Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership: The 2022 Future Leaders Forum

By Marko Golubovac and John Lee

The Future Leaders Forum invites the highest-achieving students across the Faculty of Business and Economics to draw from the experience of high-profile business leaders. Now in its 16th year, the 2022 edition of this annual event was focused on ‘Diversity, Inclusion, and Leadership.’

Diversity and inclusion were chosen as this year’s forum topic as the Faculty recognises their importance in our current social climate. Diversity and inclusion not only drive creativity and innovation through shared collaboration of individuals from different backgrounds, cultures and experiences, but it also broadens our horizons. It provides a platform for marginalised communities to feel safe and included in the workplace, schools, and society.

This year’s forum was held at the Metropolis, Southgate, overlooking the banks of the Yarra River. This was the first in-person iteration of the event since 2019, hosting students from the Faculty’s scholarship cohorts, Dean’s Honours List recipients, club and society leaders, and those demonstrating outstanding academic merit, leadership skills, and contributions to the community. The day was centred around a sense of togetherness, with the venue reflecting this aim. Tables were arranged to accommodate a variety of student backgrounds whilst table hosts were selected to help lead the discussions in each group. It was refreshing to return to an in-person event that brought energy and vibrancy that cannot be replicated online. Students were able to navigate across tables to jump from conversation to conversation, all whilst networking with one another and the industry guests. Guest speakers and industry leaders shared their insights on what it means to champion the cause of diversity and inclusion in their workplace and personal lives.

Hon. Mary Wooldridge's keynote address

The Hon. Mary Wooldridge’s thought-provoking keynote address focused on her work in gender equality and policy reform across the not-for-profit, public and corporate sectors. As the Director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, she implored students to be informed of their workplace’s policies and compare them against what they’d like to see. She urged students to come up with constructive solutions to the problems they identify and to be an ally to those who lack a voice.

In a panel moderated by students, Marko Golubovac and Faith Woon, we were introduced to panellists, Professor Peter Gahan (Associate Dean, Teaching and Learning at the Faculty of Business and Economics), Ms. Serap Potocki (Inclusion and Diversity Manager, Cbus Super Fund) and Mr. Andrew Eddy (Co-Founder, Untapped Group), who reflected on inclusive leadership. A lively and informed discussion ensued, delving into what inclusive leadership looked like, underscoring the importance of perspective-taking. Professor Gahan discussed challenging the assumptions and stereotypes we see around us and within ourselves, noting that as a leader, a workplace's culture stems from the behaviour one exhibits.

“It was really refreshing to see so many students deeply interested and passionate about being great inclusive leaders and in that context how to think about and act on diversity and inclusion more broadly. 

I really enjoyed the panel conversation but more so I loved the opportunity to connect individually and in groups with the students to continue the conversation. I am always impressed by the calibre of the students from Melbourne Uni and this group was no exception!” - Serap Potocki, Inclusion and Diversity Manager (Cbus Super Fund)

'Inclusive Leadership' panel (L-R): Professor Peter Gahan, Mr. Andrew Eddy and Ms. Serap Potocki

“As an attendant from the previous year, it was very interesting to be a part of the planning for the forum this year. I especially loved meeting the other members of the Student Committee, and admire each of the students who attended the forum. An opportunity to help host the event was unexpected and I am grateful for the experience and the learnings I took from it. Representing the Faculty on the day was an immense honour and I hope to continue to be able to give back to my community and student cohort as I progress throughout my career.” - Marko Golubovac, Bachelor of Commerce student and 2022 Future Leaders Forum committee member

Thereafter, panellists Ms. Lily Hodder (Senior Consultant, Deloitte), Ms. Queenie Chow (Senior Consultant, MicroInsurance Centre at Milliman), Ms. Jessica Zhang (Financial Analyst, Kraft Heinz), and Mr. Stephen Wu (Strategy Manager, Gemba) discussed the topic of 'Diversity and Inclusion in Practice'. Queenie Chow delivered a strong call to action to take diversity seriously, arguing that “diversity isn't just a seat at the table, it's allowing [diverse groups] to move the furniture around”. The panel agreed that changing a firm’s culture does not happen overnight, but takes patience and persistence. They underlined the importance of building a coalition to help you succeed. This panel was moderated by students, John Lee and Karina Perez.

'Diversity and Inclusion in Practice' panel (L-R): Ms. Lily Hodder, Ms. Queenie Chow and Ms. Jessica Zhang Not pictured: Mr. Stephen Wu

Being part of the organising committee was such a positive experience. Having attended the Future Leaders Forum as a participant last year, I admired the students who had the opportunity to represent the Faculty in front of other students and esteemed industry guests. Having this opportunity this year felt totally surreal, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of collaborating with the Faculty and my fellow student committee.

As an international student, the Faculty’s emphasis on diversity and inclusion played an integral part in my positive university experience. Moving forward, I’m eager to bring this spirit of inclusivity to my professional journey. The Future Leaders Forum has provided a more dynamic perspective on diversity and inclusion and made me realise that it goes beyond our workplace and into our daily lives. We must be mindful of the silently marginalised groups we may interact with on a daily basis, to create a safe space where people are comfortable and confident enough to achieve their fullest potential.” - John Lee, Bachelor of Commerce student and 2022 Future Leaders Forum committee member

Student Planning Committee and Facilitators (L-R): Faith Woon, Marko Golubovac, Karina Perez and John Lee

The Future Leaders Forum culminated in a networking session over lunch between 120 students and industry leaders from 25 companies, including members of the Faculty’s Young Alumni Council. Our industry leaders shared their own experiences in promoting inclusivity and diversity in leadership and the workplace, engaging with students in small group discussions about the ideas brought up in the keynote and panels. Students networked with one another and industry representatives, exchanging their learnings and key takeaways.

"The Future Leaders Forum 2022 was an inspiring event with impressive contributions from the students to the important topic of Diversity, Inclusion and Leadership. The conversations at the tables over the extended lunch were very engaging and collaborative reflecting the different backgrounds and thinking styles of the attendees and their willingness to participate. In many ways, this reflects the contemporary workplace where we need to more overtly value the diversity of thinking styles and perspectives.” - Andrew Eddy, Co-Founder (Untapped Group)

The Faculty of Business and Economics runs several programs throughout the year, each offering students a unique learning and development opportunity. The BCom and MBS Ambassador programs enable student ambassadors to connect with and welcome new students to the Faculty and University. The Business Innovation Lab tests and develops students’ skills in a fast-paced design challenge. The BCom and MBS Case Competitions challenge student teams to solve a case and present their solutions. This year has seen the introduction of the Commerce Internship (CMCE20001) subject, a new subject offering students the ability to attend a university or self-sourced internship and receive credits toward their degree simultaneously, with an equivalent opportunity at the graduate level.

Above all, be involved as much as possible by putting your hand up for things when the opportunity arises. Someone very wise once said to me that university is, for most of us, a one-time experience. There are certain things that you can only do now and so try to maximise this time in your life.

Moreover, networking is an essential skill to develop. Start by introducing yourself to your classmates and bring a genuine curiosity to learn about people and the world around you. Grades only bring you so far, what sets you apart from other high-achievers are your soft skills, like networking, and forums such as the Future Leaders Forum enable some of the most forward-thinking and passionate minds to come together in one place.” - Marko Golubovac, Bachelor of Commerce student and 2022 Future Leaders Forum committee member

The Faculty of Business and Economics extends its thanks to the Young Alumni Council, industry leaders and guest speakers who generously gave their time and expertise in the 2022 Future Leaders Forum, as well as the student planning committee and facilitators, Faith Woon, Marko Golubovac, John Lee, and Karina Perez.