The business case for diversity in a nutshell: profit

So, with such a compelling argument for diversity, why are so many companies struggling to create a diverse and inclusive workplace? The short answer is that it is difficult. This requires a systematic approach to reviewing corporate policies, operational practices and organizational culture, over many years.

In my own organization, the City of Sydney, we know that 51% of the 100 of the people who live in our region are of non-English speaking origin. As an organization, we are committed to ensuring that this diversity is reflected in our workforce, at all levels.

Cultural diversity is not limited to where people are born – it includes cultural, religious and ethnic identity.

We are proud of our achievements in gender equity, being one of the few Australian organizations to report a positive pay gap in favor of women. The Sydney City pay gap is 6.8% in favor of women, reflecting a high representation of women in managerial positions, compared to Australia’s national gender pay gap of 13.9% in favor of men.

Our gender equality agenda draws on data on promotion rates, turnover rates, engagement scores and professional development spending by gender, which allows us to target levers for change.

However, when it comes to measuring cultural diversity, the lack of meaningful data has proven to be a significant obstacle. Until now, Australian organizations have had no meaningful way to measure and compare the cultural diversity of their workforce and leadership teams. Cultural diversity is not limited to where people are born – it includes cultural, religious and ethnic identity.

This is why we were so keen to sponsor, contribute and lead the Counting Culture project of Diversity Council Australia. Its ambitious goal was to guide organizations, measure and report on the cultural diversity of the workforce.

The research has developed a standardized set of metrics for Australian organizations to assess cultural diversity. These measures include cultural background, language, country of birth, religion and world experience. The approach also recognizes the unique position of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples as First Nations people.


Thanks to standardized measures, a more sophisticated analysis of cultural diversity in the workforce is now possible. We can now begin to report on the makeup of the leadership team, management pipelines, retention rates, pay equity, engagement, and inclusion and exclusion experiences in the workplace. And of course, we can combine this data with gender and LGBTIQ data to understand the complexity of intersectionality.

While we still have a long way to go to truly appreciate the diversity of the people who work with us, this is a big step forward in unleashing everyone’s potential and talent.

Susan Pettifer is Director of People, Performance and Technology at the City of Sydney.

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