Gloria Yuen: Why my accent is my superpower


Think of your accent as a superpower. That was one piece of advice from WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee member Gloria Yuen speaking at a panel on the experiences of Culturally and Racially Marginalised (CARM) women in leadership.


Gloria, who is also Co-Chair of NAB’s Cultural Inclusion Committee, was one of four women speaking at the International Women’s Day launch of the Diversity Council of Australia’s latest research which examined the state of play CARM women at work.

She was joined by retired Naval officer and D&I champion, Captain Mona Shindy, CSC, Macquarie Group Reconciliation Manager Holly Johnson and Juliana Nkrumah AM, the President and founder of African Women Australia Inc (AWAU). 

Talking about accent bias for people with non-English accents when applying for jobs or leadership roles, Gloria urged CARM women to think of their accents as a positive. 

“One thing I want people to unpack is what does it mean? How does it speak to your quality and intelligence and suitability for the role? I think we have to slowly take every opportunity to unpack those biases. Because accent is actually a superpower and I think we have to embrace that.”

She said reading the DCA report also took her on a personal journey of understanding what racial marginalisation meant to her. 

“I’m ethnic. I'm from a non-English speaking background. I’m a person of colour. I’m a woman. I’m cis gender. I’m all those things. However one thing that really offers the least of understanding to myself or my identity is actually race,” she said. “I’m Chinese/British by birth, German by love and Australian by choice. However I will always be seen as Asian.”

Writing on LinkedIn after the event Gloria thanked Women on Boards, NAB and DCA for their support and data-backed reports - including WOB’s Truth Be Told: Cultural Diversity on Boards report, which have helped push the conversation. 

“Never have I ever thought to witness a panel with such diverse experience and perspective for #IWD, no less be part of it,” she said.

“The time is now… #CARMWomen let’s support each other to break through and tear down barriers along the way.”

About the research

The research, conducted by a team of CARM women, focuses on how the intersections of two key marginalising characteristics - race and gender - are operating in workplaces and shows the representation of CARM women in leadership in Australia remains scarce.

DCA conducted surveys and focus groups with more than 370 CARM women, as well as a review of industry and academic research, to gain insights into the challenges faced by these women in the workplace.

CARM women are ambitious, capable and resilient: 

  • 97% of CARM women we surveyed said they had valuable contributions to make to their organisation
  • 78% wanted to advance to senior leadership

CARM women experience compounding impacts of both sexism and racism at work:

  • 66% of the women said they felt they had to “act white” to get ahead.
  • 75% reported that others assumed they worked in a lower status job than they did and treated them as such.
  • 85% felt they had to work twice as hard as employees who weren’t CARM women to get the same treatment or evaluation.

CARM women reported high levels of negative workplace experiences like being under-estimated, ignored, harassed, and excluded from networks that help people get ahead.

The report outlines an evidence-based framework for organisations, identifying the locks and the keys for CARM women and leadership and offers employers ways to be more inclusive of CARM women and diversify leadership teams. 

“On International Women's Day, we often talk about women at work but too often miss the voices of women whose lived experience has been marginalised, as a result of their social class, their sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, their identity as a First Nations woman or because they are from a racially or culturally marginalised group. This research explains intersectionality and why intersectional approaches to gender equity strategies are essential,” said  Lisa Annese, CEO, Diversity Council Australia 

“Two-thirds of our respondents, culturally and racially marginalised women, report they feel they need to act white to get ahead at work. Code-switching in this way is unacceptable – it is harmful to the women and to our organisations.    

“We have deliberately shifted away from using the term ‘culturally and linguistically diverse’ in this research, instead using the term ‘culturally and racially marginalised’ (CARM) which recognises the significance of race and racism in the lives of the women we spoke to. We know this will be challenging for some people.

“But we also know that if we want to effectively address issues of racism in workplaces, we have to use language that specifically addresses it.

“These findings and our recommendations offer a great opportunity for employers across our country and economy to check how they are embracing and including all women and how we can be better – for the benefit of all.”  

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