Working towards a more inclusive & diverse profession.

When presenting his presidential agenda in the June 2019 edition of the Journal, Scott Atkins stated that diversity was one of his three priorities. ‘Our cultural homogeneity is misaligned with current trends and future projections; increasing our cultural diversity will open up new and vibrant business opportunities to our members,’ he wrote.

Recognising and accepting the value of diversity within the restructuring, insolvency and turnaround profession will support public confidence in the insolvency and restructuring regime, a wider talent pool from which practitioners are drawn and an inclusive, positive and responsible culture.

To this end ARITA has formed a new Board committee – the Balance Taskforce Committee – which is chartered to build and advise on programs to ensure the profession is more reflective of the society that we serve.

BENEFITS OF DIVERSITY

A career in restructuring and insolvency naturally offers a lot of variety. As Balance Taskforce Deputy Chair Liam Bailey observed, ‘[the profession] administers a system that impacts on such a broad and diverse cross section of the community and the economy. Our services are called upon in every sector and for enterprises of all sizes, from ASX-listed companies to single person side businesses and not-for-profit organisations.’

Thus, broadening a firm’s skillset and experience can be beneficial. ‘Diversity in the profession provides increased skills and experience for an IP to draw upon in attending to their duties and in running a successful practice,’ he said.

Balance Taskforce Chair Kate Barnet agrees: ‘I believe we all build better relationships with people that hold similar values to us. So to me, it makes sense from a business and financial perspective to have a diverse team that brings fresh perspectives and alternative solutions to clients.’

Research confirms that diversity is good for business. Studies have shown that 41% more revenue is generated by teams where men and women are equal and there is 35% greater performance from racially diverse teams.

But there is also a growing sentiment that making organisations more inclusive is simply the right thing to do. As clients and stakeholders become more focused on diversity, it makes good sense for our profession to do likewise.

CHALLENGES TO DIVERSITY

Given the ‘male, pale, and stale’ stereotype of the insolvency practitioner, there may be some challenges to making the profession more inclusive. According to Barnet, one such challenge is, ‘challenging ourselves to accept that change is here to stay and to get people to think differently about being different.’

Bailey acknowledges there can also be pitfalls to challenging the orthodox culture. ‘Business owners hold concerns that increasing diversity will impose a politically correct and sterile working environment within their practices and have the practical effect of decreasing diversity,’ he said.

‘A widely held concern is that increased diversity can lead to conflict in the workplace that may expose employers to legal action and financial penalty unless they tightly prescribe the form of professional relationships and interactions.’

But Balance Taskforce member Melissa Jeremiah is hopeful the Taskforce can meet these challenges by working with ARITA members. She hopes the Taskforce will help ARITA ‘to understand what it is our members need and want and to work together to implement our strategies for the profession.’

‘Even as we work towards small and incremental changes, my hope is that in time, all those small steps have produced a well-rounded, educated and diverse profession,’ she said.

TASKFORCE AIMS & OBJECTIVES

On 14 May 2020 the Balance Taskforce attended a workshop with Dr Liz Shoesmith to help solidify the Committee’s aim and objectives. Six major inclusion issues were identified in the profession:

  • Representation imbalance (gender, age, ethnicity)
  • Job demands/design
  • Inflexible working
  • Client social bias
  • Lack of visibility of profession as a career.

Some of these issues arise from the traditions and culture of the profession and some from the legislative framework we operate in.

The Taskforce is working on an action plan to deliver strategies, practical tools and promotions to help build more inclusive and diverse workplaces. The action plan will be implemented by the ARITA national office in consultation with the Taskforce.

‘Leadership by inspiration, education and example rather than virtue signalling is the surest path to change and development,’ Bailey said.

BALANCE TASKFORCE COMMITTEE

Kate Barnet, Bentleys (Chair)
Liam Bailey, O’Brien Palmer (Deputy Chair)
Rachel Burdett, Corr Cordis
Paul Cook, Paul Cook & Associates
Robyn Erskine, Brooke Bird
Mathew Gollant, Courtney Jones & Associates
Dominique Hogan-Doran SC, Sydney Bar
Melissa Jeremiah, Maddocks
Ross McClymont, Ashurst
Nick McGuigan, Monash Business School
Tianne Nagy-Jones, Grant Thornton
Natasha Toholka, Norton Rose Fulbright

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