Is my workplace’s diversity push discriminating against me?

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a minute?” This week, diversity in the workplace, a four-day workweek and late invoice payments.

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I have reached a stage in life where I can no longer reconcile in my mind the relentless bombardment of promoting diversity by my employer. I am all for the genuine promotion and actions to remove discrimination of any sort anywhere in society. This is different. My employer is using the phrase as a subterfuge to only promote women and has set targets of 50:50 parity in senior management and in operational ranks. Every day we are bombarded with literature to achieve this under the name of “diversity”. How do I continue knowing the only way to meet the targets is through me discriminating myself?

I have to admit that my initial response as I read your letter was to feel a little cranky. I am an advocate for diversity (in all forms) and so I applaud any employer wanting to foster a more diverse workforce within its ranks.

However, I am also grateful you have shared your concerns. I can imagine it is not easy to talk about this openly at work and other men may feel the same way you do which is an issue for employers to tackle if we are ever to see true gender equality at work.

The best way, I think, to answer the specific matter you have asked about is to invite you to think about your question differently. Rather than asking how you can meet new gender targets without discriminating (presumably against men) in the future, what if you were to ask yourself instead: how was it that I didn’t realise I may have been, even inadvertently, discriminating (against women or others) until now? Maybe ask if that could be possible and if so, what blind spots you may have which you can look out for in the future. Doing so would seem to also fit with your stated goal for genuine promotions and actions to remove discrimination anywhere in society.

You might also like to take a look at an excellent report by Chief Executive Women called “Backlash and Buy-In”. It recognises that views like yours need to be recognised, understood and addressed to overcome resistance to change.

I’m 19 years old and I work as a carpenter full-time. As a young adult I feel we need to trial a four-day workweek as many teenagers are combatting mental health issues and with an extra day off, we would have time to unwind and relax just that bit longer. I want to know how can we try and push this to Parliament?

Thank you for being so invested in your own mental health, as well as that of others. Your views are not uncommon and The Great Resignation phenomenon reflects the fact that many people are not prepared to work the same way they have always been expected to. This is actually an opportunity for employers to listen to those they lead, like you, so views like yours can be heard.

In terms of where to from here, a four-day week is certainly something that is being trialled overseas and by a handful of companies in Australia as well. I sit on the board of technology company Envato and we introduced a nine-day fortnight until the end of this year to address the kinds of issues you raise. The way leaders respond to the individual needs of their team members requires listening with empathy and compassion.

If you have already spoken to your boss and they are not open to the idea of a four-day week, see if any other employers might be. And at the same time, maybe gather other workmates who feel the same way and talk to your local MP (or perhaps all of you go and speak to your boss, together) to see if this is something they might like to address with you.

I’m a freelancer, and while the work-life balance sometimes eludes me, I genuinely love what I do. One major problem though is a few my clients don’t pay their accounts on time. One client has 90-day terms but always seems to pay late. What can I do to ensure my accounts are paid on time?

That is a tricky situation to tackle and the right question to be asking and addressing. I would have thought 90-days terms are exceedingly generous, especially as a freelancer, and by offering them you may have inadvertently indicated to this client that payment of their account is somewhat flexible. There was a report by the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman stating that payment terms not exceeding 30 days, plus performance monitoring, is the key to reducing late payments.

Could you consider speaking with each of your clients, bringing them all onto a standard payment term of 30 days, and explain that as a freelancer, cash is critically important to your business and so delivering your work on time, and payment of invoices on time, is part of the respect you both show to one another?

Presumably you meet your deadlines for this client and so it is not unreasonable to expect that they meet their deadlines for you. I think if you continue to have a client that does not respect this important aspect of your working relationship, then you need to be prepared to not start work on the next project for them until your invoices have been paid in full.

Send your questions about work, careers and leadership to [email protected] Your name and any identifying information will not be used. Letters may be edited.

Dr Kirstin Ferguson is an award-winning leader, author, executive coach and public speaker; she is the former deputy chair of the ABC. You can connect with Kirstin at kirstinferguson.com or on Twitter @kirstinferguson and LinkedIn @kirstinferguson.

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