How to get cultural diversity right

'Australian businesses often don’t have a clear picture about cultural diversity in their ranks'

How to get cultural diversity right

Cultural diversity, cultural capability, and global experience in senior executive ranks are increasingly being recognised as valuable, sought after assets, according to Diversity Council Australia’s (DCA) CEO Lisa Annese.

Annese added that if you consider a culturally diverse and capable leadership team can help an organisation broaden its strategic perspective and enter new local and global markets, then “race and culture conversations stop being about PC agendas and start being about a thriving Australian economy”.

“That’s just so powerful and not something to be ignored.”

Indeed, This Harmony Day the DCA and The University of Sydney Business School have launched a report which highlights how business can access the benefits that flow from mapping cultural diversity in the workplace.

The research, titled Counting Culture, highlights six key guiding principles for organisations to effectively understand, measure and utilise cultural diversity.

Annese added that Counting Culture is critically important because the modern Australian workforce comprises people from all manner of cultural, ethnic, religious and national backgrounds and identities.

Importantly, it moves conversations about race from a ‘PC’ hot topic to an urgent economic discussion. This is especially significant at a time when cultural diversity in companies has been called ‘dismal’ and sparked calls for targets.

The report recommends organisations recognise Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander employees’ unique position by separating them from the broad category of ‘cultural diversity’ when Counting Culture.

Moreover, it suggests organisations benchmark their internal cultural diversity against diversity in the general Australian community or in key industries or markets, and consider the role of intersectionality in cultural diversity.

DCA has long been advocating the business benefits of Counting Culture that include everything from language skills, increased cultural knowledge and understanding, expanded business networks and knowledge of business practices and protocols in overseas markets.

Associate Professor Dimitria Groutsis, who co-authored the report added that Harmony Day is an opportunity to reflect on what has made Australia a highly successful multicultural country and how we can understand more about the multicultural landscape.

“Australian businesses often don’t have a clear picture about cultural diversity in their ranks,” said Groutsis.

“This tool will help them have the conversation in the workplace but also it will help them understand how they can measure and monitor the cultural diversity they have and harness that to the fullest.”

The full list of recommendations for measuring cultural diversity are below:

  1. Recognise Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ unique position
  2. Adopt an identity-based definition of cultural diversity e.g. how I see myself and how others see me
  3. Use multiple indicators of cultural diversity
  4. Get specific about cultural categories
  5. Engage with intersectionality
  6. Compare your data to wider community, industry and market benchmarks.


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