Diversity talks, and beyond

By Neha Soudagar
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Anchal Agarwal

The recently released report by Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) highlighted the lack of diversity in senior leadership roles.

Neha Soudagar catches up with a few prominent Victorian Indian mumpreneurs to get their view on what is happening in the Australian corporate and political leadership landscape when it comes to the issue of diversity.

Anchal Agarwal
Public Relations Manager at AIFI, AFL India Ambassador

Both political parties have failed to preselect a Victorian Indian from any of the winnable state or federal seats. The VMC continues to provide huge grants to Indian events happening in the CBD, while the majority of the Victorian Indian community resides in places like Cranbourne, Wyndham, and in few suburbs in North. When would the events in Cranbourne and Wyndham get matched or equal funding with Indian events in CBD?

Talk to any big real estate developer or builder in Victoria, especially in outer suburbs, and most of them would say that 40% to 80% of their clients are Indians. But how much of their marketing budget is being spent on Indian events or Indian media? The Chinese community and media still manage to get decent sponsorships from mainstream corporate houses, especially during the Chinese New Year celebrations. But when it comes to supporting Holi and Diwali, it’s very minimum spending by Australian corporate houses. Indian media houses do not get much support from Australian corporate houses or real estate developers, while the Chinese media still gets major real estate advertising revenues.

When it comes to community consultation, both parties do it only while they are in opposition. A few months before every election, Indian community reference groups are launched for photo opportunities. Once they are in power, the community consultation with the Indian community takes a back seat, and the reference groups become irrelevant.

Even when it comes to Australia India Council (AIC), there is not a single Victorian Indian on board, despite Victoria having the biggest Australian Indian population.

We need to ask more as a community, both from the public and private sectors. Associations like Australia India Business Council (AIBC) need to play a more proactive role in this area perhaps, but for them to be taken seriously they would need to show memberships numbers as well.

Chondryma Chakrobortti
Chondryma Chakrobortti
Project Manager at Accenture, Ambassador—Melbourne Stars
National Finalist—IEC Young Executive of the Year 2017 (Female)

Strong leaders from diverse communities are still struggling to make their mark or get to the highest positions in Australian business, politics, government, and civil society.

I work with the Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging program in Accenture ANZ and have received a great response rate in terms of recruitment. We work towards creating a diverse workforce at ANZ—with a primary focus on senior positions in Accenture having 50:50 ratio from different backgrounds. And over the last two years we have learned that once a firm opens up to take a wider diverse community involvement in senior positions and decision-making three benefits reaped are plenty—from getting better client engagement, to generating diverse ideas and strategies, greater ROI and matured sales or trade investments.

While the issue is gradually getting addressed in the private sector, Australian public services—primarily to the ranks of chief executives and equivalents, representatives and senators in the federal parliament, secretaries and heads of federal and state government departments, and the vice-chancellors of universities—continue to maintain a very low representation of diversity in leadership. Question is what are the two major political parties in Victoria doing to address this? When do we start to see formal engagement and reforms to introduce a diverse workforce comprising senior leaders in business, government and higher education?

Who will take the responsibility to change and shift organisational cultures? It’s time we treat cultural diversity issues as our primary focus.

Jeyashree Nishtala
Jeyashree Nishtala (Venkatasubramanian)
Project Manager—NAB, AFL Ambassador—Richmond Tigers 

In a multicultural country like Australia, diversity at thte executive leadership level is a must to shape up the future towards prosperity. Diversity always adds richness and new ideas, which results in great outcomes for the community, and also for the country. In large private sectors organisations like NAB, the cultural inclusion at the senior leadership level and executive level is on the rise. I hope the public sector catches up with the speed at which private sector is accelerating towards inclusive leadership at top jobs.

Tripti Gupta
Tripti Gupta
Franchise Owner, Ambassador Swach Bharat Abhiyaan
Mrs Melbourne Glamorous 2015

Both major parties in Victoria have been ignoring the local Indian community when it comes to either giving winnable seats, or political appointments on various Boards. Multicultural engagement should be beyond attending dinner dances and fundraising events.

There has been lot of talk about engaging with the Victoria Indian community when it comes to trade engagement with India. But both Premier Ted Baillieu, and recently Premier Daniel Andrews visited India without their Indian advisers.

Both parties do community consultations with Victorian Indians mainly when they are in opposition. Once in power, a glass ceiling comes into play.

Pallavee Joshi
Pallavee Joshi
Joshi Lawyers, Point Cook
AFL India Ambassador

A recent report by the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) shows a very grim picture of cultural diversity in Australian workplaces. The report highlights that just around 5 percent of senior leadership positions are held by people of non-Anglo-Celtic or non-European backgrounds. This percentage is definitely not in proportion to Australia’s general population which comprises of 24% belonging to non-European and non-Anglo-Celtic backgrounds.

A key measure of achieving cultural diversity in society is participation of people from various backgrounds in politics. Again, there seems to be a significant under-representation of the immigrant population, including Indians in the Australian politics.

Eradicating discrimination from the cultural fabric of a country is essential to achieving equality, development and peace. Rewarding the right talent at all levels of the organisation including senior leadership positions and irrespective of cultural background is not just a hallmark of progressive societies but acts as an essential catalyst for further development and growth of those societies.

 

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