Is there a link between these seemingly unrelated recent
A number of shocking and embarrassing events have been profiled in the media in recent weeks and people have been asking "Are these isolated incidents or do we have a problem in Australian society?"
Bad behaviour in politics, sport and media is connected by the hidden assumptions the lie at the base of Australia's culture.
The behaviour we tolerate in society creeps into corporate Australia as new employees are hired: they bring values and behaviours adopted from their local communities with them. Their behaviour can impact your company's performance so to protect your business you invest heavily in orientation, training and culture change programs to align their values with yours.
'Stepping Up' sheds light on:
1. Understanding assumptions influencing the behaviours
All behaviours are influenced by hidden assumptions lying at the bottom of the culture.
Behaviour: A 13-year-old girl calls an indigenous AFL player an 'ape' at a local game
Assumption (learned from observation): that it's okay to use
derogatory words to label people with coloured skin and it is part of
the football culture of Australia.
Behaviour: Restaurant owner writes 'joke menu'
degrading the nation's Prime Minister in a dish called 'Julia Gillard
Kentucky Fried Quail' and describing the dish as having small breasts
and large thighs...
Assumption (learned from observation): that sexist jokes about
females and explicit reference to their anatomy are considered humorous
and acceptable as entertainment in Australian society and that there is
little serious recourse if any.
In the army
Behaviour: Men in the army email degrading images of
women in the army to male colleagues; those who witness it hide it to
protect the perpetrators .
Assumptions (learned from observation): that the army is a male domain
where men bond; sticking-together at all costs is part of the
army's belief system; bullying is par-for-the-course and tolerating it is a measure of your manhood; the army is no place for
women; females are exploited and abused.
In the media
Behaviour: Male radio announcer crosses the line in
questioning a female about her private affairs (a female who also
happens to hold the highest office in the country – that of Prime
Assumptions (learned from observation): that being provocative
and ballsy on radio attracts listeners; that making assertions about
people's sexual preferences is tolerated – especially when referring to a
minority group; that we tolerate the suggestion that there is
something wrong with you because you are not mainstream; that questioning
women – even women of high office – on highly personal matters (with
no bearing on economic or political issues) on radio is
acceptable and excusable.
On public boards
Behaviour: Anglo-Saxon males on ASX100 boards select
other Anglo-Saxons to fill vacancies, as revealed by Boss magazine's
latest research showing that only 3% of these boards comprise Asian-born
2. Examining your Culture Iceberg and disconfirming assumptions
Assumption (learned from observation): that boards of Australian
companies are reserved for Anglo-Saxon people; that there is no need to
account for why these board do not reflect customers groups or communities; that the homogenous group of board members can provide the range of skills
and experience required to perform at its best.
Old assumptions that no longer serve your community or business must be dis-confirmed.
Leaders of Australian society (people who lead political parties, sports clubs, religious groups, towns, schools) and business (investors, board members, executives and managers) need to be very clear about what Australia will tolerate and what it will not.
- Using sanctions
Fairfax did this by sacking Sattler for embarrassing the woman who holds the highest office in the country. This action clearly said 'It is not okay to do this' and dis-confirmed the assumption that you can ridicule politicians and females without recourse: cross the line and pay the price.
Read more about the Culture Iceberg and the Culture Circuits in this blog
I wrote 'Stepping Up' because Asia presents an opportunity for us all and achieving diversity is not impossible if you know a little about changing cultures.
Pamela Young: author, strategist, change agent, culture specialist
Yes, and the link suggests the '21st century code' for diversity is missing in our culture
Progressive nations of the world
are concerned about equal rights and ensuring that people of both
genders and all cultures are able to participating fully in the workforce without encountering bias, discrimination or barriers like glass or bamboo ceilings.
These countries have installed a kind of moral and ethical code in their societies that direct the behaviour of their people and which includes sanctions for bad behaviour.
I seems Australian culture has not yet adopted the 21st century code for diversity: too few people are inclusive and accepting of those who originate from another country or town, have different coloured skin, are female or bisexual, or are different in some way. No code, no 21st century culture.
Business and society is affected by our lack of 21st century code for diversity
Stepping Up provides insights on the issues we are facing and how we can lead culture change to adopt the code that will help us move on. It presents:
1. The business case for Asia, diversity, social change and leadership
2. Contemporary perspectives on growth drivers
3. Proof of our diversity challenges
4. Methods for changing cultures - yours, ours, theirs
5. 10 personal stories and 3 company cases
6. Guidelines for leaders and a call to action
Testimonials for Stepping Up
Kathryn Roberts – Partner PwC, New Zealand says
'Stepping Up captures the observations of many business leaders about how traditional approaches to identifying leaders are not serving our changing workforce well, allows them to put the case for an inclusive approach to how we operate today, and presents a compelling case for culture change within Australasian society. Some sobering messages and insights for any organisation, a must read.'
David Olsson, Chairman of China-Australia Chamber in Beijing
'Australian business is grappling with change and volatility like no time before. Increasingly, embedded Asian capabilities and organisational agility will be the hallmark of successful organisations. Stepping Up is essential reading for anyone seeking practical guidance in sharpening their own skills and in making their organisations Asia-ready.'
Chris Lamb, HR Director Lend Lease, Australia says
'Leaders sharing their personal experiences on diversity - warts and all. A great way to encourage honest conversation and debate on a critical business topic.'
Nareen Young, CEO Diversity Council Australia says
‘We need more discussion about diversity and how nurturing it can provide enormous benefit to our people, workplaces and the economy. This book is an important contribution.’
Buy a copy online now -
Read it tomorrow
Stepping Up is essential reading for leaders in 2013. Your personally signed copy:
10% off the RRP.
Get all your top team involved and adopt the 21st century code for diversity in your organisation
15-20% off for 10 or more copies
Involve your people
Start with 'book circles'
Distribute Stepping Up to 10, 20 or 50 employees and drive change through your organisation. Review the research and adopt the frameworks that will support existing change programs. Book circles.
Then use 'engagement cascades'
your leaders have gained an appreciation of the possibilities, involve
the next level down. An engagement cascade is a program that opens up
two-way communication, stimulates strategic thinking and
drives change at all levels.
This is not a small book so you might want to fast-track your understanding of what is inside Stepping Up with a speaking forum. In a one-to-one, small group or conference-sized session with the
author, your people can hear directly about the key findings and the
Blog with me
The four blogs below appear on the homepage of Stepping Up's website. I will use these to share more practical examples of how to introduce the changes we seek.
Guest bloggers also share their experiences and opinions to support readers in their journey.