Five questions with Juliet Bourke


What do you do?

I lead Deloitte’s national diversity and inclusion practice, helping organisations to develop and implement organisational change strategies that enable diversity, inclusion and flexibility.

How did you get into the field of diversity and what made you decide to specialise in it?

I certainly didn’t think at the beginning of my career that I would specialise in diversity, and that’s probably quite common given that there is no formal path into this area. I studied psychology and law and started my professional life as a criminal lawyer, then moved into human rights and discrimination law, but the common thread was a passion for social justice.

After doing my Master of Laws honours thesis on corporate women and flexible work practices, I wanted to be on the inside of the diversity change journey. There were only a couple of diversity roles within ASX businesses, so I started a boutique consulting firm with Dr Graeme Russell and had a great time for 12 years learning about, and helping to shape, the diversity space. At the same time I learnt how to run a business, including how to stay afloat during the GFC, which was tricky.

After running your own diversity consultancy for 12 years, what made you move back into the fold of an organisation such as Deloitte?

In 2010, Russell and I realised that the market was going to explode and we needed to grow fast to keep up. When Deloitte asked if we would like to join their human capital practice I saw it as a golden opportunity. Great culture and great people. The big plus is that I get to tap into a reservoir of new talent to do things I never could have – like using Deloitte analytics to mine electronic data to find hidden relationships between diversity and inclusion. And it enables me to communicate new ideas quickly.

Have you ever experienced gender inequality personally, and do you think you’ve had to adopt certain attributes to progress your career to the high level you have reached?

I think any inequities I experienced, which were around trying to balance work and family, apply to men as well. In fact, it’s even harder for men to own that primary carer role and still be seen as a player and professional. I think everyone has – and needs to have – a spectrum of behaviours and communication styles because leadership is situational. The way I presented a case in court is different to the way I work with my executives, or my team. The cut-through for me is authenticity and adaptability. I think the debate about women adopting stereotypical masculine traits is old-fashioned.

At HRIZON you will be speaking about inclusive leadership. What does the concept of inclusion in business mean to you?

I see the focus shifting from diversity (and inclusion) – to a primary emphasis on inclusion as a way to enable diversity, and more importantly diversity and inclusion as being part of how businesses go from good to great. At its heart, inclusion means adaptation and change, not assimilation. It means that each of us, and particularly leaders, has to become mindful of our own individual biases to connect with some people and not others. This is fundamentally important to Australia because we need to make more insightful and robust decisions in business and in public policy, and we can only do that if we have more diverse perspectives at the table. Leaders are critical to that change.

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Five questions with Juliet Bourke


What do you do?

I lead Deloitte’s national diversity and inclusion practice, helping organisations to develop and implement organisational change strategies that enable diversity, inclusion and flexibility.

How did you get into the field of diversity and what made you decide to specialise in it?

I certainly didn’t think at the beginning of my career that I would specialise in diversity, and that’s probably quite common given that there is no formal path into this area. I studied psychology and law and started my professional life as a criminal lawyer, then moved into human rights and discrimination law, but the common thread was a passion for social justice.

After doing my Master of Laws honours thesis on corporate women and flexible work practices, I wanted to be on the inside of the diversity change journey. There were only a couple of diversity roles within ASX businesses, so I started a boutique consulting firm with Dr Graeme Russell and had a great time for 12 years learning about, and helping to shape, the diversity space. At the same time I learnt how to run a business, including how to stay afloat during the GFC, which was tricky.

After running your own diversity consultancy for 12 years, what made you move back into the fold of an organisation such as Deloitte?

In 2010, Russell and I realised that the market was going to explode and we needed to grow fast to keep up. When Deloitte asked if we would like to join their human capital practice I saw it as a golden opportunity. Great culture and great people. The big plus is that I get to tap into a reservoir of new talent to do things I never could have – like using Deloitte analytics to mine electronic data to find hidden relationships between diversity and inclusion. And it enables me to communicate new ideas quickly.

Have you ever experienced gender inequality personally, and do you think you’ve had to adopt certain attributes to progress your career to the high level you have reached?

I think any inequities I experienced, which were around trying to balance work and family, apply to men as well. In fact, it’s even harder for men to own that primary carer role and still be seen as a player and professional. I think everyone has – and needs to have – a spectrum of behaviours and communication styles because leadership is situational. The way I presented a case in court is different to the way I work with my executives, or my team. The cut-through for me is authenticity and adaptability. I think the debate about women adopting stereotypical masculine traits is old-fashioned.

At HRIZON you will be speaking about inclusive leadership. What does the concept of inclusion in business mean to you?

I see the focus shifting from diversity (and inclusion) – to a primary emphasis on inclusion as a way to enable diversity, and more importantly diversity and inclusion as being part of how businesses go from good to great. At its heart, inclusion means adaptation and change, not assimilation. It means that each of us, and particularly leaders, has to become mindful of our own individual biases to connect with some people and not others. This is fundamentally important to Australia because we need to make more insightful and robust decisions in business and in public policy, and we can only do that if we have more diverse perspectives at the table. Leaders are critical to that change.

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