Inclusion is top of mind for ASB Bank's chief executive Barbara Chapman. She says diversity, ultimately, is about inclusion, and one of the bank's top priorities.

She is proud of the work the bank is doing around diversity.

"For us diversity has grown across a whole range of things, not just focusing on one thing. I think it's the breadth of what we do that is being noticed. This approach to diversity is having great benefits, internally and externally.

"We've found by having a culture that focuses on inclusion, we're getting great team engagement scores, which shows when we're out with our customers -- it ladders up into engagement and then out in to customer satisfaction."

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Chapman is a former chair of the NZ Equal Opportunities Trust and has a long track record as an advocate for women's rights in the workplace.

She is also a member of Champions for Change, a group of New Zealand CEOs and chairs from across the public and private sectors who are committed to raise the value of diversity and inclusion within their organisations and implement strategies to actively promote the concept among peers.

ASB was named this year's winner of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Diversity Leadership Award.

The Deloitte Top 200 judges said ASB stood out from other finalists as being the most advanced in its Diversity and Inclusivity programme.

"It has a clear D&I vision and strategy which was clearly linked to the bank's overall vision -- unbeatable team, unbeatable customer experience.

"There is a strong and visible commitment from their senior leaders -- the board, chief executive and the executive leadership," the judges said.

The bank had also achieved a good gender balance -- 54 per cent women in the organisation; 50 per cent women on the board; 29 per cent women in senior executive positions including their CEO.

So what is ASB doing that sets it apart?

Chapman believes workplace diversity is about the sense of belonging and says ASB aimed to embrace this through a number of different strategies.

Aside from being certified by Rainbow Tick as a LGBTI-friendly company, ASB is also a sponsor of the New Zealand Falcons gay rugby team.

"We've actively gone looking for these opportunities where ASB can embrace the community and actually be a part of what's going on around us -- that sets us apart," she says.

It's about the sense of belonging -- that everybody comes feels like this is the right place for them.

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"We've always made sure the policies we operate in this business are diversity-inclusive. All my leadership team are involved in one of the diversity groups around the organisation. For example, Unity, which is a LGBTI group."

Another example can be seen in the bank's recruitment department.

"We have a policy around hiring. At very senior levels we always make sure there is a man and a woman on the interviewing panel because we know that it makes women more comfortable."

Chapman also walks the talk: "When I'm talking with people around the business I tend to talk more about inclusion, because for me, from the perspective of a CEO working inside a corporate, what I want to do is make sure the staff feel included in their teams and how we work in our strategy with our customers. The outcome of that inclusion is a good spread of diversity."

Recent examples of that inclusive approach are the introduction of Mx as a salutation option for customers, a faith-room at ASB head office, a corporate hijab, and a network group to advocate for families (Families@ Work) within ASB.

Recognising that Maori representation within ASB (3 per cent identifying as Maori) falls below that of the New Zealand population (around 15 per cent), ASB launched their Whakaterehia programme in 2014-15.

Whakaterehia -- meaning "acceleration" in Maori -- is an accredited one-year programme aimed at accelerating the development of Maori people managers within the business by giving them practical skills in leading people, leading the business and leading themselves.

Chapman says there is no one main focus. "I think that what we're doing is being quite broad in our reach, in our approach to trying to move the dial in every one of those areas," she said.

The bank is constantly on the hunt for new opportunities to illustrate its diversity.

I think it's a subject as a CEO, it's important to stay restless about. I don't think anybody can say 'OK, we're now diverse; we can now take the focus off'.

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"I think it's a subject, as a CEO, it's important to stay restless about. I don't think anybody can say 'Okay, we're now diverse; we can now take the focus off'.

"For me it's something that always has to be on the agenda. We always have to be talking about inclusion and it has to be one of the values we care about, so keeping it alive as a topic inside the business is really critical," she says.

ASB actively measures its progress.

ASB's People & Culture survey is administered by Kenexa, and creates a "Diversity Index" which measures the level of comfort speaking up, treating others with respect, leadership commitment to diversity, and promotion perceptions.

Currently ASB's baseline metric is 89 per cent, and their target is to reach 90 per cent or above over the next three years.

Women in Leadership is a major metric the company tracks. ASB's target is 30 per cent by the end of June 2017; they are currently sitting at 28.5 per cent.

When it comes to women in management roles, the figure is 37.5 per cent, with a target of 40 per cent. The judges said ASB had excellent data collection on diversity statistics, with a monthly D&A report that is widely reviewed and discussed across the business.

Says Chapman: "When you think about the market and the people we have the opportunity to work with and our team we employ, New Zealand is a very diverse country and we want to make sure our team reflects that diversity, and support a very diverse range of customers.

"It's about the sense of belonging -- that everybody comes feels like this is the right place for them."

Finalist: ANZ

ANZ's policy to remove bias in the progression of women in the bank was applauded by the Deloitte Top 200 judges.

They noted other strong initiatives such as flexible working and enhanced parental leave among the key factors that led to ANZ's selection as a finalist.

ANZ also celebrates a range of important dates across cultures, like the Diwali Festival of Lights.

Watch: Judge discusses why ANZ named a finalist:

ANZ general manager of human resources, Felicity Evans, says ANZ was thrilled to be named a finalist for the award. "We've created an inclusive working environment with an emphasis on gender balance and diverse leadership and teams.

"This approach is underpinned by a supportive leadership team and strong systems, processes and policies that work to deliver on equality."

The bank has 14 per cent of women on its board and 36 per cent female executives, but is demonstrating strong commitment and leadership for D&I from senior leaders.

Compulsory female representation on job shortlists and a range of support for employees on parental leave are some of the company's practices supporting a diverse workplace.

Impressive progress has been made in recent years. There has been a 15 per cent annual increase in disability recruits, a 15 per cent increase in Maori and Pacific Island recruits, and 50:50 gender-balanced candidate splits for all managerial roles.

Finalist: IAG

IAG New Zealand chief executive Craig Olsen says a lot of work has been done to ensure there is a strong commitment to diversity within the company. "We see our commitment as a fundamental part of who we are and the recognition is a great encouragement as we seek to 'be the change we wish to see'," he says.

The judges said IAG was making "good progress" on gender balance in the workplace. "It has a mature approach and a D&I strategy which is linked to business goals.

Watch: Judge discusses why IAG named a finalist:

"Commitment had been demonstrated at leadership and group level."

Olsen reinforces this, saying the company had achieved its targets of 40 per cent of senior roles being filled by women. IAG has a workforce made up of 60 per cent women.

"What I am most proud of, and what I hope they [judges] got a sense of is the combination of strong business-led decisions and strong people-led initiatives which help us connect better with the communities we serve and are a part of," says Olsen.

IAG also has a considerable focus on increasing the availability of flexible working arrangements, seen as a key enabler of workplace participation for all sectors.

Almost 10 per cent of IAG employees are in formalised part-time positions, and the firm has created a pilot programme to identify attitudes and barriers to flexible work arrangements.

- additional reporting James Penn.