Let’s #makeithappen Because No One Else Will Do It For Us

 In Diversity

Thank you to the many wonderful individuals and organisations who came to support DAWN at our International Women’s Day event on March 7th, 2015, held at Cabra-Vale Diggers, in Sydney’s South West.  We had a fantastic turnout, and our speakers left our audience moved and inspired!

DAWN would like to especially thank Dr Tim Soutphammasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Ms Nahji Chu, founder & entrepreneur of Miss Chu Tuckshop, and Erin Chew , founder of Asian Australian Alliance.


Their message touched us all, women and men of diverse backgrounds; we still have a long way to go to see diverse leadership reflected in mainstream institutions.

This year’s IWD theme was #makeithappen.  While there have been changing attitudes toward women and girls around the world, they still face appalling inequality and injustice. IWD is a time that we pause and reflect on the achievements that women have made and gained, but it is also a time to reflect on the barriers that still exist for women.

However, we should also spare a thought for those from culturally diverse backgrounds, as the barriers for them are often doubled, if not ‘tripled’, especially in the area of leadership.


International Women’s Day is a day when women come together in show of solidarity, to share what they have achieved, to inspire and to celebrate their womanhood.

I have no doubt that the gender movement championed by many women leaders have paved the way to ensure that women across the board can vote, have better lives and have choices especially with the pursuit of our careers.

But, unfortunately for women (and men) of a culturally diverse linguistic background, the journey to be recognised as having leadership capability in a male Anglo-Australian or western dominated leadership style society, there is still much to overcome.

Women make up more than 50 per cent of the population, however we don’t yet have the statistics as to how many of those 51 per cent are of a culturally diverse background.  What we do know is that one quarter of the Australian population is from a culturally diverse background.

According to the 2011 census, 24.6 per cent of Australia’s population were born overseas and 43.1 per cent of people have at least one overseas-born parent.  That’s a huge chunk of the Australian population. If we look around at our major institutions, what do we see?  Where are the faces, the talent, and contribution from leaders of culturally diverse backgrounds?

For me, this year’s International Women’s Day theme #makeithappen is very significant.  Our aim at DAWN, is to #makeithappen for Asian Australian leadership.  We want to see an increase in Asian Australian leadership across our major institutions – full stop.

With almost 10 per cent of the population identifying as having Asian heritage, and 2.4 million Australians identifying as speaking an Asian language, it’s time what we see this population reflected across our most influential sectors and industries.

Homogeneity is a strategic risk. It enhances the propensity for ‘groupthink’ and leads to poor decision-making, often blinding us to the opportunities under our noses. Australian business is yet to reap the benefits of the gender and cultural diversity in its midst.

There’s no doubt that people like to hire someone who looks like them (unconsciously or consciously) – this makes them feel comfortable.  Even in forming the Diverse Australian Women’s Network, we were conscious that we were creating a platform to bring Australasian people together to share and encourage one another in our professional and personal journeys.  But at the same time, our mission is to consciously deploy these individuals into the wider mainstream society.  We believe that it is only through people working with others who are of different culturally and gender backgrounds to them, that we create a vibrant, innovative, and harmonious society.

At DAWN (www.dawn.org.au) we are committed to drive this conversation for the need to increase Asian Australian leadership and diverse leadership overall right across our society, be it in corporate, the media, and Government. There’s so much to do, on a subject that is undoubtedly confronting. But DAWN will take up this year’s IWD #makeithappen with gusto and determination.

Lastly, DAWN would like to especially thank Cabra-Vale Diggers for sponsoring the event as well as Red & Black Solutions, InterContinental Hotel, Westpac’s Ruby Connection,Betty Tran, Beloka Water, Asian Australian Alliance, Laos Buddhist Association, the Vietnamese Women’s Association and many local businesses and individuals.

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