100 leaders were interviewed
from 16 cities and 26 industries across Australia and Asia

A selection of quotes taken from the book are below...

On Australia-Asia growth potential

“Some companies in Australia are struggling to grow: they are running out of runway in Australia and many industries are looking to see where they can find growth. It is obvious where they have to look. Asia is a growth market, it has greater depth than our own but it needs our know-how. We don't have to break the relationships we have, we just need to have more of them.”

David Gonski AC, Chairman, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group, Coca-Cola Amatil, UNSW Foundation and Sydney Theatre Company, Australia

“There is a disconnect between what we say and what we do. We say we are part of Asia and want the best talent, but our behaviour says the opposite. It's the same with women and meritocracy, we say 'yes' but behaviour says the opposite.”

Ann Sherry AO, Chief Executive Officer, Carnival Australia, Sydney, Australia

“Our government maintains stronger relationships with America than it does with Asia and until now it has been slow to recognise the importance of Asia, as has the education system. The Asian Century Report, which was done with good intent, aims to provide a strategic view on fundamental things like defence, immigration, culture and population. I think Australia is about to embark on a big change agenda to get closer to Asia and we need to get ready to follow.”

Mike Smith OBE, Chief Executive Officer, Australian and New Zealand Banking Group, Melbourne, Australia

“The idea that any country can survive on its domestic economy alone does not exist anymore.”

Uschi Schreiber, Managing Partner - Global Government & Public Sector Industry Centre, Ernst & Young Global, Hong Kong

“Australia's political leaders should explain why Chinese investment is overwhelmingly in Australia's interest, put in place some scholarships for undergraduates and properly fund cultural exchange and language programs. Considering the tax revenues we receive from China and the 138,000 Chinese students studying in Australia each year, we need to acknowledge where our interests lie. You can't deny the global numbers or how complementary our economy is with the rest of Asia.”

Dr Geoff Raby, Chief Executive Officer, Geoff Raby & Associates (and former Australian Ambassador to China), Beijing, China

On Australia's Culture

“Australians are change-resistant. If they don't know things well, if they lack the knowledge, they are hesitant. So getting change can be difficult.”

Robert Milliner, Former Chief Executive Partner, Mallesons Stephen Jaques (now King & Wood Mallesons), Sydney, Australia

“If you asked people at a barbecue whether mateship, egalitarianism and 'a fair go' were Australia's core values they might say 'yes'. But mateship only applies so long as you look like me. And egalitarianism fits so long as you are in my group. It doesn't mean we are all bad, there are many good people. We recognise that sometimes we don't live our values very well and we need to revisit them from time to time.”

Dr Robert Care AM, Chair UK, Middle East and Africa Region, Arup Group, London, United Kingdom (former CEO Arup Australia)

“We need a whole-of-system change. This is no longer a women's issue. It's a societal issue. Two-thirds of women are now breadwinners in their households and there are no systems supporting those who have children too. We still have systems and structures that assume one partner will stay at home.

Ilana Atlas, Non-Executive Director, Coca-Cola Amatil, Westfield, Suncorp and Human Rights Law Centre, Sydney, Australia

“We don't seem to take the big 'nation-building' decisions any more. Are we too comfortable? Have we got lazy?”

Matt Tomaszewski, Director-Writer, Triton Media, Sydney, Australia

“God help us if we can't have a dialogue to openly challenge, discuss and debate the impediments and roadblocks to diversity. If we can't, then this country will wither. Change is going to come through shame and transparency or we will be struggling for generations to come.”

Stephen Roberts, Chief Country Officer, Citi, Australia and New Zealand, Sydney, Australia

On cultural diversity

“There is a sense that immigrants should have to start at the bottom and that it is somehow good for them. They can't just wander in here and expect a job, they have to work their way up. They should take what they can get and work their way into the system. "Prove yourself ! We won't make it easy!" This attitude leads to an erosion of skills. It's a blind prejudice.”

Hugh Mackay, Social Researcher and Writer, Sydney, Australia

“We need to increase the number of executives and people from different cultural backgrounds, especially Asians, into management positions of Australian companies. We also need to get more Australian managers into senior positions in our Asian offices, but then bring them back before they retire to share their experience and learning with others in Australia. They have great value to offer that is often lost when they come back.”

Dharma Chandran, Chief Human Resources Officer, Leighton Holdings, Sydney, Australia

“I don't know why we don't have many non-white people at the top of our organisations. If you look at the number of Indians and other Asians walking around our universities in Western Australia, there should be no reason for it. It is not a conscious thing, so perhaps Australian society's acceptance of Asian and Muslim people is still evolving. The effects of the 'White Australia policy' are still evident. In the 1960s we treated Italians and Greeks poorly and called them wogs but now they are integrated and well accepted. It's a time thing. People need time to get used to others being part of the tribe.”

Shirley In't Veld, Non-Executive Director, Asciano, Perth, Australia

“We are still predominantly white. There are many areas of Australia with little exposure to non-white people. The three main cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, have 10 million people where non-Anglo tribes exist. The other 12 million Aussies have little or no exposure to non-white communities. This breeds isolation and xenophobia and increases the fear of 'the teeming masses to the North'. We do integrate very well but only in these three cities.”

Bernard Salt, Partner, KPMG, Melbourne, Australia

On gender equality

“The obstacles that make it hard for women to move up the corporate ladder are the same obstacles that make it hard for Asians to get up there too. When a senior male executive is about to take an employee to meet one of his best clients he might consider it uncomfortable and somewhat risky to take a woman or someone with an Asian background, because they are different, and therefore take a white male instead.”

Diane Grady AM, Non-Executive Director, Macquarie Group, Sydney, Australia

“If I were a chairman on an ASX board and I saw 12 men looking at me, I would be very worried as it wouldn't reflect the population. Having the right people on the board with the right skills is what is important and you have to work hard at it. The reality is that it is an old boys club and they haven't worked hard at it. The chair and the CEO should have to explain why it looks nothing like the world that they are operating in. If you had to do that for a few years it would fix itself.”

Paul Waterman, President, BP Australia, Melbourne, Australia

“A lot of women who are in top positions almost don't want other women up there with them because it makes them look better. That's what worries me about what we are doing; are we going to have more competition between women? We have to be careful that we don't create an 'old girls network'. ”

Marie Malaxos, GM Production and Development, Buru Energy, Perth, Australia

“Recent surveys show that women still do more work in the home than men and if you weigh up a woman's paid and unpaid work they are both about the same amount of time in the week (50/50). This means that for every hour females spends at their paid job, they work the same number of hours around the home. It is the male baby boomers, and older, that have the problem. Gen X and younger men are sharers. Even blokes who need prompting do help. They may need prompting, but they are willing to share the load when asked. ”

Phil Ruthven, Chairman, IBIS World, Melbourne, Australia

On Australian's working in Asia

“Cultural differences come out as being big issues with Australians doing business in China. It is mainly to do with the fact that boards and management who come here don't understand China. Australians have more trouble integrating than continental Europeans. Germans and French are more culturally sensitive because of their experience in cross-cultural situations. Germans are very structured like Chinese so there is a natural fit. The Italians are loved here and the Russians are also well received. When it comes to Australians, we are a long way behind the Europeans in terms of cultural appreciation.”

Joanne Wood, Chairman, Capital Eight, Shanghai, China



“I often see board members and senior executives from Australian companies coming up to China who lack international exposure. It is difficult for them because they lack an understanding of the international business environment.”

David Olsson, Partner, King & Wood Mallesons, Beijing, China


“Our upbringing in Australia prepared us to work with people from across cultures. My Chinese friends here don't understand why we work closely with all Chinese people – people of all different origins. The discrimination that people experience in China is not because of their gender, it's because of their place. They call people from the country 'migrants' and they are not considered equal. Attitudes to cultural diversity here are much more challenging than in Australia.”

Philippa Jones, Managing Director, China Policy, Beijing, China

“Sometimes we see Western managers working here hiring people in their own image: they just want blokes who will enjoy drinking with them after work and they tend not to hire women. One third of the people who come to Hong Kong or China from overseas don't make it as people work longer and harder here.”

Andrew Macintosh, Chief Executive Officer, Hanhong Private Equity, Hong Kong

To get your copy of Stepping Up: Lead culture change for diversity and growth in the Asian century Click here

Blog with other readers: join a conversation and discuss the book's content as you read it:

Boost Australia-Asia business
Advance Australia's culture
Build cultural diversity
Achieve gender equality