The Easiest Decision of All
My friend Megan has been working in the construction industry for over 20 years. She started as a communications graduate at 21 working FIFO in Roxby Downs at the time of the Western Mining expansion. She was full of ideas as to how she was going to transform internal communications within the workforce, engage with the tight knit community of Roxby Downs who were fearful of an invasion of a 3,000+ male workforce, while also putting on some fantastic events to keep the workforce entertained in this isolated region.
She faced some challenges, most of her ideas were crushed & shut down. She persevered and tried to do the best job she could. Eventually she put on a Christmas party for the workforce – it was on a dry clay pan, with a band and open bar. Not surprisingly it went awry. Everyone got crazy drunk, the dry clay pan was a ridiculous mess and people were lying on the bonnets of cars speeding up and down the streets – not great. Megan was pretty sure it was the end of her time in Roxby Downs.
The next morning, when she showed up to attempt to clean up the mess, Megan was greeted by Ronnie the superintendent, Scott the project engineer and a whole construction crew who had given up their Sunday to help clean up the mess too. The same people that had shut down Megan’s ideas showed up to help. They weren’t just helping a damsel in distress, they had looked beyond her age & gender and could see the value that she was trying to deliver, so they helped.
Fast forward 20 years, Megan & Scott find themselves working together again on the Melbourne Metro project. Megan as the head of comms & stakeholder engagement, and Scott as the construction manager. This was a tough project, a construction methodology that would minimize disruption to inner-city suburbs & tricky and demanding stakeholders.
So often on worksites these two roles are at loggerheads, but Megan & Scott worked collaboratively, seeking advice from each other. Scott often marveling at the influence stakeholders could have on stopping a project & how Megan could help. Megan marveling at the engineering feats that were needed. That collaboration came from a place of mutual respect, friendship & trust. They could have connected conversations & always felt safe to speak up. That culture permeated their teams too.
That is the message that I want to share on this International Women’s Day, that we can find that “Balance for Better “ and be “More Powerful Together” when we connect with other people, when trust & respect is present, and when the diverse voices in our workforce & our communities are heard.
I’ve been thinking of some other examples of where diverse voices would have made a difference too.
At Uber, they had heard a clear message form their customers that safety mattered. To their all-male dev team that meant avoiding car crashes & they set about creating that. What they missed though was that it was female passengers that craved safety & it wasn’t about car crashes, it was about feeling safe when they got in a car with a stranger. To Uber’s credit, they caught that & have added safety features to the app.
At Google, when they first launched an ability to load videos to youtube straight from your phone, some videos were loading upside down. What they had missed was that lefthanders use their phones differently, and their all right handed dev team had no idea.
When NAB first launched UBank, an all online bank, they pictured the customers as millennials who do everything online. What they missed was the high term deposit interest rate they would attract folk with self-managed super funds & had to a do a quick pivot to include this market segment in their marketing approach too.
Gucci found themselves in strife recently when they launched a “balaclava jumper”, retailing for USD$890. It featured a cutout that sits over the wearer’s mouth and gives the appearance of bright red oversized lips. They were called out for it’s similarity to blackface & quickly withdrew it from sale. How did they miss that? I remember Darryl Somers & Hey Hey It’s Saturday making this error years ago.
Gucci have since hired a global director for diversity & inclusion, 5 new designers from around the world and have launched global scholarship program, aimed at building a more diverse & inclusive workplace.
Is that going to work for Gucci? It’s a start, but it’s not the end. Are those new employees going to have a voice at the table as the head creative director. That’s the work that needs to be done. Creating the trust & respect, the connected conversations & the safe space for diverse voices to be heard.
We know the reasons for diversity, that the highest performing teams include people with diverse perspectives. We also know that people to their best work when they are able to be their authentic selves, and that people are engaged when they feel a sense of belonging.
We need to strive beyond diversity, beyond inclusion, and onto belonging. Sounds tricky, but it’s really just back to the basics, to where people matter. The great part is that this is something that everyone can do. It doesn’t rely on corporate policy or government legislation, it relies on the everyday actions in everyday moments where people care about other people.
That’s it, just care about the people you work with. Care about how they feel when they come to work. Care that their voice is being heard. Care that you are a having connected conversations. Care that they feel safe to speak up. Care that you have a working relationship based on trust & respect.
Caring about the people you work with is an easy decision to make, maybe the easiest of all. This is how we will create diverse & inclusive workforces. This is how we can achieve #balanceforbetter and how we can be #morepowerfultogether.