Treasury Secretary Gabriel Makhlouf attended the inaugural Champions for Change summit on Monday 14 March, following the launch of the initiative in November 2015. This group of CEOs and Chairs from across New Zealand’s private and public sectors is committed to raising the value of diversity and inclusion within organisations, and driving change to bring about more diversity in leadership. The group’s focus is on actions and opportunities rather than issues, and working together to make real progress towards their vision.
The Treasury has long been an advocate of the business case for diversity and Mr Makhlouf believes that an organisation which reflects the society it serves is much stronger than one that doesn’t.
“Diversity of thinking is fundamental to the Treasury doing its job well in raising living standards for all New Zealanders. We need to be able to understand policy issues from every angle and approach solving them in new and different ways, and that means not only bringing in people from all walks of life to work here, but also having a culture where they feel comfortable in bringing their difference to work. People who feel valued and included contribute to their fullest potential”, says Mr Makhlouf.
He was pleased with the progress the group made at Monday’s summit. “It was exciting to work with other senior leaders, all equally passionate about figuring out what we can do to make the most of diversity in our organisations”.
As one of the group’s Champions, Mr Makhlouf takes his obligation to lead change within his own organisation seriously. “The Treasury still has a way to go on its diversity and inclusion journey, but I’m proud of what we’ve achieved in the last few years. We’ve not shied away from looking really hard at ourselves to identify how we can make our people, systems and processes more inclusive. One example of this is that we have changed many aspects of our graduate recruitment process to minimise the chance that unconscious bias affects how people are assessed.”
“We’ve made good progress, but I want to use the opportunity the Champions for Change work offers to make stronger commitments towards broadening diversity at the Treasury”.
To this end, Mr Makhlouf is keen to share publicly the direction he wants the Treasury to take. “I’m not a proponent of diversity quotas, but I do see the value of having clear indicators that will help steer decisions at every level of the organisation towards more closely reflecting the population we serve. And holding ourselves to account will increase the pace of change towards our goals”.
The Treasury is aiming to maintain at least a 40-60% gender balance in its leadership cohort, and keeping within a 45-55% range across the organisation as a whole; aiming for ethnicity representation within plus or minus 5% of the working age population; and continuing to track diversity of thinking through a mixture of measures, including perspectives of their stakeholders and staff.
“We won’t reach our goals immediately, but I think it’s important to put a stake in the ground and commit to moving in the right direction”, says Mr Makhlouf.
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