Do we need any starker examples of why diversity matters than the deluge that has come from our federal and state parliaments and parliamentarians in the past 2 months? What we see and hear is so vile and brutal and ugly we almost have to avert our gaze. But we cannot and will not.
Enough is enough.
This is a call for change, a call to action, a call to listen spurred by two incredibly brave young women - Australian of the Year, Grace Tame, and former parliamentary staffer, Brittany Higgins. Both women are using their voices and their platforms to demand an end to sexual violence, and safety, justice and equity for girls and women at home, at school, at work and everywhere in between. Some of Australia's best investigative and political journalists - Louise Milligan (ABC), Samantha Maiden (news.com.au), Lisa Wilkinson (Channel 10), Katharine Murphy (The Guardian), Annabel Crabb (ABC) - have uncovered and reported on what happens when diversity does not matter,
when the corridors of power and influence in our parliaments and our boardrooms are dominated by mostly men who are mostly white who attended the same schools and universities and who are surrounded by staff and colleagues cut from the same cloth.
Men who have grown up having power, given power, taken power. Men who have progressed through life unchecked, many oblivious, some wilfully blind, to the misogyny and racism that is baked into the Australian DNA. We cannot have got to 2021 and have made so little progress on gender violence, sex discrimination, racial discrimination and indigenous equity and justice for this to be a problem caused by a very small fringe minority. This is pervasive and mainstream and systemic.
And we have got to this point because over the years we have all been complicit. Unwilling, unconscious but still complicit.
We put up, we shut up, we excuse, we dismiss, we downplay, we turn away, we hide, we laugh it off, we tough it out, we pretend, we put on a brave face, we deny, we protect, we join in, we lie, we never tell anyone, we feel shame, we normalise. We accept.
We accept or we pay the very high price extorted and inflicted by those in power. Sometimes that price is our life or the life of loved ones. Sometimes we give up, and if we can, we leave.
Now, in the millions, from all around Australia, women and men, indigenous Australians, multicultural Australians and white Australians, young and old, from all walks of life, we are saying: No! We don't accept!
We don't accept that our Federal Parliament is the most dangerous workplace in the country especially for women. We don't accept that those in power are allowed to maintain the status quo to avoid loosening, even a little, their stranglehold on power, standing and wealth. We don't accept being deflected and distracted by lip service, window dressing, diversity-washing titles and a women's summit. We don't accept that distorting the premise of the rule of law and the mere mention of police inquiries are adequate excuses for refusing to act. We don't accept that appointing women to a task force or creating women's ministerial portfolios is progress enough. We don't accept that it is the responsibility of women to come up with the answers and solutions, just as we don't accept that these are women's problems.
What we are seeing now is the result of years of attitudes, behaviours and beliefs that have been allowed to flourish unchecked and handed down like a birthright. The sexist, racist, entitled attitudes, behaviours and world views that are normalised.
Everyday occurrences - the micro-aggressions, bullying, harassment, name calling, slut shaming, trolling, revenge porn, sexual assaults, rape, coercive control, assaults, murder.
Just typical Aussie larrikin behaviour. Boys being boys. Only having a laugh so lighten up. And it seems no crime is too heinous. When Hannah Clarke and her three children were murdered by her estranged partner in the most horrific way in broad day light in a public street police still wanted to "keep an open mind" and consider if "maybe he had been pushed too far".
There is an all too familiar playbook when perpetrators are called out. The confected outrage, the refusal to admit and face up to having done anything wrong, the victim card complete with tears, the non-apology "in case anyone took offence" and the glowing character references from the great and the powerful. The same script gets handed on to the next sporting / political / business leader in the public spotlight. Meanwhile the victim gets harassed and vilified, death threats, gaslighted and slut shamed. Made to leave or left with no choice but to leave and basically run out of town.
We will not fix this unless and until we admit that there is this very dark, ugly side to Australian society and cultural norms: that we have allowed sexist and racist attitudes to take hold in our institutions, including federal parliament; that our institutions have been permitted to avoid, delay and obstruct the implementation of meaningful change to address diversity and inclusion.
We have been here before. We have had the discussions, multiple inquiries and royal commissions and we know what needs to change. We are here now because for the majority of leaders diversity and inclusion have not been core objectives. Seen as a "nice to have" not a "must have". Something we will get to eventually. Or not.
At 5i Capital diversity, inclusion and equity have been core to our values and our business right from the start. We see it as a core business metric not just for ourselves (meet our team here) but also for the start-ups we work with and look to invest in (meet our first investment, DTACT).
In Australia, "diversity" is often taken to mean only gender diversity. It explains the high-fiving and back slapping if boards or panels or executive teams have achieved at least one third female representation. But it still perpetuates the blinkered vision and group think that comes with having people from the same socio-economic class, who live the same suburbs, were educated in the same schools and universities and worked at the same professional services firms. Institutions linked to religious groups often add worshipping the same god for good measure. And when they renew they cycle on the same type of person as has cycled off. Real institutional and systemic change will only come with having leaders reflecting true diversity and inclusion. It is time to stop marrying our cousins and using our aunts as matchmakers!
We are interested in all dimensions of diversity at 5i Capital. Our focus is on three main dimensions - gender, ethnicity and neurodiversity. These are quantifiable and slot in well with other data points that we track, measure and manage in a start-up. World view, life experience and education and professional background are also important considerations but more subjective measures.
Increasingly we look at diversity not just from the social impact angle but more broadly from an investment perspective. Cyber security as a discipline really calls for unorthodox thinking and creative minds and the ability to think and see outside "normal" paradigms. The best, most innovative and cutting edge, elegant solutions often come from founders and teams that are diverse on multiple dimensions.
Demanding diversity, equity and inclusion in our workplaces is not a feel good moral stance. It is good business sense, essential for sustainable businesses and critical for investible and profitable businesses.