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.