New program launching to address barriers for women in leadership

Diversity Council Australia (DCA), along with partners Settlement Services International (SSI) and Chief Executive Women (CEW) have today launched an exciting new and groundbreaking project to build pathways and address barriers to leadership for women from culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) and culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds.

The project, Realise. Inspire. Support. Energise. (RISE) will work to address the barriers that restrict CARM women’s progress into leadership roles in Australian organisations. The project will also assist organisations to better support CARM women into leadership.

Over three years, the program will work with 25 organisations and 375 CARM women in middle management in those organisations to implement lasting change interventions and provide direct pathways for aspiring CARM women leaders. This will include CARM women participating in the CEW Leaders Program, which provides women with strengths-based leadership development coaching to help fast-track their career.

Speaking at the Public Sector Women of Colour Leadership & Allyship Summit, Dr Astrid Perry OAM, SSI Head of Women, Equity and Domestic Violence and the project lead for SSI, said this unique project offered an opportunity to work from all angles to advance the career trajectory for CARM women into leadership.

“DCA’s research shows that 65% of CARM women feel they have been ignored or not taken seriously by their manager. The fact is that CARM women often struggle to be visible and respected in the workplace. Racial type-casting and ‘not fitting the culture of the company’ are used as justification as to why CARM women are not succeeding at the same rate as other women – let alone men,” she said.

“This project moves away from a deficit model, where CARM women have to improve their own prospects, to a solutions-focused model where structural barriers are addressed together with the support of guided conversations, career planning, mentoring and leadership programs.”

The program is funded by the Office for Women under the Women’s Leadership and Development Program.

Find out more:

Quotes attributable to Lisa Annese, CEO, Diversity Council Australia

“DCA’s recent research into culturally and racially marginalised (CARM) women in leadership found that despite being ambitious, capable, resilient, and well positioned to contribute to their own and their organisation’s success, CARM women continue to be scarce across senior leadership positions in Australia and internationally.

“Our research recognised that it was not the women themselves, but structural barriers preventing CARM women accessing leadership.

“This program will work with Australian organisations to address those barriers. And in doing so create more inclusive organisations for CARM women.”

Quotes attributable to Sonia Vignjevic, Acting CEO, Settlement Services International

“Women face unique challenges and often have to work harder to achieve goals and overcome societal and cultural barriers that are placed in our way. This is further magnified for CARM women, who are strong, resilient and determined but face additional barriers to attaining senior leadership programs in Australia related to language, race and culture. SSI’s own research shows migrant women from low- and middle-income countries and refugee women have greater or similar levels of education to women born in Australia yet are more likely to be employed in roles below their education and experience.

“From both a social and economic point of view, it makes sense to invest in both, developing the potential of CARM women and addressing barriers by employers, to ensure they are equipped to overcome the gender, cultural and racial barriers they face.”

Quotes attributable to Susan Metcalf, CEO, Chief Executive Women:

“The CEW Census, which tracks women’s representation in executive leadership teams, tells us we are 100 years from reaching gender balance in CEO roles on the ASX200. We must accelerate change. This program will play an active role in enabling women from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds with access to CEW’s Leadership Development programs, providing them with the space and opportunity to learn, build new networks and accelerate their leadership journey.”


Media Contacts:


SSI: Jordan wood M: 0403 082 926 E:

CEW: Claire Morgan, M: 0422 228 285 E: