During her recent participation in the RMIT Leadership Forum this August in partnership with Common Purpose, Emma Hendry attended an interview with RMIT for an upcoming production. Provided here is a transcript of their conversation on Emma’s Career thus far and the role of diversity in empowering her organisation’s decisions.


Q1: How did you find yourself in this line of work? Was it what you expected to be doing? 

My career was somewhat ‘accidental’, as I didn’t set out with the aim to become CEO, nor did I originally work within the Built-Form sector; I actually came from a consulting field, moving into the Hendry Group approximately 11 years ago. I really have a passion for creating change and understanding what society and the Industry at large need, and as such I naturally fell into this role as CEO and as a leader in our industry because I really saw an opportunity to create change and drive greater inclusivity.


Q2: Can you explain why Cultural Intelligence is important for today’s workforce? 

A: It is extremely important for today’s workforce as we are living in a time wherein we have such diverse people across generations all working together oftentimes in the same workplace. Therefore when we talk about cultural diversity, it is also important to understand that culture is a product of numerous areas, not just your background or religion, it comes from your age, demographic and dexterity of thought. Today, when you are trying to overcome these complex problems in working as a team, it is essential to be tolerant and considerate of everyone’s opinion. Being inclusive in this way will allow a team to create effective solutions to more complex and prevalent problems.


Q3: What, to you, is the biggest benefit in having and enabling a diverse workforce? 

In my particular workforce we have more than four generations working in the same space, coming from very diverse backgrounds and demographics. What is really interesting in this scenario is the depth and intensity of debate which we can get into in approaching a nascent issue. The digital industry for example is becoming the new frontier for everyone, and so you can have a very entrenched management team whose view is that digital technology is an afterthought to traditional practices and services, whereas newer generations will champion the opposite in saying “We need to lead by engaging in this emerging field.” For me therefore, what I would say is that once you walk away from a debate of this nature and leave the room, you will do so as a team who has considered each opinion as equally valid.


Q4: What is it about debate that creates the most benefit? Can you elaborate?

Debate, in this context constructive debate, is extremely important. Debate needs to be aligned towards supporting a common good and have participants willing to discuss the particulars of a given issue. Not everyone can possibly know everything about a given topic or issue; someone may provide an idea or share an understanding which can ‘open your eyes’ and change your perspective of an issue which you may not have expected or seen for yourself. This is a critical step to solving complex and dynamic problems; to be able to look and examine an issue and who may be affected by it from every angle, enabling a solution which encompasses every key element.