News & Analysis

1 in 4 Australians have been discriminated against at work on the basis of gender

- November 5, 2015 2 MIN READ
women in STEM

The level of discrimination in Australian workplaces is higher than the global average, according to a new report from HR firm Randstad.

The latest Randstad Workmonitor report, published quarterly, found that while 79 percent of Australian workers believe their business has an open and inclusive culture and 89 percent of workers value diversity in the workplace, one in four or 25 percent of Australian workers said they had been discriminated against on the basis of their gender, compared to the global average of 21 percent, while 20 percent said they were subject to racial discrimination at work, three percent higher than the global average.

Steve Shepherd, employment market analyst at Randstad, said that while both employers and employees generally believe that diversity can help a company, the report shows putting this belief into practice has been harder than it looks.

“There is currently an untapped opportunity for Australian employers to embrace the wide range of cultures, experiences and skillsets in our society for the benefit of their workforce. By educating employees to embrace the differences they have with colleagues – be it gender, race, culture or religion – teams will be able to identify each person’s strengths and motivations and utilise them to boost efficiencies,” Shepherd said.

The Randstad report has come at a particularly interesting moment, with the tech world once again debating the issue of discrimination and diversity in tech after former Twitter engineering manager Leslie Miley announced that he had left the company because he was unhappy with the way Twitter was addressing issues of diversity.

Miley explained in a Medium post that while Twitter had been making efforts publicly to address diversity within its workforce, he was concerned with how managerial staff actually understood the situation. He wrote that he frequently had to lobby for diverse candidates in hiring meetings, with “a particularly low moment” coming when the senior vice president of engineering replied to his question about what specific steps Twitter engineering was taking to increase diversity with, “diversity is important, but we can’t lower the bar.”

He and the same SVP, Alex Roetter, also disagreed on how to track the ethnicities of job candidates, with Roetter wanting to create a tool that analyses the surnames of candidates in order to classify their ethnicity.

“While not intentional, his idea underscored the unconscious tendency to ignore the complex forces of history, colonisation, slavery and identity. I left that meeting wondering how I could, in good conscience, continue to work in an organization where the senior VP of engineering could see himself as a technology visionary and be so unaware of this blind spot in his understanding of diversity,” Miley wrote.

According to TechCrunch, Miley was part of Twitter’s engineering job cuts last month, however he had already told the company of his intention to resign before being made redundant. Miley also decided to pass on the redundancy package in order to speak out about his experiences. With Miley no longer at Twitter, there are no longer any managers, directors, or vice presidents of colour in engineering or product management.

Miley wrote that the return of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to the company “has the potential to change the diversity trajectory for Twitter. It is my belief that Jack understands the use case of Twitter better than anyone else, understands how diversity can be additive to growth, and is committed to making that happen.”