Women on Boards (WOB) has established a Cultural Diversity Working Group (CDWG) 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 Cultural Diversity Working Group 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 Working Group:
- 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.
- 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.
- Creating a mentorship program promoting diverse women into leadership roles in Australia .
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.
||Number of Directors on ASX200
(prior to June 2020)
|% of Total Directors on ASX200
(rounded to nearest .1%)
|Men of Anglo Origin
|Men of Non-Anglo Origin
|Women of Anglo Origin
|Women of Non-Anglo Origin
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 (https://data.gov.au/search?q=acnc). NSW charities with revenues of $50M+ were included.
Number of Board Members
of Charities with revenues of $50M+
|% of Total Board Members
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:
Primary & Secondary Education
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-$20M.
||% total board
Working group members
Mahjabeen Zaman, Senior Investment Specialist, Citi (CHAIR)
Over 17 years of experience in financial services has helped Mahjabeen develop a deep understanding of investment markets and a wide professional network, both in Australia and Internationally. Mahjabeen's experience in managing Sub-institutional clients and Ultra High Net Worth individuals/families across various geographies including Singapore, Indonesia, Indian subcontinent, UAE, UK and Australia, has embedded her with a global mindset and approach to managing complex investment solutions, portfolio management and relationship building. Mahjabeen is passionate about diversity and inclusion. She is a member of the Citi Women’s Network Committee and member of the NSW State Leadership Committee for Women in Banking and Finance - Australia (WiBF).
Lil Bianchi, Non Executive Director. Chair Audit & Risk Committee. GAICD. Business transformation, technology and risk
Experience in business transformation, technology and risk. Helping companies to harness change and digital disruption for their advantage. IPO and listed company governance. Lil’s value is underpinned by board, CEO and executive track record spanning global listed +$Billion corporates, tech start-ups, tier 1 management consultancy, public sector, and international research. Sector experience includes financial services, transport, health, government, property and agriculture.
Miriam George, Graduate and Inclusion Manager, Marsh and McLennan
Miriam has 15 years experience across technology, financial services and property industries. She is currently at Marsh as the Graduate and Inclusion Manager. She is also a Committee Member on UTS’ Human Research Ethics Committee. Previously at Microsoft, Miriam managed their graduate program, as well as diversity and inclusion initiatives. At Stockland, she designed and launched the company’s graduate program, as well as managed learning and talent programs.
Jess Grills, Head Paralegal, Allens
Jess is a recent law graduate of the University of Melbourne and works at Allens Linklaters, where she is pursuing her interest in funds management, superannuation, and capital raisings. Jess has extensive volunteer and legal experience with organisations such as Oxfam, Justice Connect, and SecondBite and is a current member of ABIC's advisory board. Her interests include practicing Spanish and the piano, investing in the ASX and Nasdaq, and marathon running.
Ivett Guerra, Future Students Manager, Australian Catholic University
Ivett is an innovative marketer with 15 years’ experience in developing and implementing strategic solutions for a range of clients, from government and not-for-profits, to ASX200 companies. Ivett has been an advisor to Management Committees, Boards and Executive Leaderships teams. She helps businesses grow by creating meaningful connections between organisations and their customers, empowering these companies to adopt social, gender and cultural inclusion as a commercial strategy for entering new markets and strengthening their brands. She is a Latin American born, Australian woman who believes that a multicultural approach to all business operations is essential to the success of an organisation.
Belinda Howell, Board Member Dunmore Lang College, Macquarie University
Belinda has a keen interest in promoting intercultural awareness and representation, developed over her career as a senior executive with multinational organisations spanning aviation, financial and professional services, and education. Having managed multicultural teams across the world, she believes it is essential to harness diverse cultural perspectives to create more agile and customer-centric organisations. Belinda is an experienced director of NFP Boards and has qualifications in management, executive coaching and mental health.
Marcella Lazarus, Director & Founder, Growing Organisations
An executive Director, committee member and business owner experienced in founding and growing a business with expertise in organisational culture and transformation. Brings solid experience in community consultation and engagement, particularly with people with a disability, or who have a culturally or linguistically diverse background (CALD). Experienced at influencing and advising across Executive, Boards and Committees, Graduate of AICD, and now wishing to extend into Non-Executive Government Board roles.
Bernadette Masbayi, Community Engagement Officer, Office of Multicultural Interests-Dept of Local Government Sport & Cultural Industries
Bernadette arrived in Australia over 15 years ago as an international student. She completed her Master’s in Public Health and chose to stay and make Australia her second home. Born in Kenya, Bernadette has built her career working with multicultural communities in Western Australia. She has over 15 years’ experience working in health promotion and community development within both the not-for-profit and public sectors. As Coordinator of the Office of Multicultural Interests’ Leadership and Governance Program, Bernadette is a strong advocate and active supporter of increasing gender and cultural diversity on boards within the corporate, public and not-for-profit sectors.
Ruth Medd, Chair Women on Boards & Australian Chocolate Pty Ltd
Ruth is a Certified Practising Accountant and former IT professional who has been pursuing a career as a Non-Executive-Director since 2000. She was the founding chair of Women on Boards and in this capacity has been instrumental in the growth of the business and supported many thousands of women to become board members. She maintains wide interests outside of WOB, including in the start-up sector and angel investing as well as her other board and committee roles. Ruth was previously the chair of Australian Ethical Superannuation, a member of the NSW Casino Control Authority and a director of the Infants Home at Ashfield. Prior executive roles include executive director of the Australian Association of National Advertisers and senior positions with Telstra, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal and the Federal Government.
Sara Pantaleo, Founder, Affari SP | NED & Chair
Sara was born in Italy and migrated to Australia at the age of 11. She is a business woman passionate about diversity and has always loved working and mentoring people. In 1996 she joined La Porchetta and took a major shift from the corporate environment into small family business. She initially joined as Distribution and Administration Manager and was appointed as CEO in 2005 and as a Director in 2010. She was instrumental in driving La Porchetta’s growth to become the largest, licensed, a-la-carte restaurant franchise in Australasia today. She achieved this by building corporate systems and process that enabled the company to expand without compromising its core family values and culture. Sara is passionate about franchising as a business model. She has been a member of the FCA National Board and served as Vice-President of the Victorian chapter of the FCA. She is also a Non-Executive Director of the Family Business Australia National Board. A former National Franchise Woman of the Year (2010), Sara is also a Telstra Businesswoman of the Year Victorian finalist (2012).
Malini Raj, Head of Strategy (Multicultural Community Banking), Commonwealth Bank
Malini has over 20 years of experience working across several domestic and international Financial Services organisations. She is currently Head of Strategy for Multicultural Community Banking at the Commonwealth Bank, a role which allows her to work in her area of passion on a daily basis – promoting cultural diversity and social cohesion. She consistently advocates for a more diverse workforce/diverse representation in the community and is seen as a strong ambassador/thought-leader for diversity and inclusion and is also Chair of CommBank’s Cultural Diversity employee network Mosaic which is responsible for promoting culturally diversity and inclusion across the Group. She has a strong interest in making a social impact, reflected in her involvement in various Board and Advisory Board roles.
Ruth Medd (WOB Chair) 0419 407 231 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mahjabeen Zaman (Committee Chair) 0490 702680 | email@example.com