Diversity: What is it and why is everyone talking about it?

Kia ora koutou. I’m back again with my fortnightly policy buzz - a fortnightly snapshot of hot topics in the Public Sector, and a forum to share your thoughts and ideas on how these issues affect you and your work within government.

Why is everyone talking about diversity? 

Diversity has become a real buzz word in the Public Sector. And while it has always been a focus for government agencies; this year, it seems to be the word on everyone’s lips - especially when discussing recruitment. 


Diverse Workforce

The State Services Commission (SSC) defines diversity as something that “…involves gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, education, national origin, and religion.”

In recruitment, we often hear of hiring managers wanting diversity within their teams.

The importance of having a diverse and inclusive workforce is not a new issue by any means. By simply punching in some keywords and doing a Google search, you would get hundreds of hits from every public and private entity in New Zealand highlighting their diversity and inclusion policies. 

But when it comes down to it - What does diversity actually mean; and is our public sector diverse enough?

Diversity Awards and Recognition

Both IPANZ and Diversity Works NZ run awards and recognition programs for those who are showing “excellence” in promoting diversity; both within the Public Sector and the community.

This year, The Ministry of Social Development was given the IPANZ Award for Improving Diversity and Inclusiveness within the Public Sector. And the New Zealand Defence Force’s programme, which aims to tackle harmful sexual behaviour in the workforce, has been named the Diversity Awards NZ 2018 Supreme Winner.

Below is a list of the winners:  

Diversity Awards NZ 2018 Award Winners

  • Supreme Award - New Zealand Defence Force
  • Empowerment Award – Ministry of Justice
  • Tomorrow’s Workforce Award – Fletcher Building
  • Skills Highway Award – Griffin’s
  • Positive Inclusion Award – MidCentral District Health Board
  • Cultural Celebration Award joint winner – New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
  • Cultural Celebration Award joint winner – Waitemata District Health Board
  • Work Life Balance Award – RIVAL Wealth
  • Walk the Talk Award Walk the Talk – Sudesh Jhunjhnuwala, Sudima Hotels & Resorts
  • Emerging Diversity and Inclusion Award – New Zealand Defence Force

Highly Commended Recommendations

  • Primary Industry Training Organisation – Diversability Award
  • Cargill Enterprises – Skills Highway Award
  • IAG New Zealand – Work Life Balance Award
  • Xero – Work Life Balance Award
  • St John Youth – Emerging Diversity and Inclusion Award

The SSC also releases an annual report publishing statistics on diversity and inclusion across the Public Sector.  This actually paints a picture that the Public Sector, as a whole, is moving in the right direction – well, at least on paper anyway.

Better Policy Outcomes 

There’s no denying a push towards a diverse and inclusive Public Sector workforce will lead to better policy outcomes for New Zealand. As is always the case in public sector initiatives, there may be a delay between a statement of intent and tangible results. 

Given the diverse makeup of New Zealand’s population, the way these diversity policies translate into a wholly diverse public sector will be interesting. 

What Changes Have You Seen In Your Workplace?

As this is such a broad topic I’ve tried to keep this article fairly general to use as a jumping off point for discussion and, of course, politically neutral. You can’t work in the public sector without the neutrality to give free and frank advice right?

Having said that - Have you seen changes in your working environment due to a focus on diversity and inclusiveness? And, looking at the bigger picture, what, if any, are the perceived barriers to achieving a truly diverse and inclusive public sector?

I’d love to hear your feedback on what I’ve written – is your workplace championing diversity?  What do you think could help you as a contractor to promote diversity and inclusiveness? 


Lisa Johnston - Senior Consultant | 


Policy Buzz
Workforce Diversity