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Why are there so few Indian-origin leaders in Australia?

Businesswoman in Meeting Source: Getty Images

According to AHRC Australian cultural diversity is not proportionately represented within the senior leadership of our organisations.

Australia, the land of fair-go and lucky country, is often described as a land of multicultural success stories.

But Dr Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, notes that these stories require an honest recognition and self-examination on the part of Australia’s public and business leaders.

“In our multicultural society, why don’t we see more diversity among our leaders? Do we have leadership that is fit for today’s Australia?” adds Dr Soutphommasane.

Race Discrimination Commissioner
File image of Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane.

Recently released, Australian Human Right Commission’s (AHRC) Leading for Change report deals with issues such as – the current representation of cultural diversity within the leadership of organisations; the case for changing the status quo; and how organisations can improve their performance on cultural diversity.

The report observes that about 28 per cent of Australian population was born overseas, with another 20 per cent having an overseas-born parent. It further notes that according to another estimate, 32 per cent of the Australian population have a non-Anglo-Celtic background.

Cultural backgrounds
Cultural backgrounds

According to AHRC this cultural diversity is not “proportionately represented within the senior leadership of our organisations.”

Usman W. Chohan says that cultural diverse organisations make better decisions, have confident employees, and achieve better performance.

He adds that there are negative costs as well for organisations that fail to practise inclusive leadership – decreased productivity, higher level of turnover and absenteeism, and reduced job satisfaction among staff.

In addition, chances of legal battle and reputational damage caused by racial discrimination are always there.

AHRC’s report and Usman both suggest that a change can happen if organisations’ senior leaders think of inclusive leadership as their personal agenda; gather and measure cultural diversity; set accountability and targets; deal with bias and discrimination; and promote professional development by cultivating culturally diverse leaders.

To know more about leadership in Australian organisation listen to Amit Sarwal’s conversation with Usman W. Chohan, policy expert and researcher at UNSW Canberra.

Usman W. Chohan
Usman W. Chohan
Usman W. Chohan