Category Archives: Asian Leaders

Smashing through the bamboo ceiling

Bamboo ceiling

Procurious, is a unique online business networking site specifically designed for procurement and supply chain professionals.

Dr Verghese was interviewed in ‘Smashing through the bamboo ceiling’ to discuss the processes and barriers that serve to exclude Asians or people of Asian descent from executive positions in Western-run organisations.

A provocative article that features some pragmatic strategies toward shattering the bamboo ceiling.

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion From an Asian Perspective

DIAN

Earlier this year I contributed to and reviewed a research paper – Examining Diversity & Inclusion From an Asian Perspective. The study was conducted by Community Business, a Hong Kong based organisation. The countries included in this study were Hong Kong, Singapore, India, Japan and China.

A previous study was a precursor to this paper. One of the findings was that diversity and inclusion in Asia are often considered western concepts that are sometimes at odds with local cultural norms and have little local relevance in the Asian context.

The purpose of this study was to:

  • Explore how relevant the concepts of diversity and inclusion are in Asia;
  • Uncover key diversity and inclusion dynamics at play in the different Asian markets;
  • Provide some recommendations for organisations to adapt their diversity and inclusion approaches that resonate locally.

This a very insightful paper that contains some really strong data and recommendations to support companies in their D & I strategies and approaches within the Asian context.

There were many interesting discussions in this paper, particularly the question “Is D & I a western construct.” The findings were that the majority of respondents agreed that it is a western concept – China (58%), Hong Kong (55%), Japan (61%) and Singapore (61%), India being the least at (21%). Interestingly, the Chinese and Japanese languages have no indigenous words for ‘diversity’ or ‘inclusion’, therefore the loosely translated words can be difficult for people to relate to. As each country is considered in their own context, the findings are an accurate display of the key D & I dynamics within each particular country included in this study.

Improved awareness of unconscious bias, greater transparency and continuous auditing of management processes, greater understanding of the importance of face, hierarchy and harmony; and addressing the assumption that proficiency in English equates to professional expertise are just some of the dynamics that this paper identifies.

The paper highlights the need for organisations to rethink their current D & I strategies, and the value of facilitating discussions with key stakeholders on the ground. Organisations must invest resources to support engagement with these key stakeholders in a bid to gain accurate understandings of the most pertinent issues at local levels. Only through this exposure can these issues be addressed in a culturally appropriate methodology.

Click here if you would like further information on this paper.

The Cultural Ceiling

lanternsI wanted to bring to your attention this month a recently released report that I had the good fortune of contributing to by way of a focus group.  The study was conducted by the Diversity Council Australia in partnership with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and IBM Australia, amongst others.  The research report ‘Cracking the Cultural Ceiling’ was based on a survey of more than 300 leaders and emerging leaders from Asian cultural backgrounds who were working within Australia.  My apologies to the international readers for this ‘parochial’ topic but I think you will be able to see some applications for this in your own countries.

There is a lot of focus currently in Australia about ‘Embracing the Asian Century’ and providing goods and services to the fastest growing region in the world.  The study looked at why, despite large numbers of entry level and middle level Asian managers, there are so few Asian leaders reaching the top in Australian organisations; and further how Australian organisations could realise the promise and potential of Asian talent.

Some of the key barriers that were identified as locking out Asian talent in Australia were:

  • Cultural bias and stereotyping
  • Westernised leadership models
  • Lack of relationship capital
  • The case for culture is misunderstood

This report highlights the under-representation of Asian leadership that is fundamentally hurting Australian organisations.  Given that 46% of Australian consumers are born overseas or have at least 1 parent born overseas, that over ¾ of Australia’s exports go to Asia and that by 2030 Asia will account for 60% of the global middle-class consumption, studies such as this deserve attention.

When I read statistics such as 30% of Asian talent are likely to leave their employer within the next year and that only 17% strongly agree that their organisations usilise their Asia capabilities well, indicates that Asian talent is being seriously undervalued and under-leveraged. The impact that this has on organisations, not just in terms of talent, but also innovation potential and the impact on existing and possible international markets, demonstrates wasted opportunities within the Australian landscape.  While ‘Cracking the Cultural Ceiling’ was an Australian based study, barriers such as those identified here continue to exist in a similar vein in other Western countries. You can also extrapolate this to other categories such as gender, generational, LGBT, the disabled and others.

Leadership needs to be re-defined, it isn’t a singular stationary model. Cultural intelligence needs to be built into the organisational DNA, it needs to be a business as usual process.  Cultural intelligence can assist organisations to navigate themselves successfully through the ambiguity and ever changing business and talent landscapes that exist even in local/domestic markets let alone cross-border markets.

While I support recommendations from this report such as improved leadership models, unconscious bias training, improved mentoring and professional networks of workers with Asian backgrounds, we need to take one-step back.  Before any of these can be implemented one of the key challenges I see is around supporting organisations to realise that the cultural ceiling does in fact exist within their organisations.  There needs to be a level of candidness that exposes organisational deficiencies, such as the under-valuing and under-representation of workforces and the cultural biases and stereotypes that continue to persist. This can be a confronting and intimidating exercise to say the least; hence it needs to be conducted in a supportive and well-planned manner that is deemed as the next step in the organisational growth structure.