Counting Culture 2021

Counting Culture report image with DCA and University of Sydney Business School logo with text 'TOWARDS A STANDARDISED APPROACH TO MEASURING AND REPORTING ON WORKFORCE CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN AUSTRALIA.'

New research from Diversity Council Australia (DCA) and the University of Sydney Business School has developed a standardised approach for defining, measuring, and reporting on workforce cultural diversity in a respectful, accurate and inclusive way.

Until now, Australian organisations have been missing out on important business opportunities by failing to effectively measure the degree and breadth of culturally diverse talent in their leadership team, workforce, customer base, and labour market pool.

This new report, Counting Culture: Towards A Standardised Approach to Measuring and Reporting on Workforce Cultural Diversity in Australia, guides businesses through how best to count cultural background, language, religion – and even global experience – for maximum organisational benefit. Critical in a country where the Australian Bureau of Statistics reports nearly half (49 per cent) of Australians have been born overseas, have one or both parents born overseas, where over 300 languages are spoken at home, and where more than 300 ancestries are identified with.

The Counting Culture Approach was designed to be practical for employers (even if they had limited in-house resources and expertise to count cultural diversity) and inclusive for employees (i.e., experienced as respectful and meaningful).

The report recommends organisations use three Core Measures, supplemented where space and resources allow by two Additional Measures.

In all, there are 5 Measures. These are listed in order of priority so that if, your organisation only has space to ask 2 questions on cultural diversity, we suggest these be Measures 1 and 2.

In all, there are 5 Measures listed in order of priority so that if, your organisation only has space to ask 2 questions on cultural diversity, we suggest these be Measures 1 and 2.

But the report also notes that when starting to count cultural diversity, organisations should first include a stand-alone question about workers’ Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander background. This emphasises the centrality of Indigenous issues to any diversity and inclusion work. Importantly, it also enables employees who identify as, for instance, being Aboriginal and as having a Chinese cultural background to not have to choose between indicating they are ‘Australian Aboriginal’ or ‘Chinese’.

This research drew on several key sources of evidence, including a literature review, a consultation survey, eight think tanks, a pilot survey and expert panel consultations with experts immersed in the field in industry, government, and academia.

DCA partnered with the University of Sydney Business School, foundation sponsor City of Sydney and supporting sponsor ASIC, to undertake this project.

Thank you to the hundreds of people from a rich diversity of cultural backgrounds who generously contributed their insights to the report, and we hope the recommendations will do justice to your experiences.

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Suggested citation: Diversity Council Australia/University of Sydney Business School (R. D’Almada- Remedios, D. Groutsis, A. Kaabel, and J. O’Leary) Counting Culture: Towards a Standardised Approach to Measuring and Reporting on Workforce Cultural Diversity in Australia, Sydney, Diversity Council Australia, 2021.


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Read transcript


Edward Wong, ASIC (00:01):

Hi, my name is Edward and I'm currently working with ASIC's Strategic Intelligence Team. For clarity, I am three quarters, Chinese, one-eighth English and one-eighth Welsh. Yes, it gets confusing at times.

Edward Wong, ASIC (00:16):

As an Australian citizen who grew up in Malaysia for 15 years, I have sometimes been asked by my fellow Australians, whether I am an ethnic Malay or a Muslim.

Kumi de Silva, University of Sydney (00:42):

An assumption about my cultural background that amuses me the most is when people think that I must have a natural, interest in cricket, but not in any other sport

Edward Wong, ASIC (00:53):

Whilst assumptions have been made. I believe most of these are made out of curiosity then maliciously.

Dr Dimitria Groutsis, University of Sydney (01:07):

There's alot of confusion out there as to how you define cultural diversity. And as a result of that, how you measure cultural diversity. So it's really difficult to do well. And this is why we've come up with our standard measures. The first one looks at cultural background, the second one country of birth, the third one, in addition to English, what conversations can you have in about many, many different things in another language,

Lisa Annese, CEO of Diversity Council Australia (01:35):

If businesses don't count culture, then they miss out on understanding how diverse or not their workplaces are. They miss out on the extraordinary skillset that people who have culturally diverse identities might bring to the workforce. Their different ways of thinking, which have been informed by their unique lived experience. Potentially their language skills, their other skills in cultural capability. All of these highly valued skills are things that organisations may not be able to tap into if they don't know it's there. And indeed it might even be missing. And you don't know that unless you count culture.

Kumi de Silva, University of Sydney (02:24):

I feel that most often I'm given opportunities to contribute from the perspective of a culturally diverse employee, but not from my professional field of expertise. So there's this feeling that I have to achieve more without the same opportunities,

Edward Wong, ASIC (02:45):

Assumptions can sometimes serve as a catalyst for interesting conversations that can lead to greater multicultural appreciation at the workplace. I believe that the workplace operates in a meritocracy at ASIC and people generally adhere to principles of mutual respect for the different cultures and beliefs of their fellow colleagues.

Dr Dimitria Groutsis, University of Sydney (03:10):

Finally, our key takeaway is that we need to go beyond, country of birth as a measure. It's a really blunt measure, even though it's an objective measure and we can benchmark it against the Australian Bureau of Statistics measures, it is a blunt instrument and cultural diversity goes beyond that.

Lisa Annese, CEO of Diversity Council Australia (03:32):

My hope for this project is that organisations will be inspired to count culture because they have a reliable and standardised method for doing that, which is grounded in evidence, which is grounded in a process that was very, very effective.

Edward Wong, ASIC (03:54):

Thank you very much.

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