Is there a link between diversity and productivity in the workplace?

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Gender and cultural diversity within the workplace has come a long way and attitudes have certainly changed.  But, we still have a way to go until organisations truly embrace diversity, for their own good as well as their employees.

Sarah Liu, founder of the Dream Collective, is hoping to contribute to this change.

Gender Diversity

For many women, the appointment to a senior leadership position in the corporate world remains a dream. But if Sarah Liu, founder of the Dream Collective, has her way, things won’t always be like that.

Set up in 2012, Ms Liu was spurred on to set up her business after noting the lack of leadership development opportunities for young women in the workplace.

I wanted to find a solution to this and so I started The Dream Collective as a passion project with only $3000 in my pocket
— Sarah Liu, Dream Collective founder

As the business evolved - through hosting events and inviting inspirational speakers from around the globe to speak – Ms Liu designed and curated a more structured business offering (a platform her clients wanted) called The Emerging Leaders’ Program.

The Emerging Leaders Program was inspired by the MBA syllabus of the world’s leading business schools. The program shapes and equips high-potential young women in business with the skills, confidence, network and knowledge necessary to advance into leadership positions. 

The program’s Think Tank Series encourages collaboration through facilitated discussion, debate and skills training to empower members with the skills and knowledge required for success in a highly competitive corporate landscape.

 Women being underrepresented in leadership roles remains a complex issue

Women being underrepresented in leadership roles remains a complex issue

Our mission is to drive long-term and sustainable change in women's representation in the corporate landscape by building up the incoming pipeline of female leaders worldwide,” says Ms Liu.

The organisation partners with leading Australian corporate brands, who are committed to empower and equip high calibre, young professional women to deliver leadership and corporate training programs.

Currently boasting a network of over 2,000 young female professionals, the organisation has just announced its expansion into Singapore and Tokyo.

"Our vision is not limited. It’s not just about impacting the corporate conversation around supporting and growing entry level career-women within Australia, but about expanding our sphere of influence on a global scale,” Ms Liu says.

Jo McAlpine is the senior facilitator and executive coach at Women and Leadership Australia - a national initiative dedicated to supporting a higher representation of female leadership throughout the Australian workforce and the broader community. 

She says that women being underrepresented in leadership roles remains a complex issue.

Institutional habits and unconscious bias have a big role to play and many organisations have a predisposition to hiring and promoting men which has never been questioned.
— Jo McAlpine, Senior Facilitator, Women and Leadership Australia

"Building fairer workplaces starts with organisations questioning their culture and strategically positioning diversity as a business initiative that delivers outstanding results", Jo McApline adds.

McAlpine adds that another huge issue is the over-representation of women in home and childcare duties.  

In 2017, the Australian Gender Equality Council identified that 98 per cent of primary carers are women and society is still trying to navigate its way through the cost of this to organisations. 

McAlpine says that this is changing, but women still earn overall around 17 per cent less than men in equal positions and 10 – 30 per cent less overall in Australia.

These statistics are important so that organisations can see the gaps between men and women in the workplace. 

Cultural Diversity

However, organisations also need to appreciate that having a truly diverse workforce enhances success and the bottom line, and this doesn’t just relate to gender. It also relates to cultural diversity – the advantages of which speak for themselves.

According to research by the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission and Deloitte, actively cultivating diversity and inclusion can improve business performance.

Cultural diversity can result in enhanced creativity, flexibility and problem-solving skills.  Similarly, it can also improve the effectiveness of working with culturally distinct clients and colleagues.

These benefits alone are not to be sniffed at.  Furthermore, considering that migrants to Australia have a significant presence in the BRW’s 100 most wealthy Australians list, there’s no excuse for cultural diversity not to be embraced.  

For business growth to happen, change needs to start within. We can only hope that, over time, gender and cultural diversity will become commonplace within Australian businesses. 

In the not too distant future, leadership positions will be open to all and everyone will have an equal opportunity to showcase their talent and drive.  Diversity discrimination and issues will be a thing of the past.


Written by Jo Hartley, Lexigo: Jo is a features writer who is never at a loss for words. A regular contributor to Sydney Morning Herald, SBS Life, Body + Soul, Sunday Life, MiNDFOOD and others, Jo also has a keen interest in current multicultural affairs matters in Australia.