More Powerful Together: Overcoming Resistance to Diversity & Inclusion


I love March! It’s the time of year when gender equality is on the radar thanks to International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Businesses are keen to promote events and initiatives, individuals get to celebrate achievements and status quos are scrutinised and challenged. It’s a time that fills me with optimism for the future. Which is particularly important to me this year as it’s the first International Women’s Day I get to celebrate with my four-month-old daughter.

Whilst I get excited about International Women’s Day, I know not everyone I work with shares my sentiments. I work with leaders in the resource, construction and energy sectors to shift cultures and lift performance in a range of areas including operational efficiency, safety and inclusive leadership. I have been working in these industries for over a decade and whilst I’m proud that diversity and inclusion has become a strategic focus for most companies, I have noticed a growing resentment or pushback in individuals when the topic of gender equality, domestic violence, #MeToo or any other related subject is raised.

It is this observation which I suspect has driven the UN Women Australia’s IWD 2019 theme – More Powerful Together. Whilst the global 2019 IWD theme is #BalanceforBetter Australia has adopted it’s own local theme. The Aussie focus is on enlisting everyone, not just women, to enable us to achieve balance. This year’s message aims to breakdown stereotypes and gendered roles to create a more equal world for women and girls. I wonder whether the people who decided upon this theme have been noticing a similar resistance emerging.

So, what do you do when you come across someone who is less than positive about the current shifts in the gender equality landscape? One of the strategies I utilise when working with leaders is to understand what motivates them personally. All of us prioritise differently and are motivated by different factors. By understanding these drivers, we (the influencers) can use them to our advantage when trying to achieve buy-in. It’s the WIIFM principle – What’s In It For Me.

A simple way to identify what motivates an individual is to observe what they enjoy doing at work (e.g achieving results, engaging with team members) and listening to the language they use (e.g. “I feel…”, “what’s the return on investment?”). Using your observations, you can apply the Head, Heart and Guts model outlined by Dotlich, Cairo and Rhinesmith. This model suggests there are three intelligences used by individuals – one in the head, one in the heart and the other in the gut.

People who are driven by the Head value reasoning, cognitive perception and analysis. They are the people interested in the business case for diversity, to understand the Return on Investment for any diversity initiatives and will want to set targets, quotas or KPI’s. You can spark their interest in D&I initiatives by helping them understand how diversity and inclusion impacts the bottom line, leads to better decision making and improved innovation. These types of people will want to know that diversity and inclusion makes good business sense by returning a measurable benefit. They may also be