How to be competitive in the Asian Century
In the Asian Century it’s time to look at the make up of our boards and leadership structures writes Pamela Young.
Australia looks like a multicultural nation on paper, with 47% of 1 our population having at least one parent born overseas. But multiculturalism is clearly not evident at the top levels of government and industry. In Tony Abbott’s new Cabinet, for instance, there is not one person of nonAnglo-Saxon descent and in a review of our top-tier ASX100 companies, only 3% of our business leaders were born in Asia2. With a similar paucity of nonAnglo-Saxon people on the executive teams of most Australian businesses, it has to be said that, while Australia has the multicultural numbers, we are a long way from being a truly diverse society.
Going forward, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Why haven’t many more immigrants who have made Australia their home since WWII featured more prominently as leaders in business, society and government?’ and ‘What implications will our lack of cultural diversity at the top of our organisations have for our future?’
How might we have fared if we had more fully utilised the skills and experience of all the people that now call Australia home?
In the 21st century, as the world continues to globalise and workforce mobility increases, we need to consider our global position. If we continue on our present path, not encouraging and nurturing cultural diversity at the top levels of our organisations, the world will notice. The net effect is likely to dampen our prospects for international trade and limit our growth potential with our closest neighbours in Asia.
How we can move forward? We must adapt to survive. The Australian economy is too small and growth of just 2.5-3% annually is too low to sustain the quality of life to which we have become accustomed.
The obvious solution is to close the ‘cultural gap’ between our island home and Asia, our fast-growing neighbours. In doing so, we face a challenge: many European nations have made earlier and greater commitments to working with Asia and now understand their customs, practices and their languages. They