Fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace culture

Organisational culture can be described as a collective set of attitudes, values and behaviours which characterise and shape an organisation. Culture can profoundly influence an employee’s experience in the workplace – both positively and negatively. 

An inclusive and equitable culture demonstrates behaviours that value and respect individuals and groups with different backgrounds, as well as recognising the specific challenges and circumstances experienced by these different groups.

Everyone has a role to play in achieving a workplace that is equitable and inclusive. Examples of behaviours and practices include:

  • being aware of your own beliefs and behaviours and how this may influence the way you treat others
  • listening with an open mind to understand different points of view
  • being proactive in offering support to others


Examples of how leaders can foster an inclusive workplace culture include:

  • encouraging team members to welcome and help new team members settle in. Strategies could also include a buddy system that ensure all employees are aware of and understand their role in demonstrating inclusive behaviours
  • regularly reinforcing behaviours (e.g. as a part of team meetings)
  • providing feedback on employee behaviours in relation to inclusivity as a part of performance reviews
  • ensuring that teams are not overly influenced by a small number of individuals by seeking out perspectives of all team members and encouraging full participation
  • being mindful of the roles given to women to ensure stereotypes are not reinforced (e.g. not automatically making an assumption that a woman in the team should be taking the meeting minutes)
  • creating opportunities for team members to get to know each other beyond their job roles.


This is further supported by:

  • promptly addressing misunderstandings, such as providing feedback to employees when the impact of their actions inadvertently differ from their intent
  • taking prompt action when disrespectful incidents occur, such as inappropriate jokes or language, or when people are excluded
  • ensuring consequences are in place for repeated inappropriate behaviour.
  • Initiatives that organisations can undertake to support with developing and maintaining a culture that embraces gender equality include:
  • undertaking a culture survey, such as the Rutherford Gender Cultural Audit Survey or the Denison Organisational Culture Survey, to identify strengths and areas for improvement
  • raising awareness of the detrimental effects of gender stereotypes and areas of unconscious bias, which is defined as ‘our implicit people preferences formed by our socialisation, experiences and our exposure to others’ views about groups of people’.  This can be addressed through development/training programs designed to minimise the negative impact of unconscious bias.
  • including the expectation of equitable and inclusive behaviours as a part of the induction for all new employees and a compulsory part of ongoing employee performance review discussions.



“While many years ago it could certainly have been labelled a boys’ club, the culture has changed, young entrants are more aware of cultural and personal sensitivities than those that may have been employed 20 years ago”

Nola Larking – HR & Risk Support Officer, Flinders Ports



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Questions for reflection:

  • How inclusive is your workplace culture? List examples of practices and initiatives that support with making the workplace inclusive and equitable.
  • How does your experience compare to your colleagues’ and team members’? Gather feedback from a range of sources (e.g. in person, focus groups, exit interviews, surveys)
  • How could your workplace be more inclusive and supportive of women?
  • Are there particular workgroups that demonstrate best practice with regards to inclusive behaviours and practices? How can these behaviours and practices be transferred to other parts of the organisation?