The ‘bamboo ceiling’ harming Australia’s public sector workforce

Public sector leadership is still too homogenous, the Diversity Council Australia says. But is the bamboo ceiling an unintended result of well-meaning people?

The Diversity Council Australia has heard all the excuses for the homogenous leadership in the public sector and isn’t buying it.

Its latest report, Cracking the Cultural Ceiling, takes Australia’s largest organisations to task for, in particular, perpetuating a “bamboo ceiling” where merit promotion for positions dealing with the Asian community is rejected on highly specious grounds. DCA’s chief executive Lisa Annese presented the results of that research to a selection of public sector agencies in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne last week.

Annese told The Mandarin that the bamboo ceiling, while an uncomfortable term for many unfamiliar with using it, was the preferred description from their cultural advisors as it was well understood in the Asian community to indicate where people from Asian backgrounds were highly represented in entry-level to mid-level but under-represented at top leadership.

Research found a person was more likely to get a promotion to a senior role dealing with the Asian community if they were not from an Asian background. Annese says it may be the result of well-meaning but unintentionally harmful beliefs.

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