Georgie Dansey is a PPTA Field Officer, and a long-time supporter, friend, and comrade to the Young Workers Resource Centre.

It’s in our human rights law, that we will not discriminate against people based on their race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status or family status.

We also know from employment law that employers must appoint the best person for the job.

So how do these two pieces of legislation fit together in the reality of appointing someone to a job? And how much legal scope is there for lawful discrimination?

On paper, I might not look as impressive as someone else my age, I took 18 months maternity leave, and then worked 6 years part time. Therefore, because of less paid work experience, I might not be deemed the best person for a job.

An employer choosing the white guy for a job is probably not legally defined as discrimination, but I believe that employers have the responsibility to appoint a diverse workforce. This would lead to less discrimination of employees, and by association less discrimination to those who interact with them at work.

Do you know what I mean? It’s like inclusiveness by association, a snowball of inclusiveness. Basically a great inclusive time for everyone.

Let’s start with why diversity is important. it has been proven that diverse workplaces make more money, have better decision making and are more innovative. Better yet, diverse leaders can improve performance, have happier workers and attract more people to the organisation.

it has been proven that diverse workplaces make more money, have better decision making and are more innovative. Better yet, diverse leaders can improve performance, have happier workers and attract more people to the organisation.

As New Zealanders, we literally have the responsibility to be committed to the principles of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, this means that since the impact of colonisation on Maori has been recognised in our legal system, we all have a responsibility to increase equity in our partnership between Pakeha and Maori, and to take steps towards a society and a workforce that reflects this partnership.

And who has the most power? The people of privilege in powerful positions of course, the CEO’s and employers who are sifting through our CV’s to find the best person for the job.

These people have the responsibility to commit to the principles of te tiriti and the legislated human rights as outlined in the Human Rights Act, and appoint a diverse workforce to all positions, especially leadership.

My kid had his tonsils out and while I was waiting, I yarned with a nurse at the hospital.  As a mother of four, she told me that ever since the person who did her roster changed to a woman who had children herself, the rosters had changed significantly. The nurse I was speaking to found her work roster more thoughtful and accommodating, because someone like her knew how bloody hard the day care run was.

No one was disadvantaged in the re-jigging of the rosters, but people benefitted from an understanding from their manager that they had significant commitments outside of work. THIS, is the power of having diverse people in positions of power.

The problem is that often diverse people don’t look as good on paper as others, a woman who took 10 years off to look after her kids, doesn’t look as good as someone who didn’t. Someone from a minority culture, someone with a disability, or a queer person has not been given the opportunities that white straight non-disabled people have been given. As a general rule they just haven’t had the access to education, health and employment opportunities that the majority have.

This is why putting diversity as a priority above work experience is an absolute must. Considering someone’s skills for the role is of course important, but framing every decision made with a commitment to the Human Rights Act and the Treaty of Waitangi, will ensure that we are progressing the careers and wellbeing of the disadvantaged and the minority. It will ensure that the future leaders of the organisation will be a range of genders, various ethnicities and with various abilities.

Going back to answer my original question, I believe that organisations can appoint the best person for the job, if having a diverse workforce is a priority for them.

So how do we do this? My Top five ways for organisations to prioritise diversity:

  1. Make a commitment to diversity in your organisations strategic plan.
  2. Have diverse appointment panels.
  3. Put diversity as the most important thing in appointing new staff, above years of experience.
  4. Train staff and leaders on diversity and how to recognise unconscious bias.
  5. Celebrate your staff.

For employees and job seekers, it’s a tough gig, and until we get into the CEO chair, we might not be able to have the impact on diverse workplaces that we would like. But in order to get into that chair, across the board changes must be made, and speaking to the importance of diversity in your job interviews, or asking for staff training on diversity, could be a good step in the right direction.

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