On Tuesday 16 August 2016, AALA Executive Committee Members Jing Zhu and Molina Asthana attended “Leading for change- A blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership” hosted by Corrs Chambers Westgarth. The lunch commenced with an address by Race Discrimination Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane on the recently launched Blueprint for Cultural Diversity and Inclusive Leadership. The Commissioner explained the reasons behind the Blueprint, including the need to gather facts and statistical data on people of Asian background in the government and senior levels leadership level. He presented a number of stark pie charts from research conducted for the Blueprint indicating that at
- ASX 200 CEO’s
- Federal Parliamentarians
- Federal Ministry
- Federal and State Public Service Heads; and
- University Vice-Chancellors
there was at most 5% representation from those of non-European backgrounds. These statistics align with the AALA’s own Cultural Diversity Snapshot, released last year looking into the number of lawyers of Asian background at senior levels in law firms, at the Bar and within the Judiciary. This research also showed low levels of representation by those of an Asian background in the senior ranks of the legal profession.
Mr Soutphommasane encouraged setting realistic and meaningful targets, and greater advocacy for cultural diversity, including from senior leaders in the community. He also discussed the concept of a “meritocracy” and that such a concept could only make sense if everyone starts on a level playing ground.
Annette Hughes, Partner and Chair of Diversity and Inclusion Council at Corrs then chaired a panel discussion with Mr Soutphommasane, John Denton, CEO of Corrs and Tasneem Chopra, Cross Cultural Consultant, Author and Curator. Ms Chopra spoke of her own experiences with subtle and casual yet persistent discrimination. She also advocated on the need to have a more culturally inclusive workplace not just because it made good business sense but also as “the right thing to do” because we all live and function in a diverse society.
Mr Denton discussed the importance of not having tunnel vision when it came to diversity. It was important to open up to not just gender diversity but also racial, religious and LGBTI diversity. His view was that in order to create a healthy organisation, we need to respect individuals both in the qualities that make them the same to others but also what makes them unique and different, and celebrate those differences. We should also include those individuals in the goals and ideals of an organisation to drive improvement within the organisation.
Copies of the Blueprint were distributed at the seminar. They can also be accessed at the ARHC website https://www.humanrights.gov.au/our-work/race-discrimination/publications/leading-change-blueprint-cultural-diversity-and-inclusive