This week I attended the Diversity Council of Australia’s launch of its report on the cultural identity of senior executives and learned that it’s true: Australian companies (at least the top 4 accounting firms, the ANZ bank, which probably are representative of most) are led by white, Anglo, mostly men.
The stats look good: 41% of these senior executives were either born overseas or had parents born overseas. But their countries of heritage were the UK, US, Canada, New Zealand or South Africa; countries much like ours.
Less than 2% of executives come from non-English speaking backgrounds: 1.8% are Anglo-Italian, 1.5% are Anglo-Chinese and 1.2% are of Anglo-Indian heritage.
And yet, we’re told, this is the ‘Asian century’. Economic growth is built on our migration program. We rely on the skills, professional expertise and vocational knowledge of immigrants to prop up our economy. Yet clearly we only trust those that look and sound like our British forebears to wield influence and power.
At the DCA launch Senator Kate Lundy, Parliamentary Secretary of Immigration and Multi-cultural Affairs, told us that the federal government is cultivating social inclusion by funding community radio, fairs and festivals. ‘This’ she said, proudly, ‘is a first.’ Typically it’s been left to state and local governments to bear the costs of events that celebrate multiculturalism and make us feel good.
I have a lot of respect for Senator Lundy, but frankly if this is the best the federal government can do, she should probably keep it quiet.
Our streets are filled with visual evidence of our migration programs.
Why are the people on the streets so under-represented at the top of our organisations?
Diversity improves the quality of decisions, provides a competitive edge and increases the bottom line, but managing diversity is difficult. It means we must be willing to listen to different perspectives, be challenged by people with different views and experiences and have lived a life we know little about. It means we have to open our minds to the possibility that we don’t have all the answers or that the way we see the world is not the only possibility. And that’s hard.
Why do something that’s difficult when we’ve already got enough going on and life is basically pretty good? We work too hard, fret too much and have the occasional whinge. But basically we like our lives. There is no compelling reason for us to change how we do things or consider there may be other ways of doing things. There is no compelling reason for the government (or our senior leaders) to push too hard on this and gee, haven’t they enough on their plate trying to make room for women?
I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t think it’s going to change any time soon.