New Zealand Leaders Stand Together

Emerging leaders seek support from NZ CEOs to foster inclusive and diverse workplaces following Christchurch mosque attacks.

A group of emerging leaders has published a letter calling for CEOs and other leaders across the country to enable a better, safer and more inclusive New Zealand following the Christchurch mosque attacks on 15 March.

The letter, already supported by organisations including the Reserve Bank of New Zealand and Ernst & Young (EY), commits to addressing discrimination and creating more inclusive environments within New Zealand workplaces.

“As leaders, this is a critical time for us to reflect, listen, learn and most importantly empower change to enable a better, safer, more inclusive country that embraces diversity for our people,” the letter reads.

“Unfortunately, racism and discrimination are still a part of daily life for many New Zealanders. We have a responsibility as leaders to ensure this ceases – not just for ourselves, but for our children, families, friends, colleagues, communities and future generations. Now is the time to act with strength and to use aroha and respect to forge a pathway forward.”

The letter, published at www.nzstandtogether.co.nz and on the LinkedIn page ‘NZ Leaders Stand Together’ was initiated by a group of emerging leaders graduating from the Darden Executive Programme as the events in Christchurch unfolded on 15 March.

Executives across New Zealand are being encouraged to become signatories to the open letter and join the dedicated LinkedIn group which has been set up for leaders to chat and share resources that support organisations to undertake the actions laid out in the letter.

Organisations that sign the letter are pledging to create a culture where people are empowered to speak up when they observe casual or systemic discrimination in the workplace. The organisations are also promising to provide the training, tools and techniques to support inclusive behaviour, to regularly review internal processes, and to celebrate and acknowledge the value of diversity in the workplace.

Spokesperson for the group, Sharon Davies, CEO of Talent Propeller and a 2019 Darden alumni member, said two of the key threads in the programme were inclusive growth and leadership that embraced diversity.

“While many might argue New Zealand is already a progressive and inclusive country, the mosque attacks highlighted that we still have a long way to go before we can say racism and discrimination aren’t problems here,” said Ms Davies.

“So, as emerging leaders within a range of New Zealand organisations, we recognised that we could leverage our own networks and drive real change within New Zealand workplaces to build a better future for all New Zealanders.”

Reserve Bank Governor Adrian Orr and EY NZ Managing Partner Simon O’Connor said they were committed to ensuring a positive and inclusive environment for their organisation’s employees today and in the future, and called on others to show their support for the initiative too.

“Being a signatory to the open letter is a public way of sharing our commitment to developing and promoting inclusive, diverse and safe workplaces. Some organisations are further along in this journey than others, yet collectively we will work together to empower change. We hope more organisations will join us,” Mr Orr said.

“The events in Christchurch have been a wake-up call for many New Zealanders. Now is the time to make real change that fosters a safer, better future for all of our people and we are pleased to be making that commitment today along with many other New Zealand organisations. We hope more will join us today,” Mr O’Connor said.

Organisations already signed up to the commitment laid out in the letter include Aeroqual, Auckland Transport, Ernst & Young, Grounded Packaging, Heartland Bank, LMAC New Zealand Limited, Plant and Food Research, Porirua City Council, Propellerhead, Reserve Bank of New Zealand, Refining NZ, Synlait Milk Limited, Tainui Group Holdings, Talent Propeller, Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki, The Babysitter’s Club, and Waikato-Tainui College for Research & Development.

The Chief Commissioner of the Human Rights Commission, Paul Hunt, supports the initiative.

“It’s up to all of us to stand up to racism, including in the workplace. I applaud the business leaders who have signed the open letter for speaking out today,” Mr Hunt said.

“I encourage organisations to leverage the resources available on the Human Rights Commission’s Give Nothing to Racism website to support their pursuit of more diverse and inclusive workplaces,” he said.

The initiative is also supported by Hon Lianne Dalziel, Mayor of Christchurch, who is also an alumnus of the Darden Executive Programme.

“We will not be defined by what happened on the 15th of March 2019, we are defined by what followed – the unity, the love, the compassion and the kindness,” Ms Dalziel said.

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