Benjamin Franklin famously observed that death and taxes, were the only certainties in life. But for Principal for International Tax at South32, Gary Lim, ‘diversity’ is the only other certainty he needs.
This belief has made Gary an amazing male-ally.
A self-confessed tax nerd, Gary tells us one of the favorite parts of his job is, “The opportunity to work on complex transfer pricing issues, manage stakeholders on international tax matters and support the business in reducing tax risks.”
But, beyond that, Gary is clearly operating far beyond the complexities of international taxation and tax risk assessment. His is a global view, an ultimately human view, expanding on the normal obligations of employment to truly make a mark on his generation.
How is he promoting an inclusive culture?
When he tells us about his views on inclusivity and diversity, he speaks with the captivating passion of a TedX speaker.
“Creating an inclusive and diverse workplace is not about excluding or disadvantaging any particular group,” he says.
“Rather, it is about recognizing and valuing the contributions of all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
“By promoting inclusion and diversity, organizations can create a culture that is welcoming and supportive for all employees, which can lead to increased engagement and productivity.”
This is, he admits, “a balancing act.”
But he believes it’s something that any organization can get right if the will and the commitment is there.
Getting the narrative right is crucial.
“The communications and branding strategy needs to be on point, for instance.
“Celebrating the wins of underrepresented communities cannot be seen as putting them on a pedestal. Awareness events to educate the majority about minorities must be handled delicately.”
A company that knows what “allyship” is
Gary credits South32 for diving headlong into creating as fully diverse and inclusive a workplace as is humanly possible.
He explains his admiration comes from management accepting that allyship takes work and may not be an easy transition for some.
“Allyship requires active participation on a daily basis.”
Gary expands on this with powerful and insightful thoughts:
“The key to allyship is recognizing the power of numbers – the power of being in the majority – the privilege of being the voice heard in most settings and lending that power and privilege to minorities who may not necessarily enjoy the same.
“It goes beyond just agreeing that inclusion and diversity is important, as being an ally requires active listening – it requires understanding a minority’s struggle and an ability to practice empathy.”
At South32, Gary is, not surprisingly, very active and is highly tapped by management and those in the c-suite seeking to evolve the company culture by doing that day-to-day stuff he knows is so valuable.
“I participate actively in the company’s Finance Inclusion & Diversity committee.
“Most recently, a few of us organized a panel discussion of our Finance VPs (which included a mix of gender representation) and the CFO to ask burning questions from members of the Finance Department.”
In his own section, Gary is at the forefront of a cutting-edge inclusion and diversity culture at South32.
“As a team, the Tax division has always been very proactive in the company’s efforts in the DEI space.
“For example, we were the first function to volunteer to participate in the sexual harassment workshop and we have 100% participation rate in the employee survey, The Voice.”
Why is allyship so important to Gary?
Gary’s journey to international tax adviser and diversity and inclusion mover and shaker has covered a lot of ground, both literally and figuratively.
“I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and moved to Perth in Australia to complete my tertiary studies at UWA. I chose to settle in Australia as it has a better track record for quality of life, human rights, particularly, LGBTQI+ rights.”
Landing at South32 came after a long stint at another company which, he confesses, was a difficult goodbye.
He feels completely aligned with his current employer, however, because it’s clear they are on the same page in recognizing the value of diversity and inclusion.
“Looking at the company’s core values of Care, Trust, Togetherness, and Excellence, I would say that Care is the one that I would align most strongly with. Care involves taking responsibility for the health and safety of people, the environment, and the communities in which South32 operates.
“I believe that this value is crucial in any organization.”
Gary argues that the equations of DEI need to be reassessed, so that a more even experience can be cultivated for all employees, as a bottom-line agenda.
“The idea that inclusion and diversity is a zero-sum game, in which one group must lose for another to gain, is a fallacy.
“In reality, creating a more inclusive and diverse workplace benefits everyone and is essential for the success of any organization.”
Death and taxes may remain as something we can all count on in life, but at South32 it seems a culture of diversity and inclusion are also reliable certainties, thanks in no small part to allies like Gary.