This study builds on the Leading for Change report of 2016, which provided a snapshot of the cultural diversity represented in the senior leadership of Australian organisations and institutions.

Our study examines the cultural backgrounds of chief executive officers of ASX 200 companies, federal ministers, heads of federal and state government departments, and vice-chancellors of universities. It also examines the cultural backgrounds of senior management at the level directly below chief executives and equivalent – namely, group executives of ASX 200 companies, elected members of the Commonwealth Parliament, deputy heads of government departments and deputy vice-chancellors of universities.

We adopt a classification that includes four wide groups of cultural backgrounds, which was first used in the Leading for Change report (2016):

  • Indigenous background;

  • Anglo-Celtic background;

  • European background; and

  • non-European background.

Using statistical modelling based on the 2016 Census, we estimate that 58 per cent of the population have an Anglo-Celtic background.

An estimated 18 per cent of the population have a European background, 21 per cent of the population have a non-European background, and 3 per cent of the population have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (Indigenous) background.

This cultural diversity is significantly underrepresented among senior leaders in Australian organisations and institutions.

Of those who occupy 2490 of the most senior posts in Australia, 75.9 per cent have an Anglo-Celtic background, 19.0 per cent have a European background, 4.7 per cent have a non-European background and 0.4 per cent have an Indigenous background.

Described another way, about 95 per cent of senior leaders in Australia have an Anglo-Celtic or European background. Although those who have non-European and Indigenous backgrounds make up an estimated 24 per cent of the Australian population, such backgrounds account for only 5 per cent of senior leaders.

Cultural diversity is particularly low within the senior leadership of Australian government departments and Australian universities.

Of the 372 chief executives and equivalents identified in this study, we find that 76.9 per cent of chief executives have an Anglo-Celtic background, 20.1 per cent have a European background, and 2.7 per cent have a non-European background. There is one chief executive who has an Indigenous background (0.3 per cent). 

Attributions: Australian Human Rights Commission 2018

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