Australia’s first woman of Asian descent to run a major business has revealed she struggled to speak confidently to a room full of white men.
Ming Long, the chairman of AMP Capital Funds Management, said she had been aware of how she came across during her corporate career, arguing that the system biased against leaders who were not white and male.
She gave her insights after ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales asked her to “often be the only woman in a room and the only woman of color.”
Ms Long, the first Asian woman to lead an ASX200 company in Australia, said there is a bias against minorities in business.
“Over time, you have a level of expectation that there will always be prejudice against you,” she said.
Australia’s first Asian woman to run a major business has revealed she struggled to confidently address a roomful of men. Ming Long, the chairman of AMP Capital Funds Management, said she had been aware of how she came across throughout her corporate career, arguing that the system was biased against leaders who were not white and male.
“I’m always thinking about when to talk, how to say it, how to reinforce — sometimes there’s another woman in the room — amplify what they’ve said so people will respond to a recommendation.”
Ms Long, who also chairs Diversity Council Australia, said boards of directors were often reluctant to hire a chief executive who was not a white male.
“There are so many assumptions about what leadership and what CEOs look like,” she said.
“So, the further you are from what you’re imagining when I say ‘think of a CEO of an ASX 200 company’, the more risky you’ll be seen.
“The further you are from ‘I think that’s a six-foot-tall white man’, you’re seen as riskier, so why would they put you in that position?”
Ms. Long became chairman of AMP Capital Funds Management in 2018, shortly before Shemara Wikramanayake, who is of Sri Lankan ethnicity, became chief executive of Macquarie Group after three decades with the company.
She gave her insights after ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales asked her to “often be the only woman in a room and sometimes the only woman of color in a room.”
Australian women leaders in government
Rosemary Follett, Prime Minister of the Australian Capital Territory: May 1989 to December 1989; and June 1991 to March 1995
Carmen Lawrence, Prime Minister of Western Australia: February 1990 to February 1993
Joan Kirner, Prime Minister of Victoria: August 1990 to October 1992
Kate Carnell, Chief Minister of the ACT: March 1995 to October 2000
Clare Martin, Chief Minister of the Northern Territory: August 2001 to November 2007
Anna Bligh, Premier of Queensland: September 2007 to March 2012
Kristina Keneally, Prime Minister of New South Wales: December 2009 to March 2011
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia: June 2010 to June 2013
Lara Giddings, Prime Minister of Tasmania: January 2011 to March 2014
Katy Gallagher, Chief Minister of the ACT: May 2011 to December 2014
Annastacia Palaszczuk, Premier of Queensland: February 2015 to Present
Gladys Berejiklian, Prime Minister of NSW: January 2017 to Present
In 2019, Ms. Wikramanayake was Australia’s highest paid business executive with a $18 million compensation package.
In 2021, for the first time ever, there were no all-male boards running Australia’s top 200 companies, the Australian Institute of Company Directors revealed.
In 2015, there were 28 all-male boards.
As of May 2021, 48 percent of the appointments to boards of directors of ASX200 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange were women.
According to a report from the University of Queensland Business School, Australia is one of the few countries where 30 percent of women are on the boards of its top companies without mandatory quotas or government intervention.
Nicola Wakefield Evans, chairman of 30% Club Australia, said the fact that nearly a third of board positions were held by women showed that there were many women of caliber.
“When the pursuit of gender diversity began at the ASX 200, it was felt that Australia did not offer the talent pool of qualified women to achieve the goals we had set,” she said.
But in 2020, only 5 percent of ASX200 companies had a female CEO with just 10 women in that position, a survey by Chief Executive Women found.
In politics, New South Wales and Queensland have female prime ministers from minority backgrounds.
Gladys Berejiklian, the daughter of Armenian migrants, became the first female Liberal leader to win a state election in March 2019, securing a third consecutive term for the coalition in NSW.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is of Polish descent, became the first woman to win an opposition state election in January 2015 and has now won three consecutive elections for Labor in Queensland, making her Australia’s most successful female political leader.
In November 2020, Elizabeth Lee, who emigrated to Australia from South Korea as a girl, became the first Asian woman to lead a major political party in Australia when she took over the leadership of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ms. Long became chairman of AMP Capital Funds Management in 2018, shortly before Shemara Wikramanayake (pictured), who is of Sri Lankan ethnicity, became chief executive of Macquarie Group after three decades with the company. In 2019, she was Australia’s highest paid business executive with an $18 million compensation package