Netball Australia to put lack of diversity in spotlight


“We’ve made a commitment to Sharon [Finnan-White] and Marcia [Ella-Duncan] that we are not comfortable with the fact we haven’t seen Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Diamonds for a while … we want it to be better.”

On Wednesday, Swifts coach Briony Akle urged Netball Australia to create more pathways to increase diversity and said it was time for an Indigenous player to again represent Australia.

It is clear there is an impediment for these [Indigenous] girls.

Marne Fechner

In response, Fechner said the governing body was unsure whether a lack of pathways was the problem. Netball Australia is hoping the reasons for the lack of diversity will be revealed in its State of the Game review.

“We don’t understand what the blockages are,” she said. “It is clear there is an impediment for these [Indigenous] girls. It’s not a question of they are not talented, that’s like saying women aren’t good enough to be CEOs, it’s illogical and it’s not true.

“What is it in our high-performance pathways that obviously isn’t nurturing and providing an opportunity for Indigenous athletes to thrive?”

The State of the Game review was announced in July with the aim of resetting the sport’s strategy after the effects of COVID-19.

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The review will be undertaken by an independent panel chaired by Liz Ellis and will look at growing strategies before the next home World Cup, which will likely be held in 2027.

In July, Queensland Firebirds star and Jamaican shooter Romelda Aiken said she was disappointed by the game’s lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement, arguing players of colour had to push the code to take a stand on the issue.

Fechner said netball “had to own” its lack of understanding in the area and recognise “where in the system we are breaking down”.

“Netball, in its roots, is about belonging and team and celebrating what is happening in our community, and that shouldn’t be closed off to anybody,” Fechner said.

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Oscars: Academy Awards introduce new best picture guidelines to improve diversity | Ents & Arts News


The Oscars has introduced a new set of guidelines for its most prestigious award, best picture.

The rules mean that films applying for the category will soon have to meet certain diversity standards, in a bid to improve representation on and off screen and more accurately reflect the movie-going audience.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences faced criticism in 2015, when the #OscarsSoWhite movement highlighted a lack of black and Asian actors nominated for the film industry’s top awards.

It faced similar criticism when this year’s nominees were announced, with just one black star, British actress Cynthia Erivo, shortlisted in the acting categories.

And no women and only one non-white director, South Korea‘s Bong Joon-ho, featured in the directing category. He went on to win, as Parasite also became the first foreign language film to win best picture.

The new guidelines cover four areas: on-screen representation and storyline, creative leadership and crew, apprenticeships and training, and audience development.

A film must meet at least two of the four standards to be eligible for the best picture category, but the rules will not be enforced until 2024, meaning that the 2025 winner of the category will be the first to have had to comply.

Movies applying in 2022 and 2023 will supply a confidential “Academy inclusion standards form” as part of their application.

The new standards have been created from a template inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards, used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA).

The BAFTAs also came under fire over lack of diversity in this year’s awards, with the nominees in the main acting categories all white and no women up for best director or best film.

Eligibility criteria for all other Oscar categories will remain unchanged.

The move is part of a wider Academy initiative to advance inclusion in the entertainment industry and increase representation within its membership and the larger film community by 2025.

Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said they believe the new standards “will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

Chair of the BAFTA Film Committee, Marc Samuelson, said they were “delighted” about the introduction of the new rules, adding that BAFTA hope to introduce universal diversity standards in all its film categories by 2014.

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Last year, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences invited 819 stars, directors and other industry experts to join its voting body in a bid to diversify its members.

The new batch of invitees were made up of 36% people of colour and 45% women.

Actresses including Cynthia Erivo, Ana De Armas, Eva Longoria and Awkwafina all made the list, alongside several stars from Parasite.

Next year’s Oscars will take place on Sunday 25 April 2021, two months later than usual.

The Academy’s new best picture guidelines can be found here.



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Trump bans ‘anti-American’ diversity training


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The president has previously said he does not believe the US has a systemic racism problem

US President Donald Trump has ordered federal agencies to stop racial sensitivity training, labelling it “divisive, anti-American propaganda”.

A memo to government agencies says it has come to his attention that millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money have funded such “trainings”.

The document says these sessions only foster resentment in the workforce.

Mr Trump has previously said he does not believe systemic racism is a problem in the US.

The memo comes amid the social justice protests that have swept the nation in recent months.

Friday’s two-page document from Office of Management and Budget Director Russell Vought is addressed to the heads of federal executive departments and agencies.

“All agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on ‘critical race theory,’ ‘white privilege,’ or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil,” it says.

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Media captionGeorge Floyd death: What’s changed, 100 days later?

The memo says that “according to press reports, employees across the Executive Branch have been required to attend trainings where they are told that ‘virtually all White people contribute to racism’ or where they are required to say that they ‘benefit from racism’.”

Again citing press reports, the text says that some of the training sessions “have further claimed that there is racism embedded in the belief that America is the land of opportunity or the belief that the most qualified person should receive a job.

“These types of ‘trainings’ not only run counter to the fundamental beliefs for which our Nation has stood since its inception, but they also engender division and resentment within the Federal workforce.”

It was not clear which reports Mr Vought was referring to or what prompted the memo. But such training sessions have been highlighted by the Discovery Institute, a conservative non-profit think tank based in Seattle.

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Media captionRacism in the US: Is there a single step that can bring equality?

Chris Rufo, one of its research fellows, told Fox News this week that the US Department of Treasury is among federal agencies that have hired such trainers.

Mr Rufo says his public records requests show these sessions have included teaching employees that white people uphold America’s system of racism, and sending white male executives to mandatory training in which they write letters of apology to minorities.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who will challenge Mr Trump for the White House in November, has vowed to fight systemic racism if elected.

“For generations, Americans who are Black, brown, Native American, immigrant, haven’t always been fully included in our democracy or our economy,” the former vice-president said in July.



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O’Toole vows to ease regional alienation, build diversity within Conservative Party


Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said today he will work to address regional divisions in Canada and build a more inclusive political party that better reflects the country’s population.

During his first news conference since winning the leadership on Monday, O’Toole said Canadians haven’t always seen themselves reflected in the party.

“I’m going to change that,” he said.

O’Toole won the leadership on the third ballot early Monday morning after a long night of delays caused by technical glitches in the ballot processing system. Final results, which were expected before 9 p.m. ET on Sunday, weren’t announced until after 1 a.m. Monday.

On his first day on the job, O’Toole dealt with transition issues and spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about Western alienation, emergency pandemic funding and the government’s decision to prorogue Parliament until Sept. 23.

O’Toole would not say today how his party intends to proceed on the confidence vote on the throne speech — which could trigger an election — but said it’s critical for the government to address western alienation in its plan going forward.

“If they continue to leave out the ability for our resource sector to get Canadian resources to market, we’re going to see more Western alienation, we’re going to see less jobs and opportunity for Canadians in Ontario, in Atlantic Canada,” he said.

“So we need to make sure that Canada’s strength in natural resources is part of that economic plan. We can do that while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but we have to be proud of what we produce here in Canada.”

O’Toole said he wants to collaborate with the provinces instead of taking an “Ottawa knows best” approach.

In his acceptance speech early Monday, O’Toole said he would work to heal any internal rifts in the party and broaden the party’s base of support.

“I believe that whether you are Black, white, brown or from any race or creed, whether you are LGBT or straight, whether you are an Indigenous Canadian or have joined the Canadian family three weeks ago or three generations ago, whether you’re doing well or barely getting by … you are an important part of Canada and you have a home in the Conservative Party of Canada,” he said.

O’Toole repeated a similar line today.

During the fall election campaign, his predecessor Andrew Scheer was dogged with questions about his social conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage. O’Toole said today he has a “clear track record” when it comes to human rights.

“I won the leadership of the Conservative party as a pro-choice Conservative MP, one that won with a strong mandate,” he said. “That’s how I’m going to lead as the leader of the Opposition and that’s how I will be as prime minister. I’m in politics to defend the rights of Canadians to secure a brighter future.”

O’Toole also noted he also was one of only 18 Conservative MPs to vote in favour of a bill advancing transgender rights.

Acknowledging he has work to do in getting Canadians to know him, O’Toole emphasized his middle class roots.

“I’m not famous, I’m not well known. I get things done. I don’t drop the ball and I’ve always fought for Canadians,” he said.

“I have no famous name. I just fight for Canadians. And after the pandemic, with record deficits, with the challenges we face in the world, we need a fighter. I think we’re tired of a directionalist, divisive and ethically challenged liberal government.”

‘Bold efforts’ required

Jonathan Malloy, a political science professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, said O’Toole will need “bold efforts” to bring the Conservatives back to government.

He said that while Stephen Harper’s strategy of assembling the minimum number of voters necessary to win worked to ensure a unified and well-funded party, it proved insufficient in the 2019 election.

“This is beyond appealing to specific groups of voters and policy areas — it’s a mindset that sees growth and inclusion as a good, not just grudgingly necessary, thing,” he said in an email response to questions from CBC News.

“In particular, the party must cultivate a more positive and collective vision, rather than the resentful individualism of its 2019 election slogan: ‘It’s time for you to get ahead.'”

David Stewart, a political science professor at the University of Calgary, said one big challenge for O’Toole will be to appeal to voters who might have suspicions about the social conservative views of many within the party.

“The party can’t win an election without overwhelming support from social conservatives, but it can’t win if it is unable to reach out more broadly,” he said in an email.

While leadership contender Peter MacKay had a narrow lead on the first ballot, O’Toole ended up taking 57 per cent of the votes, scooping up support from those who had supported social conservatives Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan. 

Liberal MP calls for Sloan’s expulsion

Ontario Liberal MP Pam Damoff issued a news release calling on O’Toole to condemn “racism, misogyny and bigotry” within his caucus by removing Sloan from his team and refusing to sign his nomination papers for the next election.

She cited past statements from Sloan criticizing Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam that many people considered racist and pointed out that he supported conversion therapy.

“I am proud to be part of a caucus that believes in protecting LGBTQ2 rights and women’s rights and sees Canada’s diversity, including within our public service, as our greatest strength,” she said in the release.

“If Mr. O’Toole wants to prove that he only pandered to far-right groups in order to win the leadership, and not as part of his vision for the next campaign, he has a lot of work ahead of him. However, the first item on his list needs to be removing Derek Sloan from his team.”

O’Toole said he and Sloan have some “very stark differences” in positions, though there are some areas of overlap, such shared concerns about China. O’Toole said he didn’t agree with the way Sloan characterized some of his concerns.

“But certainly within a pandemic, within the race we were in, a lot of things were said. We’re united now, we’re going to talk together as a caucus soon,” he said.



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Canadian oil giants emphasize climate change and diversity as they compete for investment


For executives at Husky Energy’s headquarters in Calgary, there is a new wrinkle in how their pay is calculated: climate change.

This is the first year the company is linking greenhouse gas emissions to compensation as part of a new plan that also includes a goal to reduce carbon emissions by 25 per cent over the next five years and set a similar gender-diversity target for management.

The measures come at a time when oil and gas companies around the world are competing for limited investment dollars, and those investors are increasingly focused on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.

For the oilsands, in particular, its image is also on the line. The sector is making improvements on lowering its greenhouse gas intensity, but it’s still known for producing a high-carbon source of oil. That’s why pension funds, insurers and investment firms regularly blacklist or curtail their involvement in Alberta’s oilsands.

Those in the industry say those divestment decisions have very little financial impact on the sector but do cause harm to its reputation.

“It’s important that we move and that we show leadership, but it’s also important that the entire Canadian industry shows leadership because we’re out in a world where we are fighting for capital, and we need to show the world that we know how to manage these risks — not just as Husky, but as an industry,” said Janet Annesley, Husky’s senior vice-president of corporate affairs and human resources.

WATCH | Husky’s Janet Annesley on achieving the GHG and diversity targets:

The company has stress tested its 2025 goal of reducing emissions by 25% 0:49

How much of an executive’s pay is tied to climate goals will vary depending on their responsibilities toward achieving the targets, Annesley said.

There are other factors that determine an executive’s pay, such as safety.

In 2018, for example, compensation for Husky executives was reduced following several problems, including an oil spill at an offshore operation in Newfoundland, a reprimand for a close call with an iceberg and a fire at a refinery in Wisconsin.

Conversely, last year the company had its best safety performance ever and compensation increased as a result.

“As they say in business, what gets measured, gets done,” Annesley said about the new climate goals. “We’ve identified the key executives, and we’re holding them accountable through our performance-based pay system to deliver on those targets.”

One of the largest oil and gas producers in the country, Calgary-based Canadian Natural Resources began including carbon emissions as part of its executive compensation scorecard in 2013.

New gender target

Linking environmental goals with compensation isn’t precedent-setting, but it puts Husky among leading companies in the oilpatch, said Michelle Tan, a partner with Hugessen Consulting, which advises companies on executive compensation.

Husky’s gender-diversity target of 25 per cent women in senior leadership roles, she said, is unique.

“To my recollection, it’s the first time I’ve seen an oil and gas company in Canada put in a diversity target,” said Tan, who added that it’s more often seen in other industries like the technology sector.

WATCH | Michelle Tan on how rare a diversity target is in the oilpatch:

Tan is a partner with Hugessen Consulting, which advises companies on executive compensation. 0:50

Canadian companies are playing catch-up to their European counterparts on most ESG issues, since most large oil companies in Europe have already made major carbon-reduction decisions and have linked environmental performance to compensation for several years.

Royal Dutch Shell, a British-Dutch oil and gas company, and Spanish firm Repsol, for example, both base about 10 per cent of an executive’s variable compensation on carbon emissions performance.

Room for improvement

Canadian oil and gas companies need to go beyond improving environmental performance, said Olaf Weber, a professor at the School of Environment, Enterprise and Development at the University of Waterloo in Ontario who researches sustainable finance.

“It’s too little, too late,” Weber said, explaining how the industry should have taken these types of environmental steps many years ago to reduce emissions.

“Rather than having compensation connected to reducing carbon emissions, the question is can you connect it to figuring out what could be new business strategies?” he said, such as investing in renewables.

WATCH | Olaf Weber explains why investors care about climate change:

The University of Waterloo professor says investors have financial concerns about climate change. 1:05

Other experts see it differently, like Meghan Harris-Ngae, who leads Ernst and Young’s climate change and sustainability services practice for Western Canada.

The oil and gas industry has worked on environmental initiatives for many years, she said, but only now is it starting to get credit for what it’s done.

“One of the things that I have seen is that a lot of the investments that have been made over the years don’t necessarily get the proper recognition in the capital markets, and a lot of that innovation is capital intensive,” said Harris-Ngae, who is based in Calgary.

For example, Imperial Oil and other energy companies have developed new technology to use solvents in oilsands production as a way of reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Oilsands companies are not only looking to lower their emissions; they’re also trying to reduce water use, land impact and tailings ponds.

Taking action on ESG is the right thing to do, MEG Energy chief executive Derek Evans said last month during a virtual energy conference. It’s also about ensuring that oilsands companies, like his, have a future in a carbon-constrained world.

“We’ve got a 60-year reserve life, and to ensure that those assets aren’t stranded, we need to continue to demonstrate that we’re a leader in all aspects of ESG and that we don’t have our head stuck in the sand, in that regard.”



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Police diversity: ‘Why join a force of people you mistrust?’


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Of 6,999 police officers serving in Wales, just 128 identify as BAME or mixed race, figures show

“Why would you join a force of people you are taught to inherently mistrust?”

Leena Farhat says she’s been stopped by officers in Wales three times in four years – and “never for a valid reason”.

She believes cultural problems need to be overcome to encourage more people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities to join the police.

Of 6,999 officers serving in Wales, 128 (1.82%) identify as BAME or mixed race, the latest Office for National Statistics figures show.

This is below the national proportion for the population which identifies as BAME – 5.9% – although it varies across the country, from 19.8% in Cardiff to 1.7% in Wrexham.

“In schools, from a young age, people are taught ‘if something isn’t right, talk to the police’, but a BAME child’s parents will say not to trust them,” Ms Farhat, a diversity officer for the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said.

“It’s a cultural divide you see in how many are signing up (for the police).”

The figures show there were just two new joiners from BAME backgrounds to three of Wales’ four forces in 2019-20, and seven new joiners at South Wales Police.

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Ms Farhat wants the four Welsh forces to do more to build cultural trust

At the country’s biggest force, South Wales Police, 0.19% (six officers) identify as black, 2.6% as BAME and 96.6% as white, while North Wales Police has just two female officers who identify as BAME.

The figures also show only four female officers from these backgrounds are currently ranked higher than a constable in Wales.

Originally from Switzerland, with a father of Arabian descent and mother who is Mauritian, Ms Farhat moved to Aberystwyth to study four years ago.

“I’ve been stopped three times since I’ve been in Wales, at random points, and never for a valid reason,” she said.

“People develop a mistrust for the police, think they’re out to sabotage them and don’t care about people who look like them.”

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Getty Images

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Ms Farhat said she has been stopped three times since moving to Aberystwyth in 2016

The most recent incident came came in December 2019, after Ms Farhat had been to the S4C studios in Carmarthen for General Election night.

She left at 06:00 to get a bus back to Aberystwyth.

“I had a big jacket on and headphones, and a couple of officers came to ask about a burglary,” said Ms Farhat.

“They looked through my bag and I was asked to go to Carmarthen station. When I said no, they told me to report to Aberystwyth station.

“It was the wrong place, wrong time, but there was another woman not far behind and they didn’t stop her.”

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PA

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Black people are nine times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people, according to UK government figures

It is incidents like this which she believes many white people are unaware of, but which people of colour face on a daily basis, which destroys trust and stops more signing up.

She thinks the implications of “cultural mistrust” are far-reaching, from people not reporting racism for fear of not being taken seriously, while Ms Farhat has had friends in “dangerous situations” who have been reluctant to call 999.

Domestic abuse victims can be less comfortable speaking to someone from a different background, she added.

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Getty Images

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While policing is not devolved to Wales, the issue could be debated in the Senedd

While policing is not devolved in Wales, Ms Farhat believes cultural views must change and called for a debate in the Senedd.

Equalities commissioner Joyce Watson said the issue should be highlighted, adding: “I would prefer to see this being discussed with some depth of meaning not just political statements, but examining the reason and gaining improvement.”

A spokesman for South Wales Police, which has six officers who are black and 78 who identify as BAME, said: “We recognise and value individuals’ unique differences, and we want South Wales Police to continue to develop as an organisation which represents and reflects our communities.

“Whilst we have made progress during this time, we accept that we still have work to do, but we are moving in the right direction.”

Image caption

The ONS figures are from March but forces have been continuing moves to recruit more people from BAME backgrounds since then

The force also has a dedicated team to encourage applications from under-represented groups, with seven new joiners from BAME backgrounds in 2019-20.

Gwent Police said it currently has 50 staff members who identify as BAME – 29 officers, 10 police staff, six community support officers and five special constables.

“We have recently taken the opportunity to further engage with those in the organisation who identify as black, Asian and minority ethnic to explore with them what further support and opportunities we could offer to help them progress in their policing career,” Chief Constable Pam Kelly said.

‘Diversity improving’

Virtual discussions have also taken place with representatives of different communities about strengthening relationships and providing a better service.

In North Wales Police, 17 officers (1.06%) are from BAME backgrounds, with two of these being female – three have been recruited since the ONS figures were compiled.

Head of diversity Greg George said: “We recognise that, although the diversity of our staff is improving, we are not fully representative yet and we are striving to address this imbalance through positive action support.”



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Too many diversity initiatives are neglecting junior Black employees. We can fix that


In response to the Black Lives Matter uprising following the death of George Floyd, many corporations have committed to increasing Black representation at the leadership level. Both Microsoft and Uber have pledged to double the number of Black employees in senior positions. Google, Royal Bank of CanadaLloyds Banking Group and HSBC are also among the companies who have publicly announced their plans to increase Black representation in their leadership teams. 

This focus on top positions is part of a growing trend. While efforts to increase diversity have typically been pushed at more junior level positions, over the past few years external think tanks have been closely analyzing diversity in the upper ranks. According to the Center for Talent Innovation, despite accounting for 12% of the U.S. population, Black people hold only 3.2% of leadership roles at large U.S. companies, and there are currently only four Black Fortune 500 CEOs

The same disparities prevail in Britain. According to 2019 research completed by the recruitment consultancy Green Park, Black people represent less than 1% of leaders running FTSE 100 companies. The Colour of Power 2020, a joint research project by Green Park and Operation Black Vote exploring the diversity of Britain’s most powerful decision-makers across the private and public sector, revealed that of the 1,099 most powerful roles in the country, a total of just 17 are held by Black men and women.

Clearly, this is a gap that must be addressed. However, beyond increasing Black representation at senior levels and the promise of global anti-racism trainings, many corporations have failed to outline the support mechanisms they will put in place for Black employees early into their career. This feels like a crucial oversight—because it could be argued that one reason there are so few top Black leaders is because companies do so little to help talented junior Black employees thrive.

Young Black professionals face numerous hurdles at the beginning of their career, and as a Black female four years into my own career, I’ve both experienced and witnessed them. 

Many Black professionals join work environments where they are in the racial minority, which can be isolating. They can be made to feel that they are merely a “diversity” hire and should be grateful to be there. They endure racism and microaggressions and then feel compelled to compress their feelings of hurt and frustration, to avoid conforming to the stereotype of being “angry.” 

When you’re the only Black person on your team, you’re made to feel like the representative of all Black people, which means you can never be your authentic self. Many Black professionals grow up being told they have to work twice as hard as the rest. As a result, junior Black professionals tend to work longer hours initially to combat stereotypes of Black people not having a strong work ethic. Ironically, this can sometimes have the opposite effect, as it may appear that they are ill prepared and unorganized, as they try to juggle too much. 

Over time, code switching becomes normal for Black professionals, as they grow tired of being overlooked for promotion and realize that moving up the ladder is dependent on building relationships and networking with senior white leaders. But research has found that code switching can be exhausting and lead to poor performance and burnout. Those first few months and years for Black employees, as they navigate systemic racism in these organizations while trying to progress in their career, can often feel like a game of survival.

As corporations reflect on Black Lives Matter, they should look at ways to improve the experience of their junior Black employees. Black professionals have had enough, and research shows many are planning to leave their current job to pursue other opportunities.

With that in mind, here are four steps that corporate leaders can take to foster a better environment.

Create a safe space for conversations about race 

Black employees starting out need to feel comfortable talking about race, whether it’s regarding race-related incidents happening in the news or at work. White leaders in particular should take a lead on this; the onus can’t always fall on the one or two senior Black professionals to do the emotional labor of talking about race in addition to their jobs. 

Encourage authenticity 

Junior Black professionals often feel the need to tone down anything that appears as “too Black” in order to fit in. For Black women this could involve opting for straight hairstyles instead of natural curls or braids; for any Black worker regardless of gender, it could involve going by a less “ethnic-sounding” name and opting not to share some of their interests outside of work. Create an environment where differences are celebrated, and provide an opportunity to learn from one another.

Develop impactful mentorship and sponsorship programs 

Black professionals starting out don’t always have access and exposure to senior leaders, which can hinder promotional prospects. But mentorship and sponsorship can help with this. Research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations showed that mentoring programs dramatically improved promotion and retention rates for minorities and women—by 15% to 38%, respectively, as compared with non-mentored employees. Having senior leaders provide guidance and advocate for them is invaluable. Initiatives like this can be successful when there is a clear structure in place, a group of engaged and genuine leaders who would be fully committed and careful, and who considered the pairing of mentees and mentors based on specific criteria. 

Invest in Black employees’ development

Whether it’s through formal training opportunities or providing more role autonomy, invest in the development and growth of your Black employees. Coach them, give regular actionable feedback, and provide them with the space to make mistakes and learn from them in the same away other employees can.

René Germain is a product manager in financial services and the cofounder of nine to fives, a community for black employees in the workplace.  

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VC firms lift their game on diversity as new appointments make their mark


Ms Vullinghs said the new generation at venture capital firms would inevitably change the way funds invested.

“There is a big group of really smart passionate people who have done a few years in venture now and they are now starting to write cheques,” she said. “It is making things more equal although we still have loads of work to do. We need to look at diversity through not just gender but socio- economic background and race as well. We are just at the start of this.”

Elicia McDonald, 31, who was made a partner at Airtree last year, said Australia was now starting to see home grown venture capital talent come through as the sector works to address the under-representation of women at partnership level.

Ms McDonald said greater diversity would strengthen venture capital and by extension the startup sector Australia.

“It’s not just a gender thing but having diversity of opinions across investments leads to better outcomes,” she said. AirTree’s team is 56 per cent women overall, with 20 per cent women at partner level and a third of the team from a non-western ethnic background.

Blackbird Ventures Sam Wong has been promoted to equal partner at the venture capital firm. Credit:Kate Geraghty

Blackbird partner Ms Wong said the sector was changing and likened working in venture capital to an apprenticeship, where working directly with founding partners Rick Baker and Niki Scevek allowed her to learn the craft of venture capital.

“I never thought of my background as a disadvantage as I don’t think I had that much awareness to be honest of the proper background and my naivety probably helped,” she said.

Blackbird’s team comprises 62 per cent women overall with 20 per cent women at partner level. The venture capital firm does not record ethnicity data.

Ms Wong added there were plenty of times where she was the only woman VC or person from a different background but this was happening less and less.

“I definitely think the industry is changing, it is very slow moving as typically people only get promoted at the rate funds are raised and typically that is every two years or so,” she said. “There is a pipeline issue not in the sense of qualified people but in terms of gestation.”

Ms Wong pointed to BlackBird’s recent investment in femtech startup Ovira, founded by Alice Williams, which is focused on personal wearable devices for period pain.

“Rick [Baker] lead that deal, he has not suffered from period pain and will never experience that,” she said. “But I like to think me being on the investment committee and Tip [Piumsomboon] on the team meant a solo young woman founder felt comfortable pitching Blackbird and Rick felt comfortable investing.”

However, Ms Wong said more needed to change in venture capital to ensure diversity in particular the traditional way partners showed their alignment through investing their own money in a fund.

“It’s exclusionary to people that did not found a successful company or go to Stanford when Google and Facebook started,” she said. “It disadvantages migrants and women who may not have accumulated a lot of wealth. But it’s still the yardstick by which most institutional investors measure general partner and limited partner alignment.”

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Diversity at the top in council … for next seven weeks


By KIERAN FINNANE

For the next seven weeks the Town Council will be headed by by Jamie de Brenni as Mayor and Jimmy Cocking as Deputy Mayor.

Cr de Brenni was a shoo-in as acting Mayor, with Cr Glen Auricht nominating him, seconded Cr Jacinta Price.

Another nomination would have been pointless and all five councillors raised their hands for him.

Mayor de Brenni will wear the crown (or chain, more accurately) until after the results of the NT elections become clear and any unsuccessful candidates apply to be reinstated to their former positions.

The former Mayor, Deputy Mayor and two councillors are contesting. Former councillors Marli Banks and Catherine Satour resigned almost immediately after announcing their candidature, while former Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Matt Paterson waited until the eleventh hour.

With all four now absent from council, the remaining five met tonight, together with officers and staff.

Going into the special meeting it looked like only an interim mayor would be appointed – the recommendation of officers.

However, Cr Cocking argued that council should create a “caretaker mode” for itself during this period, with a a solidly structured leadership.

He won over Cr Glen Auricht who nominated him, though it looked for a while that he wouldn’t get a seconder.

Meanwhile Cr Price nominated herself. But no-one seconded her self-nomination.

Then Cr Melky put up his hand to second Cr Cocking and the deed was done.



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Canberra Writers Festival slammed for failing to represent local community and lacking diversity


The launch of the Canberra Writers Festival program for 2020 has garnered outrage from across the Australian writing community for what some are calling a lack of diversity.

In an open letter to the festival, published over the weekend, the ACT Writers Centre criticised the Canberra Writers Festival for producing a largely white cohort of writers and speakers for this year’s coronavirus friendly event.

The ACT Writers Centre also accused the event of failing to represent the Canberra writing community, instead opting for well-known national profiles.

Last year, the headline act was Barnaby Joyce; this year, it is Christopher Pyne, following the release of his autobiography.

‘The time for excuses has passed’

In its letter to the festival, the ACT Writers Centre said it had drawn attention to a lack of diverse representation in the festival’s program over the years.

But, they said, given recent events like the Black Lives Matter movement, the centre was increasing pressure on organisers to make changes.

“We have repeatedly tried to engage with the CWF in past years, including the festival’s first in 2016.

“We have at times provided the festival organising team with lists of wonderful and diverse writers in our region.”

Black and white photos of authors William Dalrymple, Barry Jones, Simon Winchester and Rory Medcalf alongside their titles.
The Canberra Writers Festival program has been criticised for a lack of diversity.(Supplied)

The ACT Writers Centre is an independent group that has existed as an advocate for Canberra writers since 1995.

They are not affiliated with the festival, which is partly funded by the ACT Government, and said they were not consulted during planning for the 2020 event.

The ACT Writers Centre said Australia was “one of the most diverse countries in the world” and “writers festivals — indeed the writing infrastructure as a whole — must recognise, reflect and support that diversity”.

Writers express frustration with festival line-up

Photos of Paul Kelly, Dennis Foley, Peter Read, Adam Liaw and others in black and white alongside their book titles.
Other writers who will appear during the festival are Paul Kelly, Adam Liaw, Peter Read and Dennis Foley.(Supplied)

Writers and personalities featured in the 2020 festival program include children’s book author Matt Stanton, Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert, Irish author Dervla McTiernan, writer and cook Adam Liaw, and feminist and political activist Gloria Steinem.

Interviews will be conducted by media personalities including Annabel Crabb, Richard Fidler and Rick Morton.

Other events will feature former foreign minister Julie Bishop, Jean Kittson, Bridie Jabour and Chris Ryan — for the final event Girls Night In — as well as philosopher Alain de Botton and this year’s Stella Prize winner Jess Hill for her work Look What You Made Me Do.

One notable Canberra resident represented is Dennis Foley, an Indigenous Australian scholar at the University of Canberra who will be interviewed alongside his co-author Peter Read about their book What the Colonists Never Knew: A History of Aboriginal Sydney.

Zoya, wearing a red jacket, looks into the camera.
Canberra author Zoya Patel said she was not aware the festival was calling for submissions.(ABC News: Sally Rafferty)

Canberra writer Zoya Patel said it was disappointing to see a lack of diversity when other writers festivals around the country were taking steps to make their programs more inclusive.

“Not even just that there are fewer women, people of colour, but also the headline events and the way it’s being promoted show a clear bias towards white men,” she said.

She said she had not been aware that the festival was taking submissions, and that it was more focused on Canberra’s political scene than on being a festival that represented the city’s writing community.

She called the lack of local talent in the program “a big missed opportunity.”

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In the wake of the festival’s program launch, a number of writers took to social media to express their frustration with its line-up.

“And yes, sure, everyone loves Richard Fidler and Rick Morton, but do they really need to be on [two] panels each? And why is the Girls’ Night In always four white women?”

Others echoed the centre in calling for more consultation with Canberra-based writer’s groups.

“Listening to the local writers centre would be a start.”

Sydney writer Eileen Chong said the festival needed to do more to represent the breadth of Australia’s literary community.

“Many of us in the lit community are disappointed in your 2020 line-up. It doesn’t represent the diversity of authors who are writing in Australia today,” she tweeted.

Festival turns to livestreaming amid pandemic

Gloria Steinem
Gloria Steinem will be interviewed over livestream as part of the festival.(Annie Leibovitz)

Inn response to the ACT Writers Centre, festival organisers said they had decided to make the most of the coronavirus restrictions by holding live-streamed interviews with prominent authors, such as Gloria Steinem.

“In March, as the world shut down due to the global pandemic, we made a significant leap of faith in deciding to proceed with the festival as a mix of live and streamed events. We had to unpick a full program,” the letter read.

“In the process, we saw an opportunity to program some big international names who, even without the travel restrictions imposed by the pandemic, we might not normally attract to Canberra.”

They said they were expected to attract notable, renowned authors to help stimulate Canberra’s tourism industry.

“We welcome local writers as a very important and popular component of Canberra’s world-class festival.”

The organisers accounted for a lack of local writers in the 2020 program by saying they received a low number of submissions from that cohort.

“In 2020 we had one submission from a local author, whose book was published several years ago,” they said.

“We only program authors with books published, or upcoming, in the year of the festival.

“Naturally, with the ACT Writers Centre’s deep connection with the local scene, we welcome your input to the program, which ideally would be from September-December, when we are programming for the following year’s festival.

“The ACT Writers Centre has not engaged with us since the 2019 festival.”

Christopher Pyne smiles with his arms crossed, wearing a suit and tie.
Some Canberra writers have accused the festival of focusing too much on the city as the home of Federal Parliament.(Supplied: Canberra Writers Festival)

Ms Patel said the festival’s stance showed they did not believe representing diverse voices would attract interest.

“You’re implying that programming diversity wouldn’t sell tickets and that they don’t have anything of value to entice people to sell tickets.”

The ACT Writers Centre said it hoped to work with the festival in the future to help it overcome barriers to diversity.

Interim director Meg Wilson said the centre was also taking steps to be a more representative, and that organisations needed to actively seek out diverse voices.



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