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The cultural diversity elephant

My last article What to do when people don’t want to talk about the elephant? raised the problem of not being able to discuss problems in organisations.


One such elephant I’ve been thinking about is cultural diversity. A few weeks ago when I was asked if I would chair the inaugural Asian Australian Leadership Summit, I was honoured to have been asked, but I noticed a little hesitation in me as well.


After I accepted I thought about what caused this hesitation. A few thoughts came to mind:

  • Cultural diversity is a difficult topic to discuss in Australia. There’s a battle between political correctness and free speech. We don’t like to accuse people or be accused of being discriminatory or racist.
  • It can be risky to speak up and name the issue, especially when people are unaware of the issue or don't want to talk about it.
  • People of colour are still a minority in the country, which can make the voices difficult to be heard. Gender diversity has been difficult enough, even with half the population being women.
  • There is a great deal of diversity within the minority population – even just within Asian Australians – which can make a generalised discussion challenging.
  • Some of us don’t want to bring too much attention to our difference by talking about cultural diversity because we have worked hard to fit in.


I also know that when the issue is raised sensitively and skilfully, many people welcome it, as seen in the recent Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly’s speech.


In organisations, cultural diversity and inclusion, just like other forms of diversity, is a business advantage when developed effectively. In the fast paced, ever changing, globalised environment where working well with different people is critical, lack of cultural diversity is surely a disadvantage.


How important is cultural diversity in your organisation?


How effectively does your organisation talk about harness cultural diversity, incorporating multiple minority groups and views?


What do you think would enable or disable the discussion about cultural diversity in Australia?



The Inaugural Asian Australian Leadership Summit will be held on 18-21 July 2016 in Sydney, Australia. Please register at a discount HERE or share with your colleagues.


Relevant articles:

Unconscious bias is a business issue, not just a diversity issue

The problem with obsessing about cultural ‘fit’

White paper Rethinking Diversity for Competitive Advantage

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