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The Experience of Women of Colour in Corporate Australia

Navigating the Corporate Landscape

Australia, whilst known for its laid-back culture and carefree lifestyle, contains a bustling and dynamic corporate world, with millions working day and night in this widespread professional landscape. As a beautifully multicultural and integrated country, Australia’s corporate world is also largely dynamic and diverse, reflecting our country’s multicultural society and robust economy. Such corporations are known for their innovative approaches and global competitiveness amongst other countries.

The corporate world seemingly merits equal opportunity and from an outside point of view, may appear to be a level playing field to all within. However, throughout this richly diverse corporate landscape, women, and particularly women of colour, are still finding the need to fight to prove their place in the chaotic nature of the corporate jungle . 

women of colour sitting around a table discussing things

Women of Colour - Who are we?

Who are women of colour? We use the term "women of colour" to address cis-gendered females who belong to ethnic minority groups and are not of Western, or European descent. This can include women of East-Asian, South-east Asian, African, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, South American, and multiracial cultures. A similar term, "people of colour" is used to describe people of any gender who are also not categorised as Western or European descent.

As a multicultural country, women of colour are diverse, and we are represented across various areas of the corporate landscape.

These women of colour who are part of the vast Australian corporate world, often have to navigate unique challenges due to their dual identities. They not only balance the expectations and norms of Australian society with their cultural heritage but also face systemic barriers in various sectors, including the workplace. It has been found that their presence in leadership roles is also unfortunately disproportionately low, compared to their non-POC counterparts.

While some corporations have created opportunities and campaigns to make changes in equality in the workplace, there are still many barriers facing women of colour in the corporate world. These barriers include subtly influencing hiring practices, career progression, and uneven workplace dynamics. Within this context, the experiences of women of colour become emblematic of the broader challenges faced by marginalised groups in corporate Australia.

Asian woman talking to Asian man and looking at a folder

What are our Dual Identities?

A common situation that corporate women of colour find in their professional lives, is needing to navigate “dual identities” in the workplace. This is the balance of essentially two personas: the professional corporate woman side, and the cultural side, rooted in each woman’s own heritage roots and cultural experiences. While this duality encourages opportunities to increase diversity and cultural enrichment in the workplace, it is often found that this duality can lead to experiencing microaggressions.

These microaggressions may manifest as stereotypes, dismissive attitudes from coworkers or bosses, insensitive or offensive comments and remarks, and often have undertones of racism, ageism, sexism, and ableism. See our previous blog on more information on the experience of microaggressions in the workplace:

A recent report released by the Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) explored the experiences of Culturally and Racially Marginalised women in leadership roles. This report stated several items of concern, finding 65% of CARM women surveyed said they got fewer chances for career advancement than the non-CARM women, while 85% of the women felt they had to work twice as hard as non-CARM women to receive the same treatment or evaluation.

The Role of Our Corporate World

It is clear that there needs to be definitive change in order to address the issues facing women of colour in the Corporate world in Australia. This can be initiated by enforcing stricter policies surrounding education and respect in the workplace.

For example, workplaces can introduce:

  • Stronger anti-discrimination and anti-bullying procedures and policies

  • Education to all staff surrounding diversity and inclusivity

  • Promoting an inclusive workplace, free from discrimination

  • Providing stronger support systems for individuals of colour who feel marginalized in the workplace

group of women in a workplace, some are standing and some are sitting

Advice from a Specialist: Rashneel Prasad, Registered Counsellor

Rashneel Prasad is our in-house ACA-registered counsellor at Sentient Professional Wellbeing. She has extensive experience in working with women of colour and supporting them on their journey in navigating life in the corporate world.

She is uniquely skilled to help guide corporate women of colour, possessing over a decade of corporate experience as a woman of colour herself. With her corporate background, Rashneel has faced the ins and outs of the corporate jungle and utilities her specific knowledge into effective strategies that are implemented through specialises therapy. She believes in blending targeted therapeutic techniques and creating strategies, and working through a person-centred approach to help individuals build their identities and fully utilising their core strengths.

Rashneel helps women of colour in navigating dual identities and facing workplace issues, by:

  • Helping you navigate your "dual identity", finding a balance between your corporate and cultural identities

  • Helping you to create strategies to face workplace issues, including microaggressions.

  • Assisting you to identify your core strengths and set you on your path as a strong, corporate woman of colour

Rashneel Prasad, registered counsellor at Sentient Professional Wellbeing

Talk to Rashneel today to guide you on your journey in embracing your cultural identity and making yourself heard in the corporate jungle. 

For more information, you can reach out to our experts at 1300 187 448 today and organise a complimentary 15-minute chat with Rashneel.


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