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Olivia is a Director of EY’s Diversity & Inclusion service in Ireland. She leads a team to help clients achieve their D&I ambitions as a key driver for Talent Acquisition, employee engagement, and ultimately success in the market place. Before joining EY, Oliva ran her own successful practice, consulting to Government, State Agencies and to the Voluntary sector on stakeholder engagement and the business of cultural participation.  Olivia has worked on some incredibly important projects for Children in care in Ireland. She has been instrumental in driving strategic change as part of her role as Chair of the Board of Directors of the national LGBT Federation. Olivia holds a M.SC in Interactive Digital Media, a B.A (HONS) in Sociology and Philosophy from Trinity College Dublin and she is also an accredited life coach.


Show Notes

Podcast episode summary: This episode packs an enormous amount of practical information/insight and wisdom into the business for Diversity and Inclusion as a strategic imperative for Organisations. Olivia believes this work is not the work of a few passionate champions but a deliberate and well thought trough strategy, a strategy that impacts systemically. Olivia shares stories and her wisdom working in this field and builds a strong case for more Leadership Inclusivity training and practices that support companies be future fit.


Show highlights:


  • Olivia grew up in rural Ireland and is from Cavan. At age 17 she left to move to Canada where she discovered philosophy and went onto study Philosophy and Sociology in Trinity College Dublin -her ideal is to contribute to society
  • She describes the state of the nation of D&I in Ireland as a disconnect where 100% of participants in organisations say D&I is important but only 53.1% have a strategy in place, where only 25% have conducted a diagnostic and where only 16% are actually measuring the ROI
  • There needs to be a gear change and that gear change will only come about if we consider D&I as a strategic imperative and where we tackle the concern systemically
  • Companies needs to have a D&I lens that that covers the entire business
  • In early 2000’s in Ireland it was rare for Children to have a voice or to be able to influence decisions that were made about their welfare. The Ryan Report changed that. Olivia worked on that project and whilst harrowing to listen to some of the Children’s story she was proud that Ireland implemented the recommendations from the report
  • Olivia describes how the word Diversity is perhaps the easier of the two words to understand and implement in D&I. Inclusiveness is harder to implement.
  • Sometimes it is simply about starting.
  • Trick is to blow open the notion of Diversity as being broader that just a “women’s thing”
  • Diversity is made accessible when it is described in broader terms to include everything you see and maybe don’t see, such as age, race & ethnicity, gender, LGBT, ability, neuro diversity, personalities and different cognitive patterns or perspectives
  • D&I is about performance, decision making, risk taking, interpersonal risk taking and risk excellence. D&I on teams can lead to greater degrees of innovation, knowing your customer, challenging norms and narrow biases.
  • Important to recognise that being inclusive is about developing skills-it is a skillset. EY teach or train for Leadership Inclusivity. They start at foundation-what is D&I? What is business case for D&I?, What are the required behaviours and skills and end by defining some real goals and measures.
  • Olivia reminded us of the lost art of knowing our people, helping people understand their role and how it connects to the higher purpose of the organisation, noticing and seeking out diverse perspectives
  • Olivia reminded me of the Key Note address given by Andrew Keating, Group CFO for Bank of Ireland. Andrew very poignantly remarked that if he had been born Andrea rather than Andrew, he would not have enjoyed the same meteoric rise to success as he has enjoyed as a man.
  • Neuro diversity is the next big insight. 85% of people who are considered Neuro Diverse or on the spectrum are unemployed. Olivia and EY believe we can change or help change this statistic by changing our approach to recruitment for one but also how we view these people.
  • To be future fit organisations need to embrace D&I holistically. Important to remind ourselves that Millenials who comprise over 51% of our work force & generation Y are choosing employers not only on the basis of reward and recognition but also on the basis of the company’s reputation, brand, social media practices, ethical practices and D&I programs
  • Smart working and the gig portfolio are ways of working that are only increasing and curiously they are gender neutral. What is missing is the training to support team leads be with teams who work remotely, or work in a gig fashion.
  • Some nuggets on parting;

– Simply start

-Do not cut and paste the approach taken by Google instead companies would do well to develop their own bespoke D&I strategy

-Conduct a diagnostic and work out what is working and what employees think about the company’s inclusive practices

-Mine the Data and finally ensure Leadership accountability and Executive Leadership buy-in

  • Olivia ended our conversation by pondering the word “belonging” and questioned whether we do in fact need to belong at work. Is it not better to remember we have outside lives and that people are holistic -we need to nurture environments that allow for that.


Resources: the following include the resources we alluded to over the course of our conversation

  1. EY Ireland 2019 Diversity and Inclusion Survey Report
  2. The Ryan Report
  3. The Department of Children and Youth Affairs-TACTIC (Teenagers and Children talking in Care) Project-
  4. Growing up in Ireland Project -a longitudinal study, studying 9 month old children and children 9 years of age in terms of what it means to grow up in Ireland
Tara Nolan

Author Tara Nolan

I wasn’t always a coach, in fact I never conceived I would be a coach, the word simply wasn’t in my lexicon. I love, however, where I have landed. The truth is I really did not know what I wanted to be when I first started. I had a vague inkling I wanted to be successful but that was the sum of my plan

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