Celebrating diversity

Icon Writers / 19 Mar, 2024

In recognition of Harmony Week in Australia, Icon Group’s Workplace Health Safety and Wellbeing (WHS & W) Advisor, Den Toupchi, shares her inspiring story of growing up in Iran, immigrating to Australia for a better life. Den also shares her passion for women’s rights and discusses the importance of diversity in our communities and workplaces.

Growing up in Iran

Den was born in a small city in Iran, close to the border between Iran and Turkey. She was accepted into a school for the exceptionally talented, and after some hurdles, moved to Tehran, Iran’s capital city. This began her journey of fighting for women’s rights.

For Den, moving to Tehran marked a new beginning for her and her family.

“My mum was really talented, but because of the many barriers women face in our country, she couldn’t work while we were in my birth city,” said Den.

“However, after we moved to Tehran, I encouraged her to find her own job. Mum enrolled in a school to get her Diploma and became an elementary school teacher.

“After this, I witnessed how her life and ours changed – I saw how happy and confident she became.”

Den went on to complete her bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety engineering at one of Iran’s main universities where she championed women’s rights.

“In my first year, I established a Women’s Committee at the university to assist female students who wished to have meaningful activities for women’s rights,” said Den.

“We got female students more involved in the university’s activities and did lots of work to limit the barriers imposed on women students by the government.”

After graduating, Den became a WHS Advisor at the Health Ministry and was soon promoted to a Safety Representative in the Health Ministry’s construction project team. She was the only woman on the team.

“I saw I could have a meaningful impact on the leadership team and make changes for women employees,” said Den.

“I found other passionate women who wanted to make a difference, and we went on to hold many workshops with women to raise their awareness about rights and give them the confidence to stand up.”

Because of her activism, Den and her team faced many risks and threats, eventually stopping their activities to ensure one another’s safety.

Moving to Australia

Since she was 14, Den dreamt of moving to Australia. After experiencing distressing times and not being able to pursue her women’s rights advocacy she took the leap, moving first to Turkey and then Australia.

“When I could no longer do more for the women of my country, my life there started to feel meaningless,” said Den.

“I came to Australia to experience freedom, to have freedom of choice, pursue a meaningful career, and be part of a diverse community.”

Now Icon’s WHS Advisor for Australia and New Zealand’s cancer centres, Den brings a critical mind to her role with a strong focus on enhancing our health and safety management system.

“I think my different experiences and background brings new perspectives to my role,” said Den.

“The WHS Team is committed to improving our current safety systems and being more proactive in our risk management and reporting to provide a healthier and safer environment for our teams.”

Diversity in the workplace

Alongside her passion for women’s equality, Den is a strong advocate for cultural diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

“Icon has been very supportive and encouraging and fosters a sense of belonging,” said Den.

“We should be providing a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment so people from all walks of life can feel included – this will not just support diversity and inclusion but also improve performance and.”

Icon Group Executive Manager, People and Capability, Samantha Douglas is proud of Icon’s continued commitment to a diverse workforce.

“At Icon, we embrace the richness of diverse cultures, fostering an environment where every team member feels valued, respected, and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives,” said Sam.

Harmony Week

Harmony Week celebrates Australia’s unique multiculturalism and promotes respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background. This Harmony Week Den encourages people to learn more about other cultures.

“We should be encouraged to share stories and learn more about our colleagues cultural background and experiences,” said Den.

“Australia is a beautiful country and our multiculturism should be celebrated to make positive change in all that we do.”

Learn more about diversity and inclusion at Icon here.

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