Inaugural survey reveals that women miss out on board roles because of their cultural background

One in three respondents to the inaugural WOB Counting Culture Survey 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.

Respondents’ comments revealed key themes across the survey:

“My accent arrived before I could explain my background and experience.”

“As my appearance is white European, when I personally meet people they seem to be fine, but when they haven't met with me yet and see my foreign name or hear my accent over the phone they can be dismissive.”

Claire Braund, co-founder and Executive Director of Women on Boards, said the Counting Culture survey is the first to look at the issue from the perspective of women actively seeking board roles, rather than canvas the views of Non-Executive Directors on cultural diversity.

“In capturing the voices and experiences of culturally diverse women, the survey demonstrates how the intersection of being female AND from a culturally diverse background impacts opportunities to secure board roles.

“As a pioneer in taking action to address gender balance on boards, WOB has always been mindful it should not become a club of privileged white Anglo women that simply replaces men of the same cultural heritage and background.

Raising awareness and educating Boards, Chairs and Recruiters to firstly see how white privilege impacts others is critical, along with explaining the benefits of recruiting board members who don’t come from your old networks and don’t look/sound/think like you.”

MME_Mahjabeen-CCD.pngMahajabeen Zaman, Chair of WOB’s Cultural Diversity Committee said:

"Cultural diversity on boards is not a simple thing to solve. Our aim is to bring in partners and collaborate, to be more impactful as a multicultural society. While talent and culture remain priorities in boardrooms, having a culturally diverse board will reflect its true strength."

Marcella-Lazerus-(1).pngMarcella Lazarus GAICD, one of the survey architects and member of the WOB CDC put it this way:

"We have to value the thoughts, skills, lived experiences, and networks of a whole range of people and ensure their perspectives are incorporated into our decision making. It makes good business sense…We can't possibly be making decisions that are in the best interests of all stakeholders when we aren't close to representative. …I'm particularly concerned about the under-representation of Indigenous people on Australian Boards. We can't possibly work towards reconciliation while we marginalise First People's voices.“

Women on Boards has committed to 10 actions on the back of the Counting Culture Survey, which include actively promoting and championing culturally diverse and First Nations women into board roles and critically reviewing its own training programs, practices and branding to ensure it becomes more inclusive.

Claire Braund said:

There is always room for improvement and WOB recognises that correcting the cultural diversity imbalance within our gender is also an important step toward achieving optimally functioning boards.

To this end we are committed to working with the Cultural Diversity Committee, our members and other key stakeholders to get meaningful change and action on the issues raised in this survey.

Read the full report here
Read more about WOB's Cultural Diversity Committee here

Latest newsRSS