A recent study by Diversity Council Australia found that only one in ten ASX leaders identified as having a background other than Anglo or Northern European.1 Similarly, a 2022 study from the Minderoo Foundation found that Indigenous representation accounted for only 0.7 percent of senior leadership across Australia’s biggest organisations.2 Diversity within Australia’s parliaments is also far below that reflected in Australian census data.3 This means the people who lead, formulate policy, decide how public resources are allocated, and make the laws governing our society, are predominantly white Australians, and do not represent the diversity in our community.
Research shows that individual and institutional biases are directly responsible for racial inequity in corporate Australia. Not only are First Nations people and people from culturally and linguistically diverse communities statistically far less likely to be called for job interviews than equally qualified, white applicants,4 we also know that these communities routinely experience discrimination in the workplace that undermines their ability to remain in their job or progress to senior leadership.5 Of course, this is compounded when an individual experiences multiple forms of discrimination, such as discrimination on the basis of sex, disability, sexuality, gender diversity and/or class.
Racism is often the result of policies, processes and practices that prevent some people from being treated fairly and equitably. It is as much about how we structure governments, run businesses and build societies as it is about the behaviour of individuals. Racism shapes the conversations in our parliaments and boardrooms that directly impact the decisions and policies that govern our society. Ensuring that our leaders reflect the diversity of our society is an important step in challenging the individual and institutional biases and prejudices that reinforce systemic racism and undermine racial equity.
By reflecting on the impact of racism, and taking a stand against it, we can build a fair and equal society – for all.
It stops with me.
1 Jane O’Leary and Dimitria Groutsis, Counting Culture: Six Principles for Measuring Cultural Diversity if Your Workplace (Report, 2019) 10 <https://www.dca.org.au/research/project/counting-culture>.
2 Minderoo Foundation, ‘Australian-first Indigenous employment index highlights desperate need to close the employment gap’ (Web Page, 23 May 2022) <https://www.minderoo.org/indigenous-employment-index/news/australian-first-indigenous-employment-index-highlights-desperate-need-to-close-the-employment-gap/>.
3 Jarni Blakkarly, ’Australia’s new parliament is no more multicultural than the last one’, SBS News (online, 21 May 2019) <https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/australias-new-parliament-is-no-more-multicultural-than-the-last-one/yxkpmy335>.
4 Alison L Booth, Andrew Leigh and Elena Varganova, ‘Does Ethnic Discrimination Vary Across Minority Groups? Evidence from a Field Experiment’ (2012) 74(4) Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics 547; Diversity Council Australia, Racism at Work: How Organisations Can Stand Up to and End Workplace Racism (Report, 2022) 68 <https://www.dca.org.au/research/project/racismatwork>.
5 Women of Colour Australia, Workplace Survey Report 2021, (Report, 2021) <https://womenofcolour.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/WOMEN-OF-COLOUR-AUSTRALIA-WORKPLACE-SURVEY-REPORT-2020-2021.pdf>; Jane O’Leary and Dimitria Groutsis, Counting Culture: Six Principles for Measuring Cultural Diversity if Your Workplace (Report, 2019) 4 <https://www.dca.org.au/research/project/counting-culture>; Minderoo Foundation, ‘Australian-first Indigenous employment index highlights desperate need to close the employment gap’ (Web Page, 23 May 2022) <https://www.minderoo.org/indigenous-employment-index/news/australian-first-indigenous-employment-index-highlights-desperate-need-to-close-the-employment-gap/>.