28 January 2022 8:24

What is hindering the rise of the Indian-origin CEO in Australia?

CEOs coming from a culturally diverse background are a rare species, despite the fact that India is one of the largest sources of permanent migrants who are largely professionally successful and well respected in Australia.

Parag Agrawal who has just been appointed as the new CEO of Twitter is part of a growing list of Indian-origin CEOs heading tech giants such as Google, Microsoft, Adobe, IBM, and Vimeo.

Tesla’s Elon Musk summed up Parag’s rise, along with other Indian-origin CEOs, in his tweet: “USA benefits greatly from Indian talent!”

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Image source: Parag Agrawal – Twitter.

37 years old Parag, a Ph.D. in computer science from Stanford University, is the youngest person to run a company in the S&P 500. He will receive an annual salary of $US1 million and a stock award worth $US12.5 million.

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However, in Australia, CEOs coming from a culturally diverse background are a rare species. This is despite the fact that India is one of the largest sources of permanent migrants who are largely professionally successful and well respected in Australia.

The Australia Today has covered the rise of Indian-origin CEO’s in Australia.

Indian-Australian CEO's making their mark

This list includes Stockland’s Tarun Gupta, Orica’s Sanjeev Gandhi, Link’s Vivek Bhatia, Pact’s Sanjay Dayal, and Newcrest’s Sandeep Biswas.

The 2021 Board Diversity Index, by Watermark Search International and Governance Institute of Australia, found that ninety per cent of directors were of Anglo-Celtic or European background.

“The Australian boardroom is still very much the product of our Anglo and European heritages.”

Representative picture of Australian Board Room; Source: @CANVA
Representative picture of Australian Board Room; Source: @CANVA

This is the result of the hangover of the White Australia Policy.

However, the report adds that the scene is changing.

“There is some evidence that Asian representation is growing but there remains a substantial opportunity to better reflect the importance of the Asian market and the changing complexion of Australia’s population.”

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Image source: Sheba Nandkeolyar – MultiConnexions Group.
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In a LinkedIn post, Sheba Nandkeolyar, founder of MultiConnexions Group and past national chair of the Australia India Business Council (AIBC), observes that this lack of diversity is a result of non-recognition of India’s prestigious educational institutions.

“Fantastic news. I hope the IIMs and IITs get recognised here too. 20 years ago when I came to Australia they had no idea about these institutions.”

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Image source: Diversity Council of Australia chair Ming Long – YouTube.

Diversity Council of Australia chair Ming Long told ABC that even the migrants who studied in Australia often hit the glass or bamboo ceiling in their corporate career.

“They graduate through Australia, work in corporate Australia, but then hit a ceiling and cannot get past it.”

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It is specially hard for women from diversed backgrou to make their mark and build up experience in a boardroom.

A report entitled “Women CEOs in America 2021” presented by the Women Business Collaborative has shown that 8.2% Fortune 500 CEOs are women.

So, the obvious question to ponder is: Why aren’t there more women CEOs from diverse backgrounds in Australia?

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Imagse source: Ted Baillieu – Wikipedia.

Today, the world over the Indian-origin CEOs are a shining example of Indian migrants’ resilience and adaptability.

In Australia, as former Victorian Premier and the Chair of the Australian Heritage Council Ted Baillieu observes they will inevitably rise to the top if given a chance.

“The Indian Diaspora here are well tuned to education and to commerce. You put the two together and inevitably the cream will rise to the top.”

Given the rise of India and its Diaspora, it would be an understatement to say that Australia too will benefit greatly from its Indian talent.

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