‘Bamboo ceiling’ holding Asian workers back

The report issued by Diversity Council Australia found that despite ambition – 84 per cent of respondents planned to advance to a very senior role – only 4.


9 per cent of Australia’s senior business leaders are Asian born.

This is despite Asian born workers making up 9.3 per cent of labour force.

The report, titled “Cracking the Cultural Ceiling: Future Proofing Your Business in the Asian Century”, also stated that only 1.9 per cent of ASX 200 companies have Asian cultural origins.

Chief Executive of Diversity Council Australia, Lisa Annese, said the figures were “inconceivable”.

She said the research, issued on Monday, should be used to identify and address the hurdles – or “bamboo ceiling” – stopping the progression of Asian born employees.

“It is in all our interests to adopt a culturally responsive approach to business strategy and therefore talent management,” she said.

“Indeed, the benefits of doing so for corporate performance, innovation and access to new markets are well established.”

Ms Annese also stressed the significance of Asian markets on the Australian economy, stating that 80 per cent of the nation’s largest trading partners are in Asia, while Australia’s “multicultural market” has an estimated purchasing power of more than $75 billion per year.

Through surveying more than 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds, researchers also found that fewer than one in five Asian workers feel their workplaces are free of cultural stereotypes.

 Of the survey participants, sourced from more than 100 Australian organisations, 61 per cent reported feeling pressure to confirm to existing, inherently “Anglo” leadership styles.

Of the 30 per cent of respondents saying they intend to leave their current job in the coming year, one in four attribute their decision to negative cultural diversity factors.