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The Diversity Advantage

Speech Secretary to the Treasury: The Diversity Advantage

This afternoon the Treasury’s Secretary and Chief Executive Gabriel Makhlouf spoke to a group of business leaders at the Trans-Tasman Business Circle in Wellington, on how diversity of thinking offers a performance advantage. Below is the introduction to the speech, and a link to the full script on the Treasury website.

When we first started talking about diversity at the Treasury, someone suggested that deliberately starting to look for, and employing, different types of people was like asking the All Blacks to select a couple of badminton players. That's absurd of course, but it highlights a silent misgiving many people have when the subject of diversity is raised. In a survey by business magazine Forbes, 41% of executives identified the ‘failure to perceive the connection between diversity and business drivers’ as a barrier to developing and implementing a diversity strategy. In the absence of a business case, people don’t see the point. Or worse, they see diversity as compromising performance.

The reality is quite the opposite. Diversity doesn’t compromise performance. It’s a performance advantage. In particular, it’s the key to a strong team, and this is the idea at the heart of what I want to talk about today. Diversity - especially diversity of thinking - is essential to a world-beating team, and a world-class public service.

Where the goal of a rugby team is to manufacture tries to win a game, the Treasury, and the wider state sector, is like a team that manufactures ideas to solve policy problems. Like a good sports team needs diverse skills, we need diverse perspectives to produce the best ideas we can. We also need diversity of experience to make sure the ideas we come up with are practical, and so we can see them through from conception to implementation.

Today I want to talk about why diversity of thinking matters more than ever for New Zealand, why unconscious bias can get in the way, and what we’re doing at the Treasury to challenge our thinking in new ways.

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