Bias in the New Zealand workplace is on the rise, a survey has found.

The New Zealand Diversity Survey found the percentage of New Zealand organisations stating that bias is an important diversity issue was up 18.2 per cent, from 30.1 to 48.3 per cent.

Edwina Pio, the university's only professor of diversity, says the election is not making things better.

The survey in April asked 302 respondents from different industries to list diversity issues that were most important to their organisations.


Well-being, flexibility and bias were identified as the three most important diversity issues.

"Every election surfaces problematic issues and this one is no different," Pio said.

"The spectre of inequality once again raises its Hydra heads and encompassing wicked problems such as social cohesion and the interwoven role of business and society.

"Often the most vulnerable get blamed and left out in real terms from policy and political duels."

Tomorrow, diversity experts will be gathering for a summit at AUT University to address the growing concerns.

Speakers at the Ethnicity in the Workspace summit include Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy, State Services Commission ethnic communities strategic specialist Berlinda Chin and Cultural Connections founder Eric Chuah.

Pio said pan-disciplinary research and stories provided by the experts aimed to "provoke a thoughtful multi-dimensional interpretation of ethnicity" in the workspace.

The summit will be held at the university's city campus from 9.30am to 2.30pm.


"Bias as an issue has increased in importance, moving up from sixth rank in the first survey in November 2014 and continuing to be a matter of more disquiet to public-sector organisations than private ones," Pio said.

"While diversity is becoming a bigger concern for small organisations, almost half of them have no formal policy to deal with workplace bullying."

The bi-annual survey, commissioned by Diversity Works NZ, found just 54.2 per cent of organisations had a formal policy, programme or initiative to address bias.

Gender and ethnicity also registered strong increases in the survey, up 16.1 per cent (from 28.9 to 45 per cent) and 14.4 per cent (from 27 to 41.4 per cent) respectively.

Although disability, sexuality and religion remained the least concern, these issues also recorded increases to the last survey.

"Bullying could include linkages to religion, gender, disability or ethnicity," Pio said.

"This foregrounds the issue of diversity in hiring decisions as well as career progression, despite the fact that such issues should not be based on X or Y chromosomes, neither on skin colour or faith."

Pio said ethnicity was a "wedge issue" that could create polarisation and the summit will seek to "defuse potential ticking time bombs".

"The summit seeks to disrupt the normalisation of endemic tacit and explicit bias at work," she added.

According to Statistics New Zealand, more than 220 recorded ethnic groups live in Auckland.

The city is also ranked as having the fourth largest foreign-born population in the world, behind only to Dubai, Brussels and Toronto.