Diversity Recognised as Divisive

Australian software giant and massive success story, Atlassian, is questioning how employers focus on diversity in the workplace.

In an online article for Computerworld, Aubrey Blanche, Head of Diversity and Belonging at Atlassian explains:

“The words diversity and inclusion and the way we were thinking about those concepts were getting in the way,” she says.

“We found that people were much more likely to associate the word diversity with folks who come from underrepresented or minority backgrounds. So that meant simply using the word gave people the idea that people from majority groups weren’t a part of diversity,” Blanche adds.

The word association is a problem when the vision is to build a diverse company, Blanche explains — “you might have accidently just told many of your current employees that you’re building a future without them, which doesn’t give them a lot of reason to buy into it”.

Inclusion as a term has also been ditched, as Blanche puts it: “it feels like being invited to a party and someone telling you it’s because someone else cancelled”.

The article further discusses the challenges of the concept of forcing diversity on a workplace:

Efforts to improve diversity at other companies haven’t always been well received by employees. Last year, Google software engineer James Damore wrote a 10-page memo to colleagues saying the company’s initiatives to improve female representation were “unfair, divisive, and bad for business”.

Within Atlassian, most employees are on board with improving the balance of representation in their offices, Blanche says.

“Even if maybe the concept of diversity and inclusion isn’t something that [an employee is] personally really excited about, if you say I want you to create a great working environment and I want you to hire the right people who are going to create a dynamic, interesting place to work, that’s a pretty easy sell,” she explains.

“And moving from diversity and inclusion to balance and belonging, we take something that could create an us versus them dynamic, and it becomes more about we,” Blanche adds. “We’re really intentional about explaining to folks what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

Balance and belonging sound like far more unifying and positive concepts for businesses and for our community – with less focus on what divides us than what unites us.

Ms Blanche admits that a name change for her title is also in the pipeline. Baby steps in the right direction we say!