Lack of Diversity in Workplaces Can Have Serious Impacts, According to This CIO

Nicole Singh
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We know that diversity is an important point of discussion in any workplace, and thankfully it's a topic of conversation that's gradually been getting more airtime this year. But in large institutions, actually making sure that inclusion is filtered through to all areas of the workplace in measures of age, gender and ethnicity can be easier said than done. Enter Changing the Ratio: A one day event being held on May 28.

Rallying an impressive group of accomplished speakers, the event hopes to arm attendees with the tools required to breed inclusivity, particularly in the media industry. Kirsty Muddle, CIO at creative media agency Cummins&Partners  is one of those speakers. Building an impressive career for herself, below, we spoke to Muddle about her career thus far, why initiatives like Changing the Ratio are so important, and the potential impacts lack of diversity can have on industries. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your current role, and what a standard day looks like for you?

I'm part of the team in our Sydney office where I have been for 4 years. I have some director responsibilities that come with being a founding partner, but most of my day is taken up with talking to current and potential clients about their business problems and writing strategies that help inspire creative answers that solve those problems. 

My day starts at 5.45 a.m., I get my daughter to childcare for 8 a.m. and then land at work. I leave work at 4.30-5 p.m., get her sorted and then get back to work (virtually) till about 8.30-9 p.m. That's not always the case. I found, like most parents do, that you become better at prioritising and getting stuff done. I feel like I've done a Masters in Operations as opposed to taking parental leave (when I did). 

Did you always see yourself as a CIO, or, was it a more organic process? 

No I didn't. It was organic. I've had a few titles in this business. I always knew my strength was to zig and zag my way to an answer. I found only a few barriers I couldn't get through. That's the spirit of innovation, so the title is befitting. 

Have you ever felt that you’ve missed out on experiences due to your gender? 

I don't feel like I have. I have always had a fast-moving and fast-progressing career, where opportunities presented themselves or I created them. However, it doesn't mean I don't think prejudice exists. Gender bias exists. I did find it a little bit harder when I was pregnant. All of a sudden, I realised that many of the people I worked with—men, women, young, old and those who are my peers—may never have experienced being pregnant themselves. I felt a natural division for the first time because of my pregnant experience, which obviously has a gender link. Because of this, I became acutely aware of 'fairness' and the benefits of flexibility.

 Why do you think events like Changing the Ratio are so important? 

I think it's rare, in any industry, to be totally oblivious to issues of gender inequality, pay parity and cultural biases. Events like Changing the Ratio surface answers for businesses that are looking for ways to resolve issues they may have. 

As a business, our ratios across age, gender, and culture are good; and we're constantly realising the benefits that come from that diversity. if we can share that with the industry and become a catalyst for improved ratios across the industry, then we can all be better than the sum of our parts.

 

What do you think are some impacts of companies that aren’t diverse?

Regurgitated strategies and ideas because they're not broadening the problem space with diverse opinion. I'm a big believer that asking good questions is more important than finding the answers. Diversity allows us to find great questions that unlock something new not search for answers that just surface stuff we already know. The more perspectives we consider the more we grow. We encourage that behaviour in lot's of ways. One of them is a instrumental part of our core process. Which is called Roominate. As the name infers, it involves getting people in a room to solve problems. The more diverse those people the better the output.

 Without diversity there is also a lack of innovation and original thought which hinders your ability to problem solve. It also breeds a dogmatic culture as people are less inclined to challenge the majority opinion and more likely to appease the extroverts.

What do you believe are some initial steps companies can take to become more diverse?

Come to the Changing The Ratio conference and tool up. Take a look at your ratios and work out what you need to balance it out. You can also take the Diversity Australia's Unconscious Bias training. Solutions will likely require a short, medium and long-term plan. Some strategies need an incubation period.

 For tickets to this event, click through to Eventbrite

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