Renewed calls for diversity in top jobs after AHRC report

By Neha Soudagar

A new report has revealed 97 per cent of Australia’s chief executives have Anglo-Celtic and European backgrounds, sparking calls for diversity in leadership roles.

The recently released Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) report, also found that Australians with non-European or Indigenous backgrounds hold just five per cent of senior leadership positions, despite comprising about 24 per cent of the population.

Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said the findings challenge Australia’s egalitarian self-image.

“The general Australian population has about 24 per cent of people who have non-European and Indigenous background. What we’re seeing then, is a significant under-representation of cultural diversity in senior leadership roles.” he further added.

“This challenges us as Australians to ask whether what we’re seeing reflects the kind of multicultural nation that we are.” Dr Soutphommasane said diversity is particularly low within the senior leadership of Australian government departments and in universities. He said change often begins with decisive action by leaders, but everyone has a part to play.

A lack of boardroom and political diversity is undermining Australia’s leadership role in the Asia Pacific region, according to former Ministerial Adviser Mr. Nitin Gupta.

Tim Soutphommasane

Nitin thinks that Australia was well regarded in rest of world for its ethical leadership and strong boardroom culture. But the lack of ethnic diversity in powerful positions was a glaring problem, he said.”One aspect we let ourselves clearly down in is diversity,” Nitin told The Indian Sun.

“I know that a lot of leaders and business people come to Australia and go into meetings and are shocked and surprised to see a group of people—and that group of people tend to be from one culture.”

He said the lack of diversity on Australian boards could harm the nation’s corporate drive into Asian markets. “My friends who work in other parts of globe, are shocked at the lack of diversity in leadership in this country,” he said.

Nitin said that while there had been “huge achievements” in creating better opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds in Australia, there still was a huge gap left to cover. There is lot more work to be done in this regard.

Talking of Victorian Politics, Nitin was disappointed that both major parties have failed to pre-select even a single Victorian Indian from any of the winnable seats leading up to Victorian State elections in November 2018. What is further surprising is that there is still no full time Ministerial Adviser as well in the current Victorian government, despite Indian community being in significant numbers in Victoria.

“I actually stopped talking about it for a while.” he said. “But I feel people of my age should make continuous and concerted efforts to put in place some systematic changes. Otherwise our future generations would inherit those disadvantages.” Nitin further added.


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