Insights

A Look at Diversity in the Workplace in the Asia Pacific Region

Lauren Leader-Chivee, a speaker at our recent Global Conference in New York, writes on Forbes for the need to commit to corporate diversity in a post-election world. We at AESC are commited to diversity and our members work diligently with clients to create more diversity in the workplace across all regions.
 
In advance of our inaugural Asia Pacific Conference in Sydney this July, we spoke with speaker Dai Le, Founder of DAWN which is a professional and social network that promotes an inclusive Australia through cultural Dai Le_Diversity in the Workplacediverse leadership across the public and private sectors. Le shares how our profession can impact diversity in the workplace and particular opportunities in the Asia Pacific region. 
 
What do you think is the link between diversity and business success? Do you think the culture of organizations impacts how diverse they are?
 
There have been numerous studies conducted to highlight the link between diversity and business success.  But putting aside research and surveys, if one was to logically consider the market in which organizations are now increasingly operating in, it makes sense to take an inclusive approach. 
 
In Australia where 28% of the population are born overseas or have parents born overseas, there is a lot of cultural diversity in the market.  To understand the needs and issues arising from these culturally mixed communities, organizations and businesses must embrace an inclusive approach in their hiring of talent, retentionand promotion to help businesses stay competitive and relevant. 
 
However, it must also be pointed out that having, managing and leading an inclusive workplaceor society has its challenges.  It would require senior leaders within these organizations to acknowledge their own biases, inability to full grasp cultural norms and ability to impact the inbuilt ‘culture’ (e.g., same way of doing things, hiring and promoting the same people).  Generally speaking, the inbuilt culturefavours a particular mindset, a particular group, and a particular way of doing things – often unconsciously.  Hence, to change the culture of the organization, it would need a courageous leader to be inclusive and embrace diversity in theworkplace. 
 
How can executive search and leadership consultants impact organizations to create more diversity in the workplace?
 
Blind recruitment has been put forward as one initiative that could help organizations and businesses hire people based on their skill set. But that is not the only option. I believe that executive search and leadership consultants need to really work closely with HR or hiring organizations to educate them about the importance of diversity and inclusion in their hiring piece.
 
However, it’s not a brush stroke approach.  It depends on the market and audience the organization is appealing to. But given that we live in a more interconnected and globalized world, I argue that every organization being set up, no matter how small, has to be prepared to engage with a very culturally diverse market.
 
I would also argue that executive search and leadership consultants need to reflect on the diversity of their own team.  Is it diverse enough to help its business communicate the importance of diversity and inclusion to their clients?  You have to practice what you preach.   
 
In looking at the future generation of leaders in Australia, what do you think are the opportunities people can take to break the bamboo ceiling?
 
I think there are plenty of opportunities for emerging leaders in Australia to break the bamboo ceiling.  The first step to take is to let go of their own “hand-break”. Once you let go of your own self-limiting beliefs, you will embark on a journey to learn and grow. 
 
For example, in a business meeting, if you have not spoken out before for fear of losing face, then let go of that fear and ask a question. It’s the first step to break through that bamboo ceiling; let go of your personal bamboo ‘hand-break’. 
I have met many young emerging leaders from culturally diverse backgrounds who have said that they choose to not pursue leadership roles because of what’s involved to get to the top, in particular the ‘office politics’ they perceive they have to play. Others expressed the ‘bamboo barriers’ they felt were in place that prevented them from climbing up that leadership ladder.
 
However the conversation around inclusive leadership is still at its infancy.  Many organizations are now looking at how to address the lack of diversity in leadership – both from a gender and cultural perspective.
 
Tell me about DAWN. What have been some of the main things you have learned since its founding? And how do you see it evolving in the future?
 
DAWN was initially set up as a professional and social network to bring diverse Asian Australian women together to share their experience, thoughts on their professional and personal journey. Then we evolved to include men and other culturally diverse groups, because there was a need for such a forum, especially bringing people together to openly share with one anotherin a safe and non-threatening environment.
 
We have since partnered with organizations like the Ethics Centre, the Asian Australian Lawyers Association, Baker & McKenzie, Ashurst and recently with Westpac, to deliver a series of thought-provoking leadership conversations that bring together senior leaders as well as emerging leaders to have a dialogue on subjects such as ‘Yin & Yang” of leadership, “Being Quiet, Being Heard”, “Playing the game: Navigating the system”. 
 
We are about to start our second series of Culturally Diverse Leadership with Westpac on May 24th on the topic of ‘Identity and belonging”. We are also in the process to launch our DAWN Connect program which will link emerging leaders with senior leaders through a mentorship conversation, as well as launching the DAWN Tv Youtube channel. We are asking for 100 subscribers to get our unique DAWN TV url and are currently at 89. I encourage everyone to subscribe as it will be greatly appreciated!