• Christine Zeitz spoke of the need for flexible working conditions.
Christine Zeitz/Leidos via LinkedIn
    Christine Zeitz spoke of the need for flexible working conditions. Christine Zeitz/Leidos via LinkedIn

Engineering Australia and the Institute of Managers and Leaders hosted head of Leidos Australia Christine Zeitz this week for a Q&A session on ‘Policy vs Practice - How Diversity sparks Innovation’.

“Discussion over the past 10 years has seen the conversation shift when it comes to diversity, from if we need it to how do we achieve it,” Zietz said. “The research base on this issue is quite solid now and supports this push.”

Citing recent reports from The Boston Consulting Group and the Centre for Talent Innovation, she outlined how diversity is a win/win for all parties.

“We’re in business so we measure things to achieve an outcome, not just to make people feel better. I’m all about the data,” Zeitz said. “Because what gets measured gets done.”

Under Zeitz’s leadership, Leidos has run a series of surveys to establish a baseline of their workforce in terms of diversity, which has then led to programs and policies to address shortfalls. A simple measure included engaging an organisational psychologist to rewrite job ads to make them more inclusive. This saw an 80 per cent increase in female applicants to the company.

Diversity is more than gender, according to the Centre for Talent Innovation report’s framework ‘Two Dimensional Diversity’. There is inherent diversity (gender, race, age, religious background, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, disability, nationality), and acquired diversity (cultural fluency, generational savvy, gender smarts, social media skills, cross-functional knowledge, global mindset, military experience, language skills). A diverse person exhibits at least three or more factors from each category.

“Leaders have long recognized that an inherently diverse workforce (inclusive of women, people of colour, gay individuals) confers a competitive edge in terms of selling products or services to diverse end users—what’s known as 'matching the market'. Our research shows, however, that an inherently diverse workforce can be a potent source of innovation, as diverse individuals are better attuned to the unmet needs of consumers or clients like themselves,” according to the report.

Zeitz spoke of the need to create an environment where people can bring their ‘whole self’ to work, speaking of times where sexual orientation had to be hidden and personal aspects minimised to ensure continued employment.

Zeitz also noted that women hold 70 per cent of part time roles.

“Want more women fast? Create more part time roles,” she recommended.

She also outlined how policy needs to be backed up by practice. A range of Leidos policies covered flexible working arrangements but no one was taking them up, perhaps because they feared not being seen as a team player, being taken less seriously, or being penalised by management.

Her answer was to make the change at the top first to model the behaviour. Her executive team has taken up the policy by working from home a day or two a week, coming in late or leaving early for a school drop off, or working outside of traditional business hours to make up for time spent away from the business, whilst still delivering the desired outcome.

“Working flexibility is for everyone, not just women,” Zeitz said.

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