Companies shouldn’t forget about culturally diverse men when developing their diversity programmes

‘You should write a book about gender bias the other way around,’ suggested my friend of Asian ethnicity.

His comment reminded me of something I wrote about in my recent book;  companies shouldn’t forget about culturally diverse men when planning their diversity programmes.

According to a 2022 Bain report, Asian workers report feeling the least included at work, with only 16% of Asian men and 20% of Asian women saying they felt fully included.

I suspect many other Asian men are quietly frustrated that many prominent Australian companies focus their diversity KPIs on the percentage of women.

Australia has growing numbers of Asian-Australian female leaders

As companies seek to improve the number of women in their leadership ranks and their cultural diversity, it can be easy for them to focus on supporting culturally diverse women, so ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

(Personally, it’s great that companies help women who face both glass and the bamboo ceiling).

When considering Asian-Australian leaders to interview for my book, I found it relatively easy to identify high-profile Asian-Australian women in senior roles.

Women that came to mind include Non-Executive Directors Ming Long and Katrina Rathie, Kathrina Lo (New South Wales Public Service Commissioner), Penny Wong (Leader of the Opposition in the Senate), Anna Lee (COO of Iconic), and several partners in the Big 4 accounting firms and law firms.

Intriguingly, all of the overall winners of the 40 under 40 awards Most Influential Asian-Australians awards since the awards started have been female.

Asian-Australian men face a ‘double-whammy’

When looking for Asian-Australian men to speak to, I found that most Asian-Australian male C-suite leaders have a South Asian background. Fewer C-suite leaders in Australia have an East Asian (including South-East Asian) background.

When seeking to understand this phenomenon for my book through the lens of Asian-Australian men, some felt that they experienced a ‘double-whammy’.

They felt it was best not to speak up about their experiences as the diversity and inclusion agenda is so focused on gender that they could be targeted.

Another view was that Asian-Australian men are likelier to start their own businesses and succeed that way.

Understand the experiences and aspirations of your culturally diverse men and women

From my interviews, the experiences and aspirations of Asian-Australian men do differ from those of women.

So, employers; don’t forget to understand the experiences of their culturally diverse men and women as distinct groups to ensure they are better supported in the workplace.


My new book Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations provides an essential roadmap of actions for HR Leaders looking to build a more inclusive workplace. For further details, including how to purchase, visit here.