Asians under-represented in leadership roles in Australia


Lindsay Fox with Navin Jindal






Lindsay Fox of Linfox a Trucking company in Australia was appointed co-chair of the Australia-India CEO’s Forum formed in 2012  here shaking hands with Mr Naveen Jindal,  head of India’s Jindal Group and an Indian Member of Parliament

People from Asian backgrounds are well represented in entry level and mid-level jobs in Australian business, yet they are significantly under-represented in leadership roles, representing an enormous waste of talent, according to Diversity Council Australia’s latest research.

While 9.3% of the Australian labour force is Asian born, only 4.9% make it to senior executive level. In ASX 200 companies, only 1.9% of executives have Asian cultural origins, compared to 9.6% of the Australian community. DCA’s new research,  Cracking the Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the Asian Century, has uncovered valuable information about ”˜the bamboo ceiling’ and why so few Asian leaders are reaching the top. Key findings include:

  1. Asian talent is ambitious, motivated and capable: 84% plan to advance to a very senior role, 91% say challenging work is very important in their next career move, and 97% have Asia capabilities.
  2. Asian talent is under leveraged, undervalued and likely to leave: Only 17% strongly agree that their organisation uses their Asia capabilities very well, one in five are very satisfied with career progress and opportunities, and 22% strongly agree that they have worked in organisations that value cultural diversity. 30% say they are likely to leave their employer in the next year.
  3. Key barriers  are locking out Asian talent in Australian organisations:

1)          Cultural bias and stereotyping: Only 18% of Asian talent feel their workplaces are free of cultural diversity biases and stereotypes. Many regularly experience bias and stereotyping, including about their cultural identity, leadership capability, English proficiency, and age. Women from Asian backgrounds experience a ”˜double disadvantage’.

2)          Westernised leadership models: 61% feel pressure to conform to existing leadership styles that are inherently ”˜Anglo’, e.g. over-valuing self-promotion and assertive direct communication, while undervaluing and misinterpreting quiet reserve, deference and respect for seniority.

3)          Lack of relationship capital: Only one in four has access to mentors or professional networks and even less has access to sponsors; similarly low levels feel included in workplace social activities.

4)          The case for culture not understood: Only 15% strongly agree their organisation leverages its workforce cultural diversity to better service clients. Organisations often fail to fully grasp the strategic value of Asian markets, capabilities and talent for Australian organisations operating in the Asian Century.

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