Are you an enabler for diversity?

By Chris Champion posted 16-10-2017 12:20


Are you an Enabler for Diversity?

Are you giving your organisation and staff the best chance of success?  According to Priyani de Silva Currie and Samantha Almeida of Calibre. it comes down to being an enabler for diversity.  This article describes the what, how and why’s of being an enabler for diversity....

Priyani de Silva Currie and Samantha Almeida, both of Calibre, think that without enablers and sponsors, diversity isn’t given the best chance to succeed. 

Sam and Priyani’s research confirms that diversity trumps ability every single time, and that success and growth – of both individuals and organisations – are dependent on innovation.  So, where does innovation come from? It comes from diversity of thinking.

Research shows that here in New Zealand there is still a significant lack of understanding for what diversity can bring to the table.  Sam and Priyani promote that diversity represents the best possible competitive advantage, a claim that is proven by the numerous global organisations where diversity is promoted, who are performing better both financially and in their broad strategic outcomes and innovation.

Priyani’s personal experience has been that organisations that promote acceptance, tolerance and people who can create for others a sense of belonging, ensure that diverse people can thrive. How? By creating that sense of safety, security and belonging for everybody to have a voice.

Priyani believes, like sustainability, diversity is sometimes just given lip service, but authentic leadership that embodies and practices the requisite diversity values is key, because, like so many things in an organisational setting, diversity requires buy in at the top table, from where it then flows out to staff.

jigsaw400px.jpgOne of the big hurdles for an organisation (or the individuals in it) to embrace and reap the benefits of diversity, is to overcome the bias or fear that too much diversity is going to create more problems than good.  This comes from people’s schemas and heuristics and also comes from conscious and unconscious bias.  So, what’s a schema?  A schema is a mental “fill in” concept that informs a person about what to expect from a given experience or situation. Research demonstrates that schemas are hard-wired by the age of 7, and are developed based on information provided by life experiences and are then stored in memory.  So, a fear mindset that tells us difference isn’t good – is learned, people aren’t born believing this. The good news?  New research into neuroplasticity tells us these schemas can be relearned and rewritten – so here’s the nugget we’re encouraging you to re-hardwire – diversity is benefit-laden!

So, there is much to be gained from constantly pushing ourselves outside our natural schemas to keep from falling victim to these unconscious biases. If you can be an enabler for diverse people, whether in your workplace, at home – any context - then not only are you creating a more inclusive society, but you are also doing a favour for all those around you, enabling better results, smarter outputs and a better ROI. What are you waiting for?

The flipside?  Maintaining status quo - keep doing the same stuff in a homogenous manner and expecting different results.  If it’s not working today it certainly won’t tomorrow, so the ability to hook into diverse people’s ideas is essential – and we’re all better off as a result.

Here’s an interesting thought-experiment to illustrate where you lie on the enabler-spectrum: do you automatically expect that people should start at your organisation and immediately fit in existing culture?  Now think about bringing an individual into your organisation and you and your organisation having to mould with their culture. A point we often forget, if you are in the mainstream – you are in a privileged position and have automatic acceptance.  Priyani and Sam reinforce that you ARE the enablers, you are the people who can promote diversity from within, it’s not them and us, it’s us and us.

Richness around us reflects richness within us.


Priyani de Silva-Currie of Calibre was recently awarded the E.J. (Ted) Hooper Medal for best overall presentation (paper co-authored by Samantha Almeida) presented at the IPWEA Australasia conference in Perth WA in August 2017.

A full copy of their paper and presentation slides can be found here: