If you really care about diversity in leadership, then you need to speak up about it according to Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane.
And upon speaking up, take heart from the fact that big things can change when voices come together.
Soutphommasane made the comments at the inaugural Asian Australian Foundation Oration Dinner last week, while discussing the challenges for diversity in an environment of increasing populism.
He shared some of the dismal stats on diversity in leadership in Australia, with just 5% of 2,500 of Australia’s most senior positions occupied by individuals from a non-European or Indigenous background.
Meanwhile, just 11 of Australia’s 370 leading CEOs are from a non-European or Indigenous background. As Soutphommasane said, it’s just enough for a cricket team.
He said that they’re not figures that should make those with an Anglo or European background feel bad, but rather stats that should challenge us to consider why such a lack of representation is happening.
“If we are such a successful multicultural society, if we see diversity so richly represented in our top achieving students in high schools and universities, and among graduates getting into our most prestigious institutions, then does it not strike us as unusual or amiss that we have such a disproportionate representation of diversity in our leadership team?
“Some would say that it is only a matter of time, but this is a product of time.”
He said that upon reflecting on his five years as Race Commissioner, that nothing gives him more pride than seeing Indigenous Australians, migrant Australians and Australians of goodwill more generally speaking up in defence of racial equality and tolerance.
“I look at what the Asian Australian Foundation is doing in the realm of philanthropy, I look at the people gathered here and I am confident here that if there are to be challenges to our future, if there are to be threats to our harmony, then we will again see people stand up,” he said.
The Asian Australian Foundation was launched by Cheri Ong, the former COO for risk management at KPMG in Asia Pacific. It aims to bring together the resources of the Asian Australian community in order to give back, and provide a platform for Asian Australians to not only contribute but to also practise leadership.