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2021 Inaugural Counting Culture Survey

The inaugural Women on Boards Counting Culture Survey reveals that women miss out on board roles because of their cultural background. One in three respondents believe they have missed out on a board or committee opportunity because of their cultural background. This increased to 53% for those born overseas compared with 17% for those born in Australia.

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Read the full report here



Cultural Diversity Committee

Women on Boards (WOB) has established a Cultural Diversity Committee (CDC) with the aim of addressing barriers to opportunity and access to leadership and board & committee roles for culturally diverse women in Australia.

The idea for the group was formed out of recent discussions about the lack of diversity in Australian leadership. While the Bureau of Statistics places the percentage of local Australian graduates from non-Anglo/European backgrounds at almost half of all graduates, the Human Rights Commission reports that only 5% of these graduates will eventually be appointed to leadership roles in Australia.

Cultural diversity benefits everyone.  It has been proven that culturally diverse leadership teams and boards are better equipped to handle competition and cement their company’s position in a globally competitive market, due to connections and cultural awareness of international markets by culturally diverse members. Furthermore, cultural diversity offers the advantage of attracting and retaining global talent, allows critical, non-uniform thinking, and results in greater innovation and higher profitability.

While Women on Board’s mission is to encourage and increase the assignment of women on boards, it also recognises that correcting the cultural diversity imbalance within our gender is also an important step toward achieving optimally functioning boards.  Our CDC will work toward addressing the barriers to opportunity and access to leadership roles for diverse women. Only a truly diversified leadership structure can begin to address existing inequities at a systemic level.

Key areas of focus for the Committee:

  1. Collating data & diversity facts, telling stories and collaborating with bodies in Australia who act and promote cultural diversity, to enlarge the influence of our collective action and accelerate progress.
  2. Influencing and raising awareness to increase understanding and promote a bias to action; including creating opportunities for culturally diverse women to connect, network and interact with decision makers.
  3. Creating a mentorship program promoting diverse women into leadership roles in Australia.

 Meet the Committee members

As we have seen for gender diversity on boards, it is critical to track and measure the numbers in order to achieve change. Accordingly, WOB launched the Board Cultural Diversity Index in 2020 as a sub-section of its overall Board Gender Diversity Index, which has been tracking the numbers of women on boards since 2010.

ASX 200 companies 

Cultural diversity on boards is slipping backwards.  According to the 2020 Board Diversity Index Report published by the Governance Institute, cultural (ethnic) diversity on ASX 300 boards had decreased since 2019. The report found that there is no reason for this except inaction.

Research done by members of the CDWG between February and May 2020 on the cultural composition of ASX200 Boards (including Company Secretaries and Managing Directors) found that just 5.2% of all positions were held by men or women of non-Anglo origin.

Category Number of Directors on ASX200
(prior to June 2020)
% of Total Directors on ASX200
(rounded to nearest .1%)
Men of Anglo Origin 983 64.7%
Men of Non-Anglo Origin 51 3.4%
Women of Anglo Origin 457 30.1%
Women of Non-Anglo Origin 28 1.8%
Total 1,519 100%

Data for number of directors includes managing directors and company secretaries so total director numbers are higher than in the ASX200 in the 2020 Boardroom Gender Diversity Index.

NSW Not for Profits with revenues of $50M+

Data for the Not for Proft sector was sourced from the ACNC 2018 Annual information Statement ( NSW charities with revenues of $50M+ were included. 


Number of Board Members
of Charities with revenues of $50M+

% of Total Board Members
Anglo Men 607 57%
Non-Anglo Men 61 6%
Anglo Women 369 34%
Non-Anglo Women 35 3%
Total 1072 100%

NSW Not for Profits with revenues of $10-$20M

For the purpose of this study NFPs whose main activity was one of the following were excluded: 

  1. Aged Care 

  1. Primary & Secondary Education 

  1. Religious Activities 

These activities were excluded on the premise that cultural diversity is lacking in these sectors and this was demonstrated through the data collected for the $50M+ charities.

Below is a summary of cultural diversity on 155 registered NFPs in NSW with revenues of $10M-$20M. 

Category Total Directors % total board
Anglo Men 697 56.5%
Non-Anglo Men 74 6%
Anglo Women 404 32.7%
Non-Anglo Women 59 4.8%
Total 1234 100%


 Meet the Committee members


Related Research

How do you count culture?

New research from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and the University of Sydney Business School has developed a standardised approach for defining, measuring, and reporting on workforce cultural diversity in a respectful, accurate and inclusive way.  Read more


Nicole Donegan (WOB COO) 0417 056 474 |
Mahjabeen Zaman (Committee Chair) 0490 702 680 |