A CEO’s perspective: inclusion and diversity

11 March 2021

Stanwell’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Richard Van Breda, makes the case for Stanwell’s commitment to inclusion and diversity.

For Stanwell’s CEO, Richard Van Breda, inclusion and diversity (I&D) are about far more than targets, they’re about recognising that organisations need to reflect and represent the communities they operate within. Stanwell, like many organisations, recognises the value of an inclusive and diverse workforce. For Richard, the business case for I&D is something he considers to be somewhat selfish in nature.

“There are enormous business and community benefits which are made possible through cultivating diversity of thought, gender, culture, age and background. That’s why for me, it is about making sure we have access to a whole range of wonderful skills and ideas that are a result of diversity.”

Richard reflects on his background and its influence in shaping his perspective

“Growing up my mum looked after four kids, and my dad worked. It was a very ‘traditional’ type of arrangement. However, over time my mum became the primary bread winner in the family due to the Rhodesian Bush War as my dad was away fighting. It became my mum’s responsibility to raise us, and even teach us to read and write.”

Richard said looking back could allow us to have a greater understanding of how experience can shape perspective on matters of inclusion and diversity.

“I believe, where we are at in society right now, it is important that we recognise the importance of everybody’s role in bringing up children, whether that is father staying at home, and mothers wanting to work. We have moved a long way from traditional perspectives of raising a child, and ultimately what we do at Stanwell needs to reflect that shift in our society.”

Richard’s decision to move his family from Zimbabwe to Australia is another personal story of his that has shaped his perspective on inclusion and diversity.

“We grew up in Zimbabwe and made the decision in 1998 to come to Australia. We didn’t know anybody; we didn’t have jobs and we had very little money as Zimbabwe laws meant we couldn’t remove any of our money from the country. So, in 2001 when we arrived, we started from scratch and had to reintegrate into a different society,” he said.

Has this experience and background ever resulted in him experiencing exclusion?

 “Now and again. I have been criticised for my accent. Sometimes you do feel excluded because you didn’t grow up here. In saying that, however, we never look back and never regret the decision we made. Australia is just the most wonderful country and we are very lucky to live here.”

The business case for inclusion and diversity

For Stanwell, and in many organisations, a transition to a more diverse and inclusive workplace is seen in the new graduates, apprentices and trainees that are coming through. For Richard, welcoming more apprentices and trainees each year to Stanwell is one of the important milestones the company is making in its mission towards greater inclusion and diversity.

“I enjoy seeing the new graduates, apprentices and trainees that join our business. In the end, there is no doubt that the more ideas, thoughts, and suggestions that we have around the table, will lead to making better decisions, and that’s what it’s about,” he said.

“It’s about getting away from ‘group think’ and challenging old ways of doing things, no matter how confronting or difficult change can be. It’s about being courageous.”

When it comes to fixed diversity targets that some companies put in place, Richard raises some concerns.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and it worries me when other companies put fixed targets in place it drives the wrong behaviour. For example, affirmative action sometimes means you are driving for targets that aren’t ready to be met, and that worries me,” he says.

“I think it is important to have aspirational targets, drive hard but always make sure that you have the right people in the right role. Otherwise, if you’re putting someone in a role just to achieve a target, you are setting people up for failure.  This reinforces the naysayers that a diverse workforce doesn’t work. You want to set people up for success and remove as many barriers as possible which stop qualified and suitable people from diverse backgrounds applying for roles.”

#choosetochallange gender bias this International Women’s Day

As a Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) pay equity ambassador, Richard seeks to question gender bias through ensuring that any pay disparity at Stanwell can be explained through experience, performance, or tenure.

“Choose to challenge, I think, is a great question to ask ourselves and others. For me, it’s not only about calling out gender bias, but questioning the way we do things. Over the past couple of years, we have gone back through all roles across the organisation and where there were female and male counterparts, we have made sure that women have been paid equally, which is resulting in us increasing salaries and back-paying several women in our workforce. This practice is regularly reviewed to ensure we continue to have no pay gap that can’t be explained by merit or experience.”

Looking to the future, Richard recently spoke to Stanwell’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee to reiterate how mission-critical inclusion and diversity is for the company’s long-term future success and gave the Committee encouragement to “go hard”.

“We’re facing a challenging time in the electricity industry. If we don’t ensure our workplace is diverse and inclusive in listening to different ideas and perspectives – then quite simply we won’t perform as well as we could.”

“Inclusion and diversity aren’t just important to us because it’s listed in our business strategy. It’s a focus area in our business strategy because it’s mission-critical to our business. Without diversity of thought and experience, we will continue to do things the same way which means we aren’t growing and adapting as we need to.”

Research backs Richards point. McKinsey’s Diversity Matters Report found diverse and inclusive workplaces are more likely to achieve higher revenue growth, they are more innovative, they are safer, are more attractive to potential employees and have five-times higher employee retention.

Put simply, diversity and inclusion gives a business a competitive advantage.

To learn more about inclusion and diversity at Stanwell, visit our website.