The initiative has been led by Ros Harvey, the Founder and Managing Director and Phil Randall, the COO. However, the entire organisation of the enterprise is engaged in ensuring that a commitment to inclusion and diversity are built into the fabric of the organisation. From the beginning of The Yield in 2014, Ros, articulated this commitment as central to the way the company would grow and operate. It was natural that the firm would function that way because Ros has been a champion of equality, diversity and inclusion her whole working life, at local, national and international levels. Ros describes herself as an ‘unlikely entrepreneur’ – as a woman over 50 without an engineering background, she shares her profile with only three per cent of entrepreneurs.
The Yield’s target is that at least 50 per cent of staff and consultants will be women. Also diversity in all its forms – age, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and disability – is valued as a positive benefit for the company. The Board, the leadership team, staff, consultants, collaborators and customers are engaged in shaping the business’ diversity ambitions. Diversity is seen as an asset that drives innovation and performance.
The Yield is an AgTech companying using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. It helps growers improve yields by providing on-farm sensors and a customised information service so growers can make decisions faster. The business has already raised $5.2 million in investment, including $3 million from Bosch, and won a Accelerating Commercialisation grant. It’s first solution is in market. It has over $1 million in revenue.
The Yield was founded in 2014. Founder and Managing Director, Ros Harvey, made achieving diversity a core priority.
At its first strategic planning event, the board and staff decided that achieving diversity in the team was core to the business. The ‘Diversity. We Live It’ initiative was born covering 5 key areas - (1) Leadership (2) Family Friendly Work Environment (3) Recruitment, (4) Creating a Diverse Talent Pipe Line and (5) Creating The Right Culture.
The Yield’s team is make up of 12 staff and 5 consultants. Women make up 65 per cent of the team and 80 per cent of the engineering group. They were born in 9 countries and speak 9 languages. The team also includes people with disability and those who are gay. The technical team’s ages ranges from mid-sixties to 20s.
The Yield’s Diversity, We Live It initiative is a holistic and systematic approach. Action is coordinated across 5 themes:
- Leadership: Establishing diversity as a core principle for the business strongly supported by the Board, the Managing Director and senior leadership. All leadership positions have a requirement to achieve diversity and gender-balance in their teams. There is regular reporting on diversity metrics;
- Family friendly policies: Actively promoting the blending of work and family responsibilities including a positive approach to parental and family leave, remote working, flexible hours and employment arrangements;
- Recruitment: Implementing a campaign designed to achieve diversity and gender-balance for staff and core consultants;
- Creating a Talent Pipeline: through upskilling and training of staff, advocacy and projects promoting women and girls in STEM.
- Creating the Right Culture: that values difference and diversity, including modelling of appropriate behaviour by leadership, community advocacy, ensuring all promotional material includes photos and case studies involving a diverse range of people rather than the standard ‘man on the land’ portrayal of our customers and collaborators, a strong policy on gender-neutral language in all aspects of the business and community leadership
The Yield is a start-up business. It planned to recruit 12 staff in its first year of operation, including its engineering team. This team would create the culture and values of the business. Therefore, The Yield’s leadership prioritised diversity and gender-balance in recruitment.
• Being clear in advertisements that The Yield was building an inclusive and gender-balanced team
• Ensuring job descriptions were gender-neutral (particularly valuing technical and social skills) and attractive to women
• Recruiting on values which includes respect and inclusion
• Tasked the COO with recruiting the best candidate, who must also be a woman, to be the IOT lead. This included accepting it could take longer to recruit and that the team’s location could be built around the candidate
• Retained a specialised recruitment firm, Diverse City Careers, which is focused on supporting women in STEM
• Used networks to identify and approach potential women candidates
• Gender-balanced interview panels. If two candidates of comparable skill preference isgiven to women and candidates from diverse backgrounds;
• The MD actively engaged with candidates about the vision of the company and its values. This often involved multiple engagements and being open about discussing how the business supports women.
The Diversity. We Live It initiative is embedded in the business. Ongoing action is planned across the five themes.
The Yield’s Founder and MD, is an advocate for gender equality and diversity in the broader community. She is as an Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology in IntelliSensing with a special responsibility for promoting women and girls in STEM. She is regular commentator on the need for more diversity in the ICT industry
Follow-up activities for 2017 include:
• Continue to recruit for diversity as the business grows. The Yield has created the Diversity. We Live it video for use in future recruitment
• Increased focus on creating a talent pipeline. Planned initiatives for 2017 include:
o The Yield has started pilot project with a local girls’ school to encourage young women in STEM. This will be a model for a larger initiative;
o Internships and PHD scholarships with university partners where equal number of places are offered to women and men;
o Strong emphasis on women and girls in STEM in the Food Agility CRC.
• Encouraging staff, and providing paid time, to participate in events that promote diversity, including the participation of girls and women in STEM
There was never any resistance to the objective of genuine inclusion. But some of our staff and consultants were sceptical. They had negative experiences of tokenism and PR-driven diversity projects in other workplaces.
The Yield organised a facilitated session with the Board and staff at its first annual off-site planning session. The facilitator provided a safe environment for a genuine discussion of our aspirations and fears. The key was an authentic discussion that was respectful of people’s views.
The outcome was a strong and unified commitment to achieving real diversity without tokenism. The team agreed that they would go the extra-mile to get a diverse team even if this meant compromises (e.g. outsourcing engineer for a longer period while we took time to build a diverse team), support for affirmative action (i.e. if there were candidates of equal capability preference would be given to building a diverse team) and rejection of tokenism.
The MD and the leadership team of The Yield knew that the character of the business and its values would be established in the first 12 months of operation. They took decisive action to make sure that diversity was central to that character.