After England, India and China produced the second and third-largest number of migrants, reflecting shifting patterns of immigration.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a racist thing, but I do feel for the country to progress and grow there’s a need for it to bring in different people and embrace them,” Loon said in an interview from Sydney via Zoom.
Having worked on improving PwC’s cultural diversity, she said returning home to Sydney a decade ago made her realise just how far behind her native country was in harnessing and promoting talented business people from non-European backgrounds.
She said the conversation on diversity had been live in the UK for a decade and was also advanced in the United States, compared to Australia.
That prompted her, at 53, to write her debut book published by Routledge this month, Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations, in which she interviewed prominent leaders from Asian-Australian backgrounds who have “smashed the bamboo ceiling”.
“I felt that if I understood how leaders made it that would actually help me advise or help companies on what they could do to improve the situation in Australia,” she said.
She warned that Australia, and particularly the business sector, would pay a price if it didn’t rapidly improve, in an environment of heightened global demand for labour following the pandemic.
“Skilled migrants have lots of opportunities, the UK wants people, Singapore wants people for particular industries, you just can’t say ‘come to Australia for the lifestyle’,” she said.
The federal government is set to back an increase to Australia’s skilled migrant intake as it prepares to host this week’s jobs summit.
Australia’s unemployment rate is at a historic low of 3.3 per cent but businesses say that they are struggling to find workers to fill jobs, largely because of the pandemic restrictions, when Australia closed its doors to all foreigners and at times its own citizens for two years, as part of its efforts to rid COVID-19 from its shores.
She said improving cultural diversity was not an inevitability despite the growing Asian face of Australian society, because of people’s preference to work and collaborate with others who are like themselves.
She said there was a need to build “psychological safety” into workplaces where sensitive topics like race and ethnicity can be openly discussed without fear or trepidation.
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