Are Australian organisations ‘capitalising on culture’?

by 07 Dec 2011

In a landmark survey of over 2,000 executives, the level of diversity in senior ranks and the leadership pipeline has been measured – and the Diversity Council Australia (DCA) CEO has said the results are reassuring.

Nareen Young said the findings revealed not only an encouraging depth and breadth of cultural and linguistic diversity at the most senior levels and in the leadership pipeline, but also a need to capitalise more on talent who possess a non-English speaking cultural identity.

“Our research findings underscore the need for employers to build understanding and engagement around cultural diversity,” Young commented.

She added, “If Australian organisations are to leverage fully the business opportunities of culturally diverse local, regional and global markets, they need to genuinely value cultural diversity and the inter-cultural capabilities this can bring, and tap into Australia’s culturally diverse talent pool.”

Corporate sponsors of DCA, Deloitte, ANZ, Mallesons Stephen Jaques and Goldman Sachs, and other participating organisations, said they hope this project and its findings will constitute a ‘call to action’ for Australian organisations to better measure and capitalise on cultural diversity in the workplace.

Key survey findings included:

  • Senior executives and pipeline executives held citizenship of 65 different countries and represented 107 different ancestries.
  • The percentage of senior executives and pipeline executives who were born overseas was higher than that in the Australian general community (41% vs 27%), and they are variously born in a total of 77 different countries.
  • In general, different cultural and religious groups were represented at levels roughly equivalent to that found in the broader Australian community.
  • The leadership pipeline was somewhat more culturally and linguistically diverse than the senior executive workforce, in relation to country of birth, parents’ country of birth and main languages spoken at home.
  • In terms of inter-cultural or diversity capability, measured through reference to global experience, multilingual ability and multiple cultural identities, the survey found:

The survey uncovered the following opportunities for organisations to better capitalise on cultural diversity:

  • Increase the proportion of senior executives and pipeline executives who originate from non-Main English Speaking Countries (MESC) and who speak a language other than English (the majority of participants were born in either Australia or MESC (86%), these being Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, the UK, and the US);
  • Develop a talent pool of senior executives and pipeline executives who originate from a broader range of countries of birth and ancestries and who speak a broader range of languages (while broad cultural groups were represented at levels roughly equivalent to that found in the Australian community, often only a limited number of countries were represented in each broad group e.g. 94% of overseas participants born in Southern and Central Asia were from either India or Sri Lanka); and
  • Increase the degree and breadth of cultural diversity in the immediate leadership pipeline.


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