Leaders from Australian business, government, media and higher education joined a Cultural Diversity and Leadership Forum on 7 June, hosted by Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane in Sydney.
The event was an initiative of the Leadership Council on Cultural Diversity, whose members include PwC Australia’s CEO Luke Sayers, University of Queensland vice-chancellor Professor Peter Hoj, EY Oceania chief executive Tony Johnson, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet Secretary Dr Martin Parkinson, ABC managing director Michelle Guthrie, and Springfield City Group Managing Director Raynuha Sinnathamby.
Ms Sinnathamby and Mr Johnson addressed the forum, which was also joined by Australian Institute of Company Directors CEO Angus Armour, Settlement Services International CEO Violet Roumeliotis and non-executive director Lisa Chung. The forum tackled issues including data collection on cultural diversity, leadership targets, recruitment, mentoring and professional development.
Mr Johnson said EY will introduce cultural diversity targets at partnership level. EY will join a small group of Australian organisations that have adopted cultural diversity targets.
Ms Sinnathamby called for a “super-charging” of efforts on cultural diversity. Without serious efforts to promote diversity, she said, we are unlikely to improve cultural diversity within the leadership of Australian organisations.
Earlier this year, Commissioner Soutphommasane and University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence launched the Australian Human Rights Commission report Leading for Change: A blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership revisited.
The University of Sydney Business School, the Committee for Sydney, and Asia Society Australia partnered with the Commission to produce the report.
It assessed cultural diversity among 2,490 of the most senior positions in Australia, including ASX 200 companies, government, and universities. It found a persistent lack of cultural diversity in senior leadership positions, with only 5% of senior leaders coming from cultural backgrounds other than Anglo-Celtic or European.
“In a society where nearly one-quarter is estimated to have a non-European or Indigenous background, the findings of our Leading for Change reports challenge us to do better with our multiculturalism,” Dr Soutphommasane said.
At the forum, the Commissioner encouraged organisations to be less risk-averse in their thinking and actions on cultural diversity.
“Getting it right on cultural diversity is about getting the most of our multicultural talents. It is crucial to our future prosperity and success.”