#BreakTheBias – Enough of the Chat, it’s time to Act!

As International Women’s Day (IWD) is marked across the globe today, there is resounding recognition that we still have a long way to go before equality between the genders is a reality. Through IWD celebrations, women and men will be sharing their experiences, supporting their peers, and offering solutions and opportunities on how collectively we can ‘break the bias’ and create gender equality in our professional environments and communities.

Here in Australia, the story is no different. From the Religious Discrimination Laws to the Sexual Harassment issues playing out in Parliament to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) report released this year showing Australia is still battling the gender pay gap, there is a clear and present problem in our country to genuinely embrace gender diversity and equality, and the bias that continues to underpin these stories.  The Australian Council of Professions is calling on Professional Organisations and their member professionals to step forward and lead the way in making change.

Grace Tame and Brittany Higgins’ speeches at the National Press Club on 9 February 2022 highlighted the toxic and debilitating inaction that is plaguing our government when it comes to protecting the rights of women and the vulnerable. Their formidable and fearless addresses could not have been clearer: ‘Act now or face the wrath of the next generation’.

They backed their pledge with the powerful #SafetyRespectEquity message supported by the many other women who have endured bias, discrimination, harassment, discrimination, and violence at the hands of their peers and professional community.

And while ACoP welcomes the milestone achieved last year that all ASX 200 companies have at least one female board member, the celebration of this achievement is diminished by the fact that women still hold only 30% of board positions and just over 43% of ASX 200 companies have not reached even that level of gender participation.

So it’s Time for some Action to #BreaktheBias!

It’s never too late to empower diversity and equality across your professional landscape. As members of an alliance of almost 1 million professionals, we have an immense opportunity – and obligation – to facilitate change in as many ways as possible.

ACoP has shone a spotlight on these issues and facilitated Professional Organisations to be part of change. We recently called for more women on boards, equal pay & closing the gap as well as evidence-based early-learning systems taht foster gender equality.

ACoP will also be holding a Roundtable event in the next couple of months on the issue of ‘Gender Deafness’. So stay tuned as we discuss, debate, and engage in healthy discourse with our member organisations about how to enable change.

We invite professional organisations who are not members of ACoP to join our alliance as we work collectively to uphold the integrity of gender parity and the contribution it makes to Australia’s well-being and prosperity. For more details, ring 1300 664 587 or contact CEO@Professions.org.au.

Supporting neurodiverse Professionals at Work

Professionals have a responsibility to create, enable and sustain inclusive and safe environments for the diverse range of individuals in our communities and workplaces.  However, at our ‘Neurodiversity in the Professions’ panel discussion last year we learnt that there is limited knowledge on how organisations can best support neurodiverse professionals at work.

ACoP is therefore stepping up by supporting research in neurodiversity across professional environments and what it means to you, as professionals within that landscape.  Last December, we also signed an MoU with Believe:neuroDiversity (B:nD), a peak body whose mission is to highlight the strengths of neurodiversity in order to improve the outcomes of neurodivergent people within Australia.

Additionally, parts of the COVID-related national skills shortage could be mitigated by attracting, retaining and leveraging neurodivergent professionals through inclusive work environments which support all forms of diversity for the benefit of our communities, both economically and socially.

At this Members-only Round Table we will continue our collaboration with B:nD by exploring the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of creating inclusive work environments for neurodivergent professionals including the Believe:inDex assessment tool which may assist in measuring neurodiversity support in organisations.

ACoP signs MOU with peak NeuroDiversity Body

The Australian Council of Professions has formalised its collaboration with Believe:neuroDIVERSITY (B:nD), a non-profit organisation whose mission is to highlight the strengths of neurodiversity in order to improve the outcomes of neurodivergent people within Australia.

Originally inspired by Harvey Blume’s 1998 comment in The Atlantic that “Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?”, this collaboration follows our Neurodiversity in the Professionspanel discussion on 21 September 2021. Hosted by our Diversity, Culture and Inclusion portfolio, the expert panel explored neurodiversity issues through varied perspectives examining the barriers neurodivergent individuals face in employment whilst highlighting the opportunities that neurodiversity can address in today’s professional skills shortage and talent scarcity crises.  Much of the discussion also noted how under-researched neurodiversity is across the employment and professional landscape.  

The virtual signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was attended by many of our Member Organisations and saw the Presidents of both ACoP and B:nD commit to this collaboration.

Mark Solonsch, President of B:nD, explains that “Neurodiversity is about differences, not disabilities, and neurodivergent staff have tremendous strengths that they offer. But we need to make accommodations in the workplace to recognise those differences so they don’t mask people’s neurodivergence. Everyone has the right to bring themselves to work; and workplaces need to create a culturally safe and conducive environment to do this”. With limited research in the area of neurodiversity across professional environments, ACoP and B:nD have now joined forces to address this challenge.

ACoP’s President Klaus Veil points out that “Data is critical in establishing and enabling  professional associations and employers  towork towards  more inclusive and safe workplaces for neurodiverse individuals and the important contributions they make across professions”.

The MOU covers collaborative activities such as a neurodiversity index project, commissioned research, joint public communications and other activities of mutual benefit.  

As Klaus Veil observes, “These are all important aspects if we aim to continue to enhance the culture of professionalism across our work environments”.

Neurodiversity in the Professions

Neurodiversity may be every bit as crucial for the human race as biodiversity is for life in general. Who can say what form of wiring will prove best at any given moment?” wrote Harvey Blume in The Atlantic in 1998. Over 20 years later, have we progressed much in leveraging neurologically diverse talent to increase productivity and/or address skills shortages in the professions?

If you want to find out all about ‘neurodiversity’, please join us for a panel discussion on 21 September 2021.

Our expert panel will discuss with you:

  • What is “neurodiversity”?
  • The evidence, what does it tell us?
  • What are the barriers to neurodiversity?
  • How can neurodiverse individuals be the answer to talent scarcity and skills shortages in your profession?
  • Are some professions more predisposed to a neurologically diverse workforce?
  • What opportunities can your organisation leverage to increase productivity by engaging with neurologically diverse talent?

The expert panel will explore these issues with you though the lens of their personal experiences, outline insights from evidence-based data and discuss with you the practical aspects and best practices of recognising and leveraging diverse talent to increase productivity and/or address skills shortages in your profession.

The Panelists are:

Angelina Pillai – ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion

Professional Profile

Mark Solonsch – Head of Insights at Medibank, President of Believe:NeuroDiversity, former Board member of Aspergers Victoria

Professional Profile

David Smith – Autism and neurodiversity employment specialist and advocate, founder of Employ for Ability

Professional Profile

Dr Simon Bury – Postdoctoral research fellow, Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC)

Professional Profile

Dr Jennifer Spoor – Deputy director, MBA Program, La Trobe Business School

Professional Profile

For more information on this Round-Table, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or CEO@Professions.org.au.

NAIDOC Week 2021: How can Professionals help Heal Country?

Each July, NAIDOC Week celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The theme for 2021 is a call to ‘Heal Country, Heal our Nation!’ As the unifying alliance for Australian professions, ACoP calls on all professionals to acknowledge the significance of indigenous culture in our national heritage and consider how we can actively contribute to Healing Country.

Understanding the Relationship with Country

To understand the importance of Healing Country, we first need to acknowledge that Country is more than just a place for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Country is inseparable from personal, social and cultural identity, and is spoken about as a person or mother figure which is reflected in the spelling of Country with a capital ‘C’. The infusible connection to Country is deeply ingrained in the language and lore of our Indigenous Peoples.

Unfortunately, even in 2021, this relationship is still not widely understood by other Australians who do not consider land as mother, yet a keen observer can identify elements of our history to start to understand. For example, the landmark Mabo case of 1992 where the High Court of Australia refuted the claim of Australia as terra nullius, an uninhabited and therefore vacant land.

“Mabo and others v Queensland (1992) was one of the first cases I read in law school. It left a lasting imprint in my soul as an international student battling my own issues of identity and where I came from. While I wasn’t personally connected to the story behind the story, nor the experiences that drove the motivation and outcomes of Mabo, it had a powerful impact that still resonates with me on many levels nearly 30 years later.”

Angelina Pillai, ACoP’s Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion

The Mabo decision was a turning point for Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. It confirmed their connection to the land on which they had lived and sustained their livelihoods for centuries before colonisation. It also marked a watershed for the actions of several professions including law, politics, history and education.

A further important step was the Apology that turned a new page in our history by acknowledging the wrongs of the past and envisaging a future that includes all Australians. It also imagined a future with new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

What does Healing Country mean?

NAIDOC Week’s call to ‘Heal Country, Heal our Nation’, means taking action to recognise, protect and maintain Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and heritage. It is also about fundamentally changing Australia’s relationship with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to:

  • Embrace the values and culture of our First Nations peoples as integral to our national identity
  • Learn from the ancient wisdom our first peoples have evolved over many thousands of years
  • Resolve the historical injustices of the past that have disadvantaged generations

Healing country is NAIDOC’s invitation to all Australians to help repair the damages of historical events and to empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to participate equally in all aspects of life.

How can Professionals play their part to Heal Country?

In ACoP’s 50th year we are focussed on the role of professions to drive evidence-based decisions, expertise and thought leadership to navigate the complex and wicked problems facing humankind – many problems of which we may have had a hand in creating.

“I would like to encourage our member organisations and their professionals to heighten their awareness and reflect on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge and where appropriate use this knowledge to take action to Heal Country. With their expertise, integrity, ethics and trustworthiness, professionals are in a unique position to effect change.” 

ACoP President, Associate Professor Klaus Veil

This could start by stepping outside our western ‘patterned instincts’ – as Jeremy Lant describes in The Patterning Instinct – to learn about indigenous culture and values. It might continue with exploring indigenous knowledge to inform the ethics and practice of Australian professionals. For example, traditional land and bushfire management is increasingly being considered by agricultural professionals, landowners and governments.

Positive change will only come about when professionals show leadership through taking responsibility and accountability by considering all sources of knowledge to solve problems that have endured and permeated our economic, legal and social structures.

If you would like more information, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or CEO@Professions.org.au. Download the NAIDOC 2021 Poster here to help celebrate NAIDOC Week!

Empowering Diversity through Consultancy

The Australian Council of Professions (ACoP) supports broad-based diversity and inclusion as one of its key policy and advocacy areas and is delighted that one of our member organisations, the Institute of Management Consultants, is leading the charge with a Women in Consulting webinar.

As the unifying alliance of Professional Associations, we raise the awareness of these issues across our professional members whilst highlighting ways in which diversity, culture and inclusion strategies are being addressed across professions and workplaces.

2021 marks ACoP’s 50th anniversary and our “Year of the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism“. The issue of gender parity has never been more important and the role that professionals play in enabling change is incredibly critical. So, in conjunction with International Consultants Day on Thursday, 3 June, ACoP is pleased to support the Institute of Management Consultants’ upcoming ‘Women in Consulting’ Webinar which aims to discuss the career journeys of a number of management consultants, exploring how they have navigated their way through their career and learning from their experiences.

L to R: Deborah Archbold, Dianne Semmens, Dr Monique Beedles & Catherine Lee

“ACoP’s broad-based diversity policy and advocacy area focuses on meaningful and actionable outcomes. Acknowledging professional women leading the way in their chosen field and celebrating their vital contribution in the professions and professionalism signals our commitment to engendering women’s issues across our communities and workplaces.” says ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Angelina Pillai. 

IMC’s Executive Officer Christine Cox agrees. “International Consultants Day is a wonderful opportunity for our profession to celebrate our achievements and successes and we are delighted to be showcasing the experience of four of our women members to highlight the contributions that management consultants make to social and economic success.”

More than a Word – Reconciliation takes Action

The Australian Council of Professions supports the reconciliation process with First Nations Peoples and in National Reconciliation Week 2021 calls on its member organisations and their professionals to be exemplars of truth-telling, accountability and responsibility. 

ACOP supports National Reconciliation Week 2021

In its 50th year as the unifying alliance of Professional Associations and celebrating 2021 as the “Year of the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism“, ACoP believes professionals have a core role in taking impactful action to progress the reconciliation journey with and for all Australians. ACoP is committed to supporting Reconciliation Australia’s 20-point Action Plan for Reconciliation in 2021 and will consider the recommended actions in all its decision-making processes.

ACoP Head of Diversity, Culture and Inclusion, Angelina Pillai, says, “ACoP’s broad-based diversity policy and advocacy area focuses on enabling tangible outcomes. As professionals, we often know what the issues and problems are in our communities or workplaces, but perhaps lack the confidence, knowledge or the tools to be able to take concrete action. Reconciliation Australia’s 20-point action plan provides simple yet meaningful guidance in which professionals can be respectful advocates of change.  From making reconciliation part of your workplace culture or consciously calling out racism, there are multiple ways in which each and every one of us can play an important and powerful part in fostering cultural inclusion now and into the future.”

This Reconciliation is a prerequisite to ethically and responsibly exploring all sources of knowledge – including the ancient wisdom of indigenous Australians – to solve current day problems. In doing this, professionals can show leadership in the process of reconciliation.

ACoP President Klaus Veil adds “The principles underpinning a just and equitable Australia that reaches its best potential and those of a professional giving best advice have similar roots. The work on our ‘Integrated Continuous Learning Strategy for a Fair and Prosperous Australia‘ that we started in November 2019 and our Professionalism and Ethics advocacy both resonate well with the 20-point Action Plan.”

If you would like more information, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or CEO@Professions.org.au

Diversity, Culture and Inclusion? On IWD 2021, let’s start with including Culturally Diverse Women!

There are so many facets to diversity. Diversity is a broad-based area that comprises of gender, LGBTIQA+, race, ethnicity, migration status, age and disability to name a few. In the context of International Womens Day 2021, we asked Angelina Pillai, CEO of the Association of Consulting Architects, to share with us her reflections on these challenges.

“Knowing what diversity means is one thing. Knowing how to address diversity is another. And that is what inclusion is. The ‘how’. How are we, you and the wider professions, addressing these issues and embedding diversity and inclusive culture principles in your workplaces, in your teams and as part of your professional duty?

My first anthropology assignment at Adelaide University back in 1990 was to critically analyse Sherry Ortner’s feminist literature asking the question, Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture? (1974). Once I recovered from the mild conniption that I suffered as a fresh international student from Malaysia where critically analysing anything, let alone an expert who has spent the best part of their life researching their work was considered an academic crime; I realised that there was more to this than I wanted to believe at the time.

There is so much to unpack here, but I won’t go into the details of her work, as I don’t recall being overly affected by those findings then and I would much rather forget the miserable mark I suffered in 1990 as a result of not ‘critically analysing’ anything in that piece. And secretly, I thought things would be different when I hit middle-age. Then I hit middle-age and reflected on my own upbringing in an International Women’s Day message on the importance of seeing strong women leaders in public life, and the need to push for basic human rights for all, not just women. Similarly, my International Men’s Day reflections spoke to a similar theme.

But decades on, the story is still the same and the pendulum of culture has not really swung. Sherry Ortner may have written about the nature-culture dichotomy in an era when women as a class were struggling for recognition and validation of their differences, however, the issues around gender, inclusivity, equality, equity, diversity and respect are rife now more so than ever. Women are still nowhere near where we should be with representation at the board table, community leadership, workforce participation, politics and the never-ending saga of the gender pay gap, to name but a few battles we face.

The recent alleged cases plaguing Parliament are just the tip of the iceberg and as we examine the unimaginable inequalities that have been haunting women, we unravel a compelling feature of our society that needs urgent action. I will refrain from regurgitating the plethora of these news and media stories on gender pay gap, sexual harassment and injustices of women’s rights as there are too many to cite. But are these matters of plain ignorance, blatant or unconscious biases, discrimination, lack of professional integrity and ethics or just bad luck? One could argue that they are a combination of all and then some…”

Over the course of the coming months, ACoP through its Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Portfolio Committee will be working with thought leaders and experts in discussing, debating and delivering outcomes across the range of diversity, culture and inclusion principles. Part of this initiative will see a series of Round-Tables and panel discussions that are aimed at ensuring diversity, culture and inclusion are at the forefront of professional practice as we dissect these policy and advocacy areas to establish the core priorities in support of this agenda.

For more details on the work of our Diversity, Culture and Inclusion Portfolio Committee please contact us on 1300 664 587 or CEO@Professioms.org.au.

ACoP welcomes Return to Fact-Based Policy-Making

The Australian Council of Professions welcomes the US administration’s return to making policies based on science and evidence-based facts. The commitments made by US President Joe Biden in his inauguration speech raise substantial hope that the United States will now be able to more effectively counter and mitigate the serious health and environmental challenges it has faced in recent times.

In his speech from the Capitol, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden committed to “the common objects that define Americans… Opportunity, Security, Liberty, Dignity, Respect, Honor and, yes, the Truth.” He further stated “And each of us has a duty and responsibility – especially as leaders – to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

Keen to start the new approach without delay, President Biden then signed 17 executive orders, including making mask-wearing compulsory in areas of federal jurisdiction, re-joining the Paris Climate Accord and bringing the US back into the World Health Organizsation (WHO) while appointing distinguished expert Dr Fauci as head of the US delegation. Biden also rolled back many of the recent actions that disregarded science, the environment and public health experts.

I am impressed that newly-inaugurated President Biden wasted no time in actioning a substantial number of decisions based on the advice of the team of scientists and professionals that he has assembled since his election in November 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and climate change emergencies require urgent fact-based actions.” said ACoP President Klaus Veil. “This sounds like a clear wake-up-call for politicians and the public to again listen to and take the advice of experts. What a great inspiration for our Year of the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism!

President Biden also clearly stated during the remote swearing-in of over 1000 of his staff: “If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise I will fire you on the spot. On the spot! Everybody is entitled to be treated with decency.” He also issued orders ensuring that Americans are again protected from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and/or sexual orientation. ACoP Vice-President and professionalism advocate Julie Strous observed that this sets a refreshing tone for the culture of the Biden administration. “With the demonstrated commitment to science – and evidence-based policies, this again creates an environment where truth and facts determine strategies and their implementations, not political convenience, racism and misogyny” Dr Strous said.

For more information on the Year of the Professions, Professionals and Professionalism, please contact us on 1300 664 587 or CEO@Professions.org.au!