Diversity Council takes aim at corporate ‘bamboo ceiling’

 In Bamboo Ceiling

FIONA SMITH AND RACHEL NICKLESS

People with Asian backgrounds are significantly under-represented at the higher reaches of corporate Australia, and the “bamboo ceiling” is hurting business in the Asian Century, according to a new report by Diversity Council Australia.

The council found that while 9.3 per cent of the Australian labour force is Asian born, only 4.9 per cent make it to senior executive level. In ASX?200 companies, only 1.9 per cent of executives have Asian cultural origins.

DCA’s new report, Cracking the Cultural Ceiling, found only 18 per cent of Asian talent feel their workplaces are free of cultural diversity biases and stereotypes, based on a survey of more than 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds who were working in Australia.

“Many regularly experience bias and stereotyping, including about their cultural identity, leadership capability, English proficiency and age,” DCA said.

And only 15 per cent strongly agreed their organisation used its workforce cultural diversity to better service ­clients.

None of this came as a surprise to Dai Le, who is the chief marketing officer for Beloka Water in Sydney.

Ms Le had to run for her life when she escaped war-torn Vietnam at the age of seven. Then, after coming to Australia, she forged a path as a lone Asian face in the media, fighting to be seen as more than just the refugee, gangs and gambling reporter.

Last year, she founded the Diverse Australasian Women’s Network to support other women and help challenge the stereotypes that hold back women of non-European backgrounds.

Ms Le said when she found herself pigeon-holed as the “ethnic reporter” in her jobs in newspapers, television and radio, she sought out positions which would cast her in a new light.

“People like myself have to push to say, ‘I can actually go and do a story about tax, for instance, or the environment.’ When I was [at] the ABC .?.?. I took on the health round to do something out of left field. I didn’t want to end up doing ethnic reporting.

“I needed to do that to show I could do other things.”

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