Mindset, not hard work, will help break the bamboo ceiling, says entrepreneur Cham Tang, by Kim Arlington, The Age, 4 August 2016.

An edited extract of the orignal article is reproduced below.

Cham Tang believes something is holding back Asian Australians as leaders: the traditional emphasis on hard work as the key to success.

While it has helped Australians from Asian backgrounds excel academically, Mr Tang said success after graduation was a different ballgame. Diligence might take Asian Australians “to a high technical level, but not into the C-suite”, he said.

Mr Tang, the co-founder of training company Authentic Education knows the value of a strong work ethic; his Vietnamese parents came to Australia as refugees, toiling in sweatshops six days a week before starting up their own factories…

But Mr Tang, whose company was named by BRW as one of Australia’s fastest growing companies last year, said those of Asian descent needed to take a different approach to succeed as business leaders.

“We were taught that the harder we work, the more successful we will become,” he said. “But hard work and intelligence and [high] marks, like we’ve been brought up to believe, is only half the picture. In the corporate or business world … you also need to have social skills, confidence, good communication, sales ability, in order to move ahead.”

Mr Tang said rather than just relying on “book smarts”, aspiring Asian Australian leaders should focus on things like emotional intelligence, networking and self-promotion. “At high school or university [success] was never about how many people know, like or trust you. But in the sales or business world it is, because people are buying you as a brand. It’s not about marks, it’s about your mindset – that’s the thing that has to change.”

With the recent launch of a blueprint for cultural diversity and inclusive leadership by the Australian Human Rights Commission, there is fresh focus on the bamboo ceiling – the challenges faced by Australians of Asian descent assuming leadership roles in business, government and society…

According to the blueprint, less than five per cent of leadership positions in government, universities and the nation’s top companies are held by people from non-European heritage. And while 9.6 per cent of Australians have Asian cultural origins, only 1.9 per cent of ASX 200 senior executives do, a study by Diversity Council Australia has found…



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