns with my family and when we moved to Canberra in the late 1970s – attending many community and public events across National Capital.

Back then, NAIDOC had just expanded from one day called ‘National Aborigines Day’ to a week of celebrations. National Aborigines Day was the second Friday in July. Nationally that was the one significant day for events, marches and celebrations.

My dad worked in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and he organised many of the public events here in Canberra. I recall handing out posters and stickers with him at the local shopping malls, meeting iconic Aboriginal identities like David Gulpilil, Lionel Rose, Evonne Cawley, Charles Perkins and seeing how traditional performances of songs, culture and dancing captivated a wider non-Indigenous public.

Sadly, I also recall the taunts of kids at school on National Aborigines Day saying to me that it was ‘National Boong Day’, ‘Abo Day’ or even ‘my birthday.’

We’ve worked hard to move past that kind of school yard ignorance.

More than ever before, our nation is embarking on conversations about its history – our real history – and about the ‘unfinished business’ of this country – its relationship with its First Nations people.

For me, NAIDOC Week plays such a vital part in these discussions through the hundreds of events each year organised by our communities, government agencies, corporates companies, local councils, universities, schools, and workplaces.

We all know it is beyond time for these conversations.

NAIDOC Week each July unfurls such an enormous sense of pride for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across the Country.

All Australians should share that pride – celebrating and acknowledging with pride that this continent is home to the oldest living continuous culture of the planet.

Is that not something that all Australians should celebrate?

As the Co-Chair of the National NAIDOC Committee, it gives me enormous satisfaction to witness the growing enthusiasm and interest for NAIDOC Week each year and the sheer diversity and breadth of celebrations across the nation.

I sometimes smirk when I think back to those school kids who taunted me decades ago in that their children or grandchildren are now learning more about Indigenous history, culture and achievement than ever before.

As Co-Chair of the National NAIDOC Committee it is my role to help facilitate their understanding and awareness.

Image: National NAIDOC committee

Image: National NAIDOC Committee. John Paul Janke, centre.

That awareness can be as easy as learning whose traditional country you live on, learning the names of other Indigenous clans or nations, learning some local language, or knowing of the sacred places in the country that surrounds you.

It is language and knowledge spanning the rise and fall of every other great civilisation on the planet.

Take this challenge: Ask yourself how many First Nations of North America can you name? Maybe like me you can name a few: the Cherokee, Apache, Navajo, Sioux, Cheyenne, Iroquois, or Lakota nations.

Can you recall the same amount for this continent’s Aboriginal nations?

For me, it also time to start engaging in conversations about sovereignty, of Frontier Conflict, of Invasion, of theft of land, of massacres and of the fiction of terra nullius. They are the stories of our shared history – our nation’s story.

Without learning of them – we have been robbed of the history of this country.

I love the opening line in the 2020 Midnight Oil single Terror Australia (written by Peter Garrett & and the late Bones Hillman and sung by Naarm (Melbourne) based Wergaia/Wemba Wemba woman Alice Skye):

“You can’t think about the future still running from the past.”

We must never forget that NAIDOC Week is a week borne from a day of protest, a movement towards justice, equality, and freedom and basic human rights.

It’s a week that celebrates and acknowledges our history, our present and looks with hope towards the future.

There is no other week quite like NAIDOC Week. Join Us.

Happy NAIDOC Week 2021.

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia.

Read more DCA research on the topic:

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth): Centreing the experiences of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians at work

Gari Yala (Speak the Truth)
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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion

What it means to be proud at work in 2021

While you may have seen more colours than usual in your social feed over the last month during Pride*, it’s not always all rainbows and unicorns for LGBTQI+ people at work. Our level of acceptance and comfort varies from occupation to industry, geographic location and the size of the organisation.

A lot has been said about the value of bringing your whole self to work. Diversity Council Australia reports LGBTQI+ employees who are out to everyone at work are:

  • 50% more likely to innovate than workers who are not out to everyone
  • 35% more likely to work highly effectively in their team
  • 28% more likely to provide excellent customer/client service

For those of us who were able to and have concealed our identity in the workplace over the course of our careers, the results range from being constantly on edge, to simply longing to share what we did on the weekend.

As a teenager during school holidays and at various times as an adult, I tried my hand as an unskilled labourer on building sites and in factories when my Dad worked in manufacturing. Eating my lunch with the other tradies, I could smoke a cigarette, but I still had to listen to what my all-male coworkers did on holiday in Pattaya. A notch up from the banter that went around at high school, but in a rough industrial environment, it was definitely not ok to be gay.

Venturing into hospitality on a work experience placement, I found discrimination was rife in a restaurant kitchen. Chef’s hurled insults (and saucepans, regardless of your sexuality), so the wait staff kept their heads down anyway. I’ve since mastered the use of plating food with fork and spoon, a skill not required for my next job – flipping burgers at McDonald’s (not an ideal for a vegetarian).

I soon moved to front counter at Maccas, where OTT interactions with the public were actively encouraged as long as you met the service time KPIs, which better suited my outgoing personality at the time. Working for a large global organisation with policies and procedures for literally everything provided a safe environment and was surprisingly one of the most enjoyable jobs I had as an undergrad.

Straight out of university and into a recession equivalent to the GFC, I fell back on hospitality. Relocating from Melbourne to Sydney, working front of house in hotels in the 90s, I was no longer in the minority. The major drawback to working with gay colleagues was they knew what you really got up to on the weekend. In those pre smart phone days, my boyfriend at the time would pick me up from work. He’d casually sit and read the newspaper while he waited for me to finish up, even chat to my boss. So, that’s what acceptance feels like!

Before we had the alphabet acronym, student politics led me to joining the ‘gay and lesbian’ community group. Years of marching and fighting for equal rights got me interested in industrial relations (acknowledging trade unions in Australia have been instrumental in helping us achieve equality), which became human resources when I tired of shift work and moved into business administration. Back in Melbourne, working for an SME in the South Eastern suburbs, I could do payroll for 100 people, but I didn’t have the guts to bring my boyfriend to the work Christmas Party.

Moving to Sydney was liberating. Moving to London ten years later was an eye opener. On a working holiday, I landed a job in HR at Transport for London – a huge, diverse organisation with proud D&I objectives. One of my colleagues at TfL was awarded an MBE for Services to Equality.

A stint within one of TfL’s project recruitment teams led to working in volume and graduate recruitment on my return to Australia. Working with one of the country’s largest recruitment firms provided a pathway back into Marketing & Communications, putting to use all those unused qualifications that had been collecting dust in storage.

Since I commenced at Slade Group, I’ve had the confidence to bring my whole self to work. I have been actively involved with LGBTQIA+ (‘A’ is for ally) professional associations including the GLOBE network, and Out for Australia, which facilitates a mentoring program for students and recent graduates. I’ve seen friends and contacts start networks in their own industries, such as Queers in Property and Building Pride.

Growing up there weren’t many professional role models, like Penny Wong, Michael Kirby or Tim Cook. Corporate partnerships – much more than a float in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade – have been instrumental in driving change within their own organisations, business and the wider community. Companies we now partner with, such as SEEK, have been champions of Diversity & Inclusion, and it’s been gratifying to be part of a culture where I have seen others bring their whole selves to work.

Coming out is an ongoing process that never really stops. Each time you change jobs, are introduced to a new colleague, a new client, a new supplier… deciding how much of yourself you will share is part of building that relationship. Being proud at work has meant being supported through tough times, from the marriage equality debate to relationship break-ups and COVID-19 (frighteningly evocative of the HIV/AIDS pandemic for many of my generation). I’ve been able have the watercooler chat about what I did on the weekend and once even managed to drag a partner along to the Christmas party.


*June is officially Pride month in the USA, in recognition of the Stonewall Riots, a landmark event in the history of LGBTQI+ rights that took place on 28 June 1969. In Australia we celebrate Pride at different times of the year in various cities and regions (generally when the weather is better suited to outdoor festivals and parades). Sydney’s Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras (now held annually in March) originally took place as protest march in commemoration of Stonewall on 24 June 1978. Melbourne’s Midsumma Festival traditionally takes place during in the summer months January-February (disrupted by Covid this year) along with Tas Pride in February. Brisbane’s Pride Festival will be in September this year, along with NT’s Top End Pride. Adelaide Pride, WA Pride Fest and Spring OUT in the ACT all take place in November. Along with Pride events in many regional centres, it’s fair to say there’s something to celebrate throughout the year.

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This International Women’s Day, Australian businesses can lead on domestic violence crisis

Domestic violence is a critical issue for the workplace, especially as COVID-19 continues to blur the line between home and office, whilst also driving a documented spike in violence against women.

But what are workplaces doing to address the issue? And is it really an issue for workplaces at all?

The questions come on the back of a new myth-buster from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and Our Watch.

The resource – released in the lead up to International Women’s Day – challenges the myth that domestic, family and intimate partner violence is not a workplace issue, despite Australian business losing a staggering $1.9 billion a year due to this ‘shadow pandemic’.

Without a change of perspective, Australia’s economy may lag – when COVID-19 dictates it can least afford to – and many more women will be seriously harmed. Some will ultimately lose their lives.

Diversity Council Australia’s CEO Lisa Annese said: “It’s a myth that domestic and family violence doesn’t have anything to do with the workplace. In reality, domestic and family violence is the workplace issue of our challenging times. If an employee is living with, or using, domestic or family violence, it will have an impact on the workplace through absenteeism, presenteeism and the costs of replacement hiring.

“While workplaces may have concerns about implementing policies like paid leave for domestic violence, research shows that they have a hugely positive impact for employees and business alike, for a relatively small cost.

“But we must remember the most important statistics of all: almost 10 women a day are hospitalised for assault injuries perpetrated by a spouse or domestic partner, and, on average, one woman a week is murdered by her current or former partner. Supporting women who experience this kind of violence is the right – the only – thing for workplaces to do.”

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly, whose organisation collaborated on the myth-buster, said: “There has been a huge shift in the community conversation about this issue in recent times.  Violence against women is recognised as the serious and highly prevalent crime that it is, and most people understand that addressing this crisis is the entire community’s responsibility.

“We know from the evidence that violence against women is driven by gender inequality, which is deeply entrenched in society through our policies, laws, systems, workplaces, attitudes and behaviours. It’s evident in language and practices that still too often ‘blame the victim’ or minimise or excuse men’s violence.

“Given workplaces are where we spend so much of our time and have such a huge influence over our lives, it’s critical they take an active role in promoting gender equality and addressing the drivers of violence against women.

“As we’ve so often heard during this pandemic: women’s lives and livelihoods are at stake.”

Continue reading on the DCA website: Myth Busting Domestic & Family Violence at Work

This article was originally published by Diversity Council Australia and Our Watch.

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