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
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.
Shing Ka, CPA, Philanthropist
Shing has built an extensive professional career with over 20 years of experience in finance, accounting and taxation. Her experience includes positions with global accounting firms and leading tax functions at large global ASX listed companies. With a diverse career background covering the utilities, consumer goods, energy & resources and insurance industries, Shing has accumulated strong financial literacy, corporate governance, regulatory compliance and risk management skills. These skills are strengthened by broad international/local business and regulatory understanding and acumen.
Sanja Kovac, Development Manager - Digital Services, Group Platform, TAL Australia
Sanja is a professional and dynamic Delivery and Application support Manager with experience in Project and Test Management. She has extensive understanding of financial and insurance industries. Flexible and adaptable with the ability to effectively communicate with multiple stakeholders and provide effective, timely solutions.
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.
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.
Niti Saraf, Financial Controller
Niti is a first-generation immigrant who came to Australia 25 years ago for love. As an MBA/CPA, she has built a career specialising in taxation, planning and analysis across the NFP, pharmaceuticals and placement services sector. While Niti feels that her journey to management and executive roles was not so difficult, she has observed bias come in the way of success for many other Women of Colour and would like to be part of the movement that helps to level the playing field in corporate Australia. Niti is passionate about education for all and believes that an educated society is the key to bringing about a progressive change. She is a volunteer scribe for high school students with learning disabilities and an occasional baker. Once a week, the staff at the casualty department at her local hospital are the beneficiaries of her baking experiments.
Ruth Medd (WOB Chair) 0419 407 231 | email@example.com
Claire Braund (WOB) 0409 981 781 | firstname.lastname@example.org