Australia’s first woman of Asian decent to lead a major company has revealed she struggled with being self-conscious addressing a room full of white men.
Ming Long, the chairwoman of AMP Capital Funds Management, said she had been mindful during her corporate career of how she came across, arguing the system was biased against leaders who weren’t white and male.
She gave her insights after ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales asked her about ‘being often the only woman in a room and the only woman of colour’.
Ms Long, the first Asian woman to lead an ASX200 company in Australia, said there was a bias against minorities in the corporate world.
‘Over time you have a level of expectation that bias is always there against you,’ she said.
Australia’s first Asian woman to lead a major company has revealed she struggled with being self-conscious addressing a room full of men. Ming Long, the chairwoman of AMP Capital Funds Management, said she had been mindful during her corporate career of how she came across, arguing the system was biased against leaders who weren’t white and male
‘I’m always thinking about when I should talk, how I should say it, how I should amplify – sometimes there’s another woman in the room – amplify what they’ve said so that people will respond to a recommendation.’
Ms Long, who also chairs the Diversity Council of Australia, said corporate boards were often reluctant to hire a chief executive who wasn’t a white male.
‘There are so many assumptions about what leadership and what CEOs look like,’ she said.
‘So, the further you are away from what you imagine when I say “think of a CEO of an ASX 200 company,” the more risky you are seen.
‘The further you are away from “I think in my mind is a six foot, white Caucasian male,” then you are seen as more risky, so why would they put you in that position?’
Ms Long took over as chair of AMP Capital Funds Management in 2018, shortly before Shemara Wikramanayake, who is of Sri Lankan ethnicity, became the chief executive of Macquarie Group after three decades with the company.
She gave her insights after ABC 7.30 host Leigh Sales asked her about ‘being often the only woman in a room and the only woman of colour sometimes in a room’
Australian female leaders in government
Rosemary Follett, Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Terrritory: May 1989 to December 1989; and June 1991 to March 1995
Carmen Lawrence, Premier of Western Australia: February 1990 to February 1993
Joan Kirner, Premier 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, Premier of New South Wales: December 2009 to March 2011
Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia: June 2010 to June 2013
Lara Giddings, Premier 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, Premier of NSW: January 2017 to present
In 2019, Ms Wikramanayake was Australia’s highest paid corporate leader with an $18million remuneration 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.
As recently as 2015, there were 28 all-male boards.
In May 2021, women comprised 48 per cent of appointments to boards of ASX200 companies listed on the Australian Securities Exchange.
Australia is one of few countries to achieve 30 per cent women on the boards of its top companies without mandated quotas or government intervention, as a report by the University of Queensland Business School found.
Nicola Wakefield Evans, who chairs 30% Club Australia, said the fact women made up almost a third of board positions showed there were plenty of females of calibre.
‘When the push for gender diversity on the ASX 200 began, there was a view that Australia did not offer the talent pool of qualified women to achieve the targets we set,’ she said.
But in 2020, just 5 per cent of ASX200 companies had a female CEO with only ten women in that position, a survey by Chief Executive Women found.
In politics, New South Wales and Queensland have female premiers from minority backgrounds.
Gladys Berejiklian, the daughter of Armenian migrants, in March 2019 became the first female Liberal leader to win a state election by securing a third consecutive term for the Coalition in NSW.
Annastacia Palaszczuk, who is of Polish ancestry, in January 2015 became the first woman to win an election from Opposition and has now triumphed at three elections in a row 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 head a major political party in Australia when she took over as leader of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory.
Ms Long took over as chair of AMP Capital Funds Management in 2018, shortly before Shemara Wikramanayake (pictured), who is of Sri Lankan ethnicity, became the chief executive of Macquarie Group after three decades with the company. In 2019, she was Australia’s highest paid corporate leader with an $18million remuneration package