The sounds of waves washing over a beach was a refreshing change from almost 6 months of being locked-down in Melbourne. 

Lean In Melbourne’s ‘Towards Global Citizenship: Cultivating Cultural Intelligence,’ event opened with binaural beats & isochronic tones encouraging us to pause and reflect on what we are most grateful for. 

Practising gratitude is proven to boost empathy and compassion for others. This seemed particularly fitting given the subject matter of equality. 

In a world of privatised media, polarising politics and performance activism, discussing diversity and inclusion can feel loaded, intimidating and taboo. 

If you’ve been feeling scared to speak out and address diversity at work, know that cultivating cultural intelligence doesn’t have to be hard. 

The panel discussion moderated by Claire Stewart, welcomed renowned women leading D&I change efforts within their field including Megumi Miki, Nada Kalam, Jennifer Mar Young and Claire Stewart. 

The adage you can not be what you can not see, holds true for many people who feel excluded from society, often facing triple glass ceilings in an attempt to fit in. 

“I was constantly trying to prove myself, (at work) It was exhausting,” Nadia admitted. 

All three-panel members vouched for actively seeking mentors to ease feelings of isolation through genuine support. 

Megumi reminded us to “encourage quieter leaders who are not threatened by differences because they are comfortable within themselves to connect with people who are different as well as similar, that’s when we’ll get better diversity.”

  • Increase self-awareness (understanding unconscious bias)
  • Do your research (if the question can be answered with a google search, try that first)
  • Approach conversations with openness and curiosity. 
  • Be respectful of everyone. 
  • Actively support equal representation. 


When it comes to encouraging two-way feedback between people of different cultural backgrounds, Megumi advocated for practising “humility, not superiority. Don’t make blanket assumptions and colour one person with one event.” 

Unfortunately, many have come to expect racial insensitivities from those in privileged positions, but hearing this from someone considered to be from the same community can leave a deeper wound.


On issues of colourism, one Lean In Melbourne member asked, “How do you deal with discrimination from your own community?” 

Jennifer suggested to “take the layer of their background out and focus on their actions like bullying behaviour” and “remember it’s more about them than about you,” Megumi added.


The battle of trying to increase measurable “Internal activism in the organisation,” is something Jennifer is all too familiar with. She urged everyone to “Question power. Talk about it. Some people need to get out of the way. Megumi agreed, suggesting; “Rather than simply applying new rules, get curious on the culture and why this (discrimination) occurs.” 

Nadia confirmed that inclusivity starts from the top down “challenge the diversity and inclusion training.” She reminded everyone that inclusion efforts should be “measured against data and embedded as part of everything rather than added at the end, like a check box.”


As for the impacts of the pandemic on minority groups, Megumi noted the pandemic has “amplified and exposed more of what’s not working.”

The value of diversity and equality extends beyond the bottom-line benefits like diverse thinking, accurate representation and better decision making and becomes a question of ethics. 


Lean In Melbourne members were asked, “what are you doing to make sure everyone is included?”

“I will place value in different ideas, strengths, and performance rather than age, race or gender,” promised a Lean In Melbourne member.  

“I will support companies that have inclusivity and diversity embedded as part of their values and practised throughout everything they do,” proclaimed another member.  

The fear of being shamed for saying the wrong thing is something everyone feels, but silence can be consequential. Take comfort in the fact that “We’ll never know everything, go in with genuine curiosity,” Megumi encouraged. Be part of the solution by opening the conversation. 

 As the event wrapped up, we could breathe a universal sigh of relief knowing there are communities like Lean In Melbourne; supporting the change we wish to see in this world.  



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