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Glass ceiling lower for CALD women

9 December 20130 comments

Women are grossly under-represented on Australian boards and those from non-English speaking backgrounds are almost non-existent, a new report has found.

Launching the report, ‘Promoting CALD Women’s Participation on Boards and Decision-Making Positions’, at this month’s Federation of Ethnic Communities’ Councils of Australia (FECCA) 2013 Conference on the Gold Coast, Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick said boards in both the corporate and private sector were missing out on diversity among their decision makers.

“The significance of it is this is probably the first report looking at culturally and linguistically diverse women, women from non-English speaking backgrounds, in Australia,” Ms Broderick told the conference.

“So this report contains some hard data about why women are finding it difficult getting into leadership positions in Australia,” she said

But the report was unable to say just how many women from non-English speaking backgrounds there are in the top jobs because of a general lack of data.

“What the boards are missing out on is the full range of diversity. One woman in the focus groups just put it so succinctly: we’re resilient because we adapt to change, we understand a whole range of cultures, we’ve moved from one country to another so we understand how to overcome barriers, there all the things that women from CALD backgrounds can bring onto boards,” Ms Broderick said.

“And let’s face it, a quarter of the country’s population was born in a country outside of Australia, the represent consumers and shareholders, so if our companies are going to be representative, they need CALD women on their boards,” she said.

The federal government-funded report comes just weeks after the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report ranked Australia 24th in the world, a drop of nine places since 2006 that puts Australia below Latvia, The Philippines and Burundi.

Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, who opened the FECCA conference, said the government will look at the report’s recommendations.

“Can I say I’m looking forward to reading that report and again my own experiences in this area and, certainly, it is an issue I’m familiar with and I look forward to reading that report and seeing some of those recommendations there,” Sen. Fierravanti-Wells said.

The report recommended a national approach to CALD women’s leadership and more research on the issue.