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  • James Howey

Diversity and visibility in the workplace

We were discussing an article in our office recently about

visibility and diversity at work. During the conversation I was thinking that my colleagues' personal life is none of my business, but I realise now, that this was uniformed and naïve, because diversity and visibility is not about having to share, or knowing, the personal details of everyone you work with, it’s about making sure that the workplace is a place where people feel comfortable to be themselves, that they don’t feel worried about sharing personal information (if they want to), and as my colleague suggested, it’s about being able to bring your whole self to work.

Diversity includes, but is not limited to, gender, ethnicity, indigenous background, age, ability or disability, sexual orientation, language, skills, experience, education, industry sector, and thinking approaches (WSAA 2017).

The OECD estimates that Australians spend around 40% of their day at work, so considering that the remaining 60% includes sleeping, we spend a large proportion of our active time at work. Imagine feeling uncomfortable, worried, or having to act differently for that amount of time!

In a recent article on Mike Robbins discussed bringing our full selves to work

"When we don’t bring our whole selves to work we suffer – lack of engagement, lack of productivity, and our well-being is diminished. We aren’t able to do our best, most innovative work, and we spend and waste too much time trying to look good, fit in, and do or say the “right” thing. For teams and organizations, this lack of psychological safety makes it difficult for the group or company to thrive and perform at their highest level because people are holding back some of who they really are."

The statistics back this up; here is a summary from the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA)

  • 3 out of 4 Australian workers support or strongly support their organisation taking action to create a workplace which is diverse and inclusive.

If you work in an inclusive team you are:‘

  • 10 times more likely to be highly effective than workers in non-inclusive teams

  • 9 times more likely to innovate

  • 5 times more likely to provide excellent customer/client service

If you work in an inclusive team, you are:

  • 19 times more likely to be very satisfied with your job than workers in non-inclusive teams

  • 4 times more likely to stay with your employer

  • 2 times more likely to receive regular career development opportunities

So how is Australia (DCA) doing?

  • Almost one in two Australians work in an inclusive team or for an inclusive manager (that’s less than half of us!).

  • One in five Australians has personally experienced harassment and/or discrimination at work in the past year.

  • 38% of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Australians have personally experienced harassment and/or discrimination in the past 12 months - the highest rate of workplace discrimination and harassment of any demographic group.

Water, science & engineering

We visit a lot of water businesses in our work as auditors and water consultants, and it is clear that we are a very diverse workforce. I have noticed in my work life, how important it is to not make assumptions; for example, when inducting new employees, when catering for a group, when providing facilities, when using pronouns.

Many water businesses have policies and programs to support diverse workplaces. Read the report here. Engineers Australia has a Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan and gender diversity targets.

In general, the water industry, in establishing management systems for water management or quality, is committed to continuous improvement, and that our commitment to continuous improvement can be expanded to include providing diverse and including workplaces.

Viridis Consultants is an equal opportunity employer, and we have a code of conduct that has been established to provide a safe workplace, with processes in place to ensure that it is maintained. We are also committed to continuous improvement and will continue to improve our workplace policies. I am proud to report that our team reflects equal opportunity employment practices with 25% of our team from non-english speaking backgrounds, and 50% of our company being female.

On a personal level, I have always considered myself pretty open and inclusive of anyone, however, in researching for this blogpost, I realise that is is an ongoing process and by supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace, I am committing to stay open to continuous learning. The team at Viridis will continue creating a space where people can share their lived experience and be listened to and respected. By actively listening and practicing empathy, we will support and foster our diverse workplace culture.


This a great article on inclusive language

Here is a roundup of interesting articles on diversity in science:

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