Monthly Archives: October 2007

On Networking and Diversity

By Galia Barhava-Monteith Director Professionelle, an online community dedicated to Professional working women in New Zealand

Philippa Reed, the CEO of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust (EEO), kindly invited my Business partner Sarah Wilshaw Sparkes and me to attend their inaugural Diversity Day at the end of August. And what a day that was. Wonderful, thought-provoking speakers challenged us to really think through the importance of accepting and celebrating diversity in modern workplaces. Even the hard nosed, non-pc participants couldn’t argue with the business case of taking diversity seriously by the end of the day – but more on that later.

As I was sitting there, listening to these amazing speakers and enjoying the opportunity to take part in this event, I was also thinking our members @ Professionelle and how I could share my experiences of the day with them. And then the right angle struck me! It was: networking as a vehicle to bring greater diversity into our individual lives.

On networking

My close colleagues and friends are probably bored to tears by my going on (and on and on) about the importance of networking. I am new to networking, you see. In my first few roles I was never encouraged to take part in networking events; in fact I think it was almost frowned upon. When I had my big corporate role, I was also a mum and then it was a matter of not wanting to take time away from my family to take part in these events.

I have given some thought to why professionals like lawyers, consultants and accountants are somewhat reluctant to network. I believe it is to do with the charging-by-the-hour model we are socialised into. Basically, it ain’t work unless it’s chargeable!

Now, that Sarah and I are building a new business, which is all about networking (albeit online), we have been doing a considerable amount of it. And, it works, it really does. The more we put ourselves out there, the more we build relationships and new and exciting opportunities turn up. What we’re also seeing is that those people who take the time to network, are the ones who find out or are approached about opportunities, simply because they become a known quantity and build their personal brand in the process.

On Diversity

I have to admit I hadn’t given diversity as such a great deal of thought before this EEO Trust event. But as I listened to the speakers the business case for diversity became abundantly clear to me. What really struck me was how bringing diversity into our own individual lives is extremely relevant and can increase our resilience and our prospects as individuals.

Diversity and Innovation

The first speaker of the day was Frans Johansson, the author of the Medici Effect. In a nutshell, Frans’s book and his speaking illustrate powerfully how diversity breeds innovation. His messages were clear and engagingly simple:
1. All new ideas are really combinations of existing ones – but to become a new idea the combination has to be unique.
2. The single strongest correlation to innovation success is the number of new ideas generated and pursued.
3. Cultural diversity is the lowest hanging fruit when it comes to driving innovation.

Frans’s examples illustrated his case beautifully. The one that stuck with me is that of L’Oreal’s acquisition of SoftSheen, a small haircare manufacturer in the US which focused on the African American market. L’Oreal is a French company that according to Johansson makes a point of employing a wide range of ethnicities and is deliberate about encouraging cultural diversity. As a case in point, at the time of the Softsheen acquisition, L’Oreal was run by a British man!!

Armed with a new research lab to investigate the properties of African-American hair and the insight that a billion people outside the US had this hairtype, L’Oreal quickly became the leader in this ethnic haircare category.

Collaborative workplaces

To get ideas flowing people actually need to talk to each other. According to Alan Bertenshaw from Matisse, the futuristic workplace environment is all about encouraging people to talk to each other and collaborate as part of their working lives. Gone will be the days you’ll have to book a meeting room three days in advance so that you can have a conversation with your boss.

His thesis was that the modern workplace is designed to “encourage accidental bumping and fortuitus encounters.” It is these encounters that will increase productivity, cross functional communication and yes you guessed it, diversity of thoughts ideas and experiences.

By this stage, I was convinced, and I realised that for me as an individual, it was through networking that I have brought diversity into my life. In less than a year I have quadrupled my personal network. I did this through being open to people’s ideas and suggestions, seeking new people out and welcoming new approaches. In the process, I have discovered how energising and supportive some people are which has made me re-evaluate who I spend my time with and why.

Yes, there are times when I feel I should be doing chargeable work rather than meeting people or corresponding via e-mail. But when I look back, it is through that persistence on valuing networking that we’ve had the biggest and most personally gratifying breaks.

Finally, the case for networking as a vehicle for bringing diversify to our personal life was sealed for me during the presentation on resilience given by Dr Sven Hansen from PricewaterhouseCoopers

Diversity and Resilience

I am not going to attempt to re-cap Sven’s presentation on engaging resilience to build vitality. But what really stuck with me was that resilience is 100% learnt. Resilient people bounce back from set-backs; have a bias for action and wide and diverse networks. His acid test was how many people are there on our cell phones who we could call tonight if we needed support. What he also emphasised, was to be honest about how many of them are not our immediate colleagues.

There was, of course, much more to the day. But as I listened to it all, I became more and more excited about the concept that we as individuals don’t need to wait for our workplace to do encourage diversity for us. We can do it ourselves in a very deliberate way.

Now, I don’t think that all networking opportunities are created equal. However, as Sarah has been heard to comment, you can’t predict which approach will lead to the big payoff – but they all have the potential to bring something, sometime. We’d add here that we see giving as an important part of networking; we always try to look for what we can bring to the other person. What goes around will eventually come around.

What we can and should always do, is be open to the prospect of meeting and engaging with new people who we might not normally seek out. In the end, it is through these encounters that we might come up with the next big idea/career move, find ways to implement it and meet our new best friend in the process!


Things to See and Do in Thailand – Floating Markets, Reclining Buddhas and Sex for Sale

Sex tourism is sometimes viewed as a straightforward economic transaction that benefits both parties: the sex tourist and the prostitute. In fact, many people argue that those men who engage the services of a prostitute in places like Thailand and Cambodia are positively enhancing these women’s lives which are otherwise marked by poverty and lack of opportunity. Perhaps this is why the majority of visitors to Bangkok include Pat Pong (the red light district) on their must-see list of tourist attractions. What do you think?



National StoryRSS

5:00AM Monday October 01, 2007

Sometimes we just get it wrong. As readers, on a daily basis we watch a news story such as the Rotorua police rape case of Louise Nicholas unfurl in scattered pieces over months, even years.

Just as we are able to pull up to survey the big picture, the next noisier instalment diverts our attention.

In the thick of it, we argue over whether Clint Rickards is innocent, or if Wanganui Mayor Michael Laws’ declaration of “don’t give me moral coppers – give me effective ones” is frightening, foul or fair.

Only now, far too late, do I realise why the entire national conversation about this case feels sorely off-target. We have missed the point.

Yes, these trials may be about a dirty bunch of cops who were allowed to abuse their position of power criminally. It is also about a system that may or may not have been tragically flawed, allowing impotent litigation to drag on for years.

But the pivotal piece that holds the most power for me is that most of us – in the media, in the courts, and at dinner conversations – have forgotten one essential thing.


AdvertisementThis story started with an innocent 13-year-old girl. Ultimately, it will end with another 13-year-old girl, Louise Nicholas’ daughter, and mine, and yours.

Louise Nicholas was first raped by a cop before she had even begun menstruating. She was a young, scared girl boarding with her abuser and his family. It took her decades to grow into a woman sophisticated enough to understand the abuse of the institutionalised corruption she would have to fight long after that first rape.

For a moment, put aside whether Clint Rickards needs to be out on the street stripped of his new $50,000 Government wheels. Put aside whether John Dewar’s counter-accusations will be upheld, and even put aside whether Louise Nicholas was telling the truth. Instead consider this.

One woman has been on the witness stand seven times through five trials and three depositions. Thousands of pre-trial hours have been spent on what her decision to speak out as a young girl has now unearthed decades later.

She has been called “the town bike” and a “media whore” by people who have never known her, though there has never been proof that she was sexually promiscuous in any way outside of the police rape incidents.

She has had the guts, the strength, the tenacity, and the tremendous inner resolve to choose to fight this case through intermittent litigation on and off for the past 14 years.

How would one person ever have had the strength to put herself through this?

Even if you discount her entire case, no one can ignore almost two dozen women who eventually came forward with similar stories of abuse uncovered as a result of the Operation Austin investigation in the years that followed. The handfuls of victims who chose not to confront the cruel agitator of the courts or the media are today symbolised in just one woman.

Louise Nicholas lost the trials she always believed would rebalance justice. But she won something much bigger than her own experience. She won a different future for her daughter – one that was stolen from her past. What I and many others in this country have forgotten amid the combustible discourse is how to change the conversation. We forgot how to ask: What should be valued here?

There is a former dairy milker living quietly in the North Island with three daughters and a new baby son who embodies what is best about this country. She has fought – despite being stripped of personal power taken from her since she was a young teenager – against the police, against the courts, and against public opinion to do what she knew was right, to find justice.

She lost once, twice, three times, then four, and even today it appears that this fifth trial conviction will be contested.

Louise Nicholas, I hope your 12-year-old daughter has begun to understand the importance of the woman you have become.

Tell her what you have done for her future. Tell her what you have done for the thousands of silent victims who are now a part of your singular voice.

Then this country can remember to say what we should have understood all along. Thank you.

* Tracey.

Louise Nicholas is speaking at 8pm tomorrow, at the Dorothy Winstone Theatre, Auckland Girls Grammar School. For tickets benefiting Rape Crisis phone (09) 376-4399.