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.

Business First - - ASIA -

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

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