Organisations are being urged to consider introducing targets to make their workplaces more ethnically diverse after a report found nearly all of Australia's senior executives, heads of government departments and university vice-chancellors have Anglo-Celtic or European backgrounds.
The Australian Human Rights Commission report's findings were based on an examination of the cultural backgrounds of nearly 2500 people who hold the most senior jobs in the country.
About 95 per cent of those senior leaders in Australia shared an Anglo-Celtic or European background, with a mere 0.4 per cent having an Indigenous background and just under five per cent having a non-European background.
Of the 372 chief executives from Australia's top 200 stock market listed companies, 97 per cent had Anglo-Celtic or European heritage.
"This is a dismal statistic for a society that prides itself on its multiculturalism," the report said.
"Clearly, there remains an Anglo-Celtic and European default when it concerns the cultural background of senior leaders in Australia.
"In a society where nearly one-quarter is estimated to have a non-European or Indigenous background, this challenges us to do better with our multiculturalism."
The report recommends companies start collecting data about cultural differences within their organisations and "consider targets and accountability for cultural diversity and inclusion across the organisation".
Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane said it would be complacent to believe that it will only be a matter of time before organisations become more diverse.
"There remains limited cultural diversity that appears in the leadership pipeline, as demonstrated by our findings regarding non-chief executive senior leaders," he said.
"Getting serious about the issue demands that leaders and organisations take committed action in three areas: leadership, systems and culture."
Senior leaders with Anglo-Celtic or European backgrounds
* ASX 200 CEOs: 97pct
* Federal ministers: 96.7pct
* Federal and state government department heads: 99pct
* University vice-chancellors: 97.4pct
(Source: Leading for Change report by the Australian Human Rights Commission,
University of Sydney Business School, the Committee for Sydney, and Asia Society