Accord Summit 2021: extending the drive beyond the room.

The Diversity Agenda Accord Summit bought together CEs and leaders from all 45 Accord signatory firms, as part of their commitment to be held accountable for their diversity and inclusion efforts over the past 12 months.

There was true passion from our Accord signatories – so we’ve summarised some of the key points made by the leaders, to extend that energy to our wider Diversity Agenda community.


Measurement is critical if you’re serious about making a change. Because if you don’t measure, how can you know where you’re at, and what area’s need attention?

This year’s Accord data showcased a slight drop in women in leadership positions – which although disappointing, reinforced the importance of data collection. It allows us to see trends that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. Firms can then review their data and ask “why is this happening, and how can we fix this?”

Read the Accord signatory 2021 insights

The Accord signatories highlighted the importance of transparency and how crucial good communication is when sending out surveys.

Asking personal questions such as sexuality can be confronting, so you need to explain why you’re collecting this data. It’s not that you’re nosy, but because you’re trying to create a work environment that’s diverse, inclusive and accommodating to all people – so communicate that! 

People must feel safe and comfortable when responding and a good tactic can be giving people an option to be anonymous.

And once you’ve received this data, how about setting targets? This gives firms the ability to assess how far from their goals they are and how far they have to go. 

In addition to this, you can actively seek peoples input on what they need to belong via employee engagement surveys. The primary focus is on enabling people to determine and communicate what things they most value. Our Accord firms who commissioned employee engagement surveys found flexible working and wellness were high on people’s list!

Closing the gap on pay equity.

We cant discuss measurement without addressing gender pay inequity. This should be an absolute priority when measuring. So, firstly – what is the gender pay equity gap? And how does it differ from the gender pay gap?

The gender pay equity gap is based on working out the average percentage difference in pay for each role. So you might have six engineers, of which four are male and two female. You’d average out the salary for males and females and then calculate the percent difference between those. You would then do the same for each role that has a split of genders – and then average all those differences across your organisation to work out your final gender pay equity gap figure.

The gender pay gap is looking at the total combined salaries in your company regardless of role. So, you add up the total salary of all males, females, gender diverse and then work out the percentage difference.

You can close the gender pay equity gap overnight. There should be no reason why two people in the exact same role, doing the exact same work get paid differently because of their gender. Unlike the gender pay equity gap, the gender pay gap will take a little longer to close. It’ll only close once we see more women coming into the profession and progressing into leadership positions.

Our Accord signatories stressed the importance of information. If you don’t have the information of what all your staff are paid, breakdown by gender, position, pay band, and so on – you can’t work this stuff out. 

Once you’ve got that information, It’s about priorities. Your priority should be addressing any existing gender pay equity gap in your business – ahead of dealing with your flight risks. It might be a cost to your business, but measuring and closing a gender pay gap demonstrates progress in increasing diversity. And worker satisfaction and retention are much higher when employees know their pay and opportunities are fair!

To help with messaging when closing the gap, some firms did a general pay increase of 1.5% at the same time. And with every new hire made, the offer gets looked at through a lens of “will this create a further gender pay equity issue?”

Other firms stated they’re taking a more deliberate approach to gender equality in leadership positions, by setting targets for their promotions round of a 50/50 gender split in leadership roles. This helps toward closing the overall gender pay gap – the pipeline coming up through the ranks are important to eventually solve this broader problem.

Create opportunities for sincere dialogue.

You can’t assume you know about people by looking at them. Get to know your people better – it’ll not only make them feel valued, but it can open doors.

When a leader takes the time to get to know someone, their strengths, and let them prove their work – it can result in opportunities for that person. And utilising their strengths can result in better outcomes for the business! But if that leader only talked to people like them, those outcomes wouldn’t happen.

Leaders also need to be vulnerable and put themselves out there. If you have a point of difference – show people it’s okay to be different. The more vulnerable leaders can be about their lives, upbringing, difficulties, makes it more normalised. And the language you use in day-to-day life and over drinks or networking is important. Leaders need to be conscious of that because what they do and say in an informal setting can impact other people.

This open dialogue requires a safe environment so everybody feels they can participate. And culture workshops can be a great way to do this. This is where a small group of staff, including senior leaders, participate in a 1–2-day workshop to get to know each other on a deeper level.

It’s a learning opportunity for everyone – these workshops cast visions, set goals, discuss company values, help people understand how their role plays into the company’s purpose, and establishes behaviours that aren’t acceptable. But importantly – it’s also an opportunity to be vulnerable and allow space for sincere dialogue.

Zero tolerance for harassment and bullying.

When it comes to bullying – take it seriously. And that might mean a CEO discussion to get to the bottom of the complaint. And don’t let stress be an excuse for that type of behaviour. 

Behaviours like exclusiveness, harassment, and bullying take immense courage for people to call out. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to something, but it’s a lot harder to call it out and have a serious conversation. Organisations need to show staff they take this stuff seriously and create safe environments to enable people who are victims of this behaviour to come forward.

Organisations have an obligation to ensure people feel safe in all places they work. Having policies in place can help define who an organisation is and the behaviours they encourage, as well as the behaviours they won’t tolerate. 

Eliminating barriers.

There’s a clear leaky pipeline from school through to university, then into the workplace in our professions – and our Accord signatories acknowledged there’s a whole lot of work to do in this space. So what are the barriers causing this leaky pipeline, and how can we overcome them?

Unconscious bias can be a big barrier. It can present itself in many forms, but particularly in the recruitment process. It’s important to carefully decide who interviews. Ask yourself, who are the people interviewing the people you’re trying to bring into your business, and what unconscious bias are we building into their interview process?

Think carefully about the platforms you’re placing your recruitment ads on – is that reinforcing unconscious bias? And think about other areas you can go to make sure that you’ve got access to a fully diverse pipeline.

Diversity Works offers a wide range of training – and their unconscious bias training programmes was particularly recommended by our Accord signatories.

The younger generation.

All signatories acknowledged it’s important we continue to focus on making the professions visible at the primary school level – to get young Kiwis interested and excited about a career in engineering and architecture. 

Through initiatives like Engineering New Zealand’s The Wonder Project, we can highlight how fun and important a career in STEM is. And this raised the question, could architecture develop something similar?

To get our professions at the forefront of school kids minds, it’s important they have role models to look up to. There’s a strong desire to increase the low number of Māori and Pasifika in our professions and make these careers attractive to the younger generation of our indigenous people.

To get into an engineering or architecture degree, kids need to take certain prerequisites. And if they don’t see engineering or architecture as career options before NCEA level one, then they aren’t taking the prerequisites – and as a result, won’t be selecting that career path.

So of course we’re not getting great Māori and Pasifika diversity in our professions, because the pipeline isn’t there in the first place. With very low numbers of Māori and Pasifika in both our professions, there’s not many role models for the younger generation to look up to. And if you can’t see it, you can’t be it…

So, a key aspect is getting these Māori and Pasifika engineers and architects into schools, to be these role model figures. But this task shouldn’t be left up to just this group of people. We need to take action and ensure that organisations and leaders are also getting into schools to help build the pipeline, and working on removing barriers in the recruitment process.

Growing the number of Māori and Pasifika engineers and architects.

As raised by our signatories – what’s even more important than who’s in the room, is who’s not in the room – referring to very few Māori or Pasifika CEs present. So how to we increase representation in leadership?

All New Zealand organisations are required to be good te tiriti partners – and part of that is ensuring Māori voices are at the forefront of decision making. Firstly, we need to make our professions authentically inclusive so these engineers and architects stay on and have an opportunity to progress to leadership roles. Then it’s about developing these young leaders and thinking carefully about current leaders succession plans and who we want and need stepping into those roles.

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