Diana recently authored Inclusionary Leadership, profiling A Taste of Harmony Hero Ambassador Huss Mustafa OAM among a diverse group of inclusive leaders in Australian business. An extension of her consulting work, Diana sought to share what qualities made a leader inclusionary – both inclusive and visionary. We spoke with Diana to understand the value of diversity in Australia’s boardrooms.
Under Diana’s leadership as Managing Director of Apple Australia, the organisation was awarded Employer of the Year by Hewitt Associates. She later founded Xplore for Success, a gender equality consultancy offering career development programs, keynote speakers and executive coaching.
So why write a book?
“This book is a collection of stories. People connect with stories quickly.” Diana said.
“We know that inclusion is still a challenge in a number of workplaces, and that’s exactly why we put the book together. If we can tell a story of what inclusion looks and feels like for them – that gives us an opportunity to make a difference.”
Traditionally an advocate of diversity, Diana said her perspective has evolved to make inclusion a priority. In her experience, building an inclusive workplace is the key to driving greater diversity.
“If your workplace is inclusive, that sets the scene for diversity. Diversity is the outcome of an inclusive workplace. You lead with inclusion. If it’s inclusive and if people feel valued, then they’ll want to stay and therefore you’ll end up with a more diverse group.”
The impact an inclusive workplace can have on how team members feel and conduct themselves at work can be immense.
“If you have a workplace where people walk in the door and they feel a part of the group, they belong, they don’t have to cover a part of themselves and their skill set is valued – that makes a great difference.”
Honoured with an Order of Australia in recognition of her advocacy on gender equality and education, Diana has since consulted and advocated on a broader range of diversities including culture, sexuality and ability.
So who are some of Australia’s notable leaders in cultural diversity?
Diana pointed to former Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour, General Manager of Multicultural Banking at CBA Huss Mustafa OAM, lawyer Mariam Veiszadeh and NAB’s Executive General Manager, People, Culture and Capability Stephen Barrow.
Interestingly, these people have all experienced adversity.
“People who have felt exclusion or difference find it easier to accept difference” Diana said.
Ahmed told her he once felt difference as the only non-Anglo in a board meeting about cultural diversity, and Huss shared that he was bullied by his peers as the only non-Anglo in school.
“Huss is fabulous,” she said glowingly. “The day we met, he invited me to an Iftar dinner and was so enthusiastic and willing to share in an exchange of cultural background and religion. It was a lovely evening, and of course – was over food!”
Is food a tool to provide permission to approach some difficult topics? Can cultural identity sometimes be a taboo in the workplace?
“People can be a little bit scared, but you need to have an openness to ask these questions. That’s what I love about Mariam Veiszadeh – I asked her questions about her experience as an Islamic woman working as a lawyer and she was very open.” Diana said.
A Taste of Harmony provides opportunity to celebrate and discuss diversity over a meal. It’s an inclusive opportunity for everyone, regardless of background, to share stories and get to know your co-workers and their culture.
“It’s important it isn’t just expected of people who are culturally diverse to share their heritage, but getting Caucasians to share why they’re passionate about multiculturalism and what their cultural background is.”
“In my work, I often realise how privileged I am. I may be older, female and short, but I’m Caucasian, am from an educated middle class family and I was encouraged to pursue a career. We should all stop to think, what are the elements of privilege that we bring which others around us don’t have? How can we compensate for that so it doesn’t affect the work they do?”
What is Diana bringing to A Taste of Harmony? “Probably sausage and mash, or a lamb chop!” She said, laughing. “But if I wanted to get rave reviews – I’d bring my hummus! I also love cooking Asian dishes, especially Korean and Vietnamese!”
Hold A Taste of Harmony in your workplace to start a conversation about cultural identity, inclusion and diversity – with food! Learn how to register here.
About Diana Ryall AM:
Diana was awarded Member of the Order of Australia, AM, in recognition of her advocacy for gender equality and support of women through Xplore for Success, her work with Apple in the Education community, and her charity work with the National Breast Cancer Foundation and Dress for Success.