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Practising what they preach: How two women are tackling diversity differently

While nearly half (49%) of Australians are born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas, Australian workplaces, particularly in the corporate sector, do not reflect this diverse reality. Brisbane-based consultancy ThoughtPlace, is committed to unlocking this paradox through their work to sustainably improve the inclusion and diversity, culture and people performance of organisations throughout Australia.

Why ThoughtPlace took on the challenge to champion diversity in the Australian workplace

ThoughtPlace Co-founders Suzie Drayton and Meg Stephensen met when they worked together on a university program encouraging women to study engineering.

“While the program successfully increased the intake of female engineering students, we became aware of the obstacles women were facing upon entering the workforce, with industry not retaining and promoting women coming through the ranks,” shared Suzie.

“We started ThoughtPlace to work with organisations, not only in the engineering space but across industries, to improve their diversity and inclusion performance and positively affect change,” she said.

Breaking through the glass ceiling

As two professional women and working mothers, Suzie and Meg are passionate about gender equality in the workplace and strong advocates of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s (WGEA) annual reporting requirements for non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees.

“The WGEA’s gender equality scorecard is an important step in improving inclusion and diversity in the Australian workplace as it has forced employers to take a close look at their data and policies and address gender equality within their own organisation,” explained Meg.

“The latest data for 2016-2017, which was only released last Friday (17 November 2017), shows a significant jump (almost 11%) in the number of organisations now conducting a gender pay gap analysis reaching 37.7% this year. As well, over 70% of Australian employers have policies in place to support workplace gender equality,” she said.

Advancing diversity through technology

From 1 April to 30 June 2017, the WGEA responded to 7,776 inquiries from employers requiring support with the reporting requirements. To encourage compliance with the annual report and to save organisations significant time, ThoughtPlace have partnered with dashboard and analytics experts Aginic, to develop the ‘People Performance Platform’.

“The PPP is a solution that automates the majority of the WGEA report, minimising the administrative burden on employers and allowing employers to explore their data in a highly dynamic dashboard environment,” explained Suzie.

“We wanted to find a way to make it easier for organisations to comply with the reporting requirements. While also adding value by allowing organisations to bring together existing data from multiple source systems into a single platform to create meaningful metrics that will advance their own people and diversity objectives.

“The dashboard is custom-built for each user and simplifies and visualises an organisation’s people data into one interactive environment. This makes the data easier to understand and apply when developing and implementing diversity strategies and policies,” she continued.

Diversity is good for business

While it is broadly known and accepted that women’s participation in the workforce has positive impacts on organisational culture and operations, there is a strong correlation between the level of diversity in terms of employee variability on gender, ethnicity/race, age, sexual orientation, and religion on a company’s competitive advantage and success.

McKinsey’s 2015 ‘Diversity Matters’ report found a statistically significant relationship between a company’s more diverse leadership team and better financial performance. Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity were found to be 35% more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

“The compelling case for greater diversity does not diminish the challenges and barriers an organisation can face in addressing diversity issues, such as unconscious bias,” said Meg.

“That is why it is important for organisations to employ a data-driven diversity program that can effectively highlight unconscious biases and systemic cultural and societal prejudices.”

What can organisations do to implement an effective data-driven diversity strategy?

  • Know what it is you want to measure and what that means for your company. It is important to understand how you will use the data, what the shortcomings of the data are, and what the implications mean. To do this effectively, you need to have a really good understanding of your organisation’s unique people issues.
  • Test these with your executive team. Effecting transformational change requires buy-in and support from the leadership team. Success will be best achieved through a dedicated diversity program that focuses on the achievement of specific goals.
  • Not all systems are created equal. Our solution won’t be for everyone, but nor will any other. Once you’ve decided what you want to know and what would most benefit your organisation, go out to market and compare products against your needs.


LOGO ThoughtPlaceThoughtPlace is a Brisbane-based consultancy that works with companies throughout Australia to sustainably improve their inclusion and diversity, culture and people performance. Co-founders Suzie Drayton and Meg Stephensen successfully combine their diverse skill sets in communications and engineering to transform organisations into powerful workplaces where employees thrive and feel empowered to do their best work.



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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Director

Jade Collins has 20 years’ global experience in corporate executive Human Resources and management consulting roles in the Mining, Energy and Aerospace industries, leading large scale, complex multi-million-dollar change management programs. Jade finds the combination of her HR, Psychology and MBA qualifications and her leadership experience is invaluable for increasing gender equality in leadership across industries. Jade was a member of the Queensland Government's Strategic Advisory Group for the Toward Gender Parity: Women on Boards Initiative and the 2019 CQU Alumni of the Year for Social Impact for her work with Femeconomy.