1st Edition

Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations Lessons from Those Who Smashed the Bamboo Ceiling

By Karen Loon Copyright 2023
    270 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    270 Pages 17 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Leveraging academic research and case studies, knowledge as a business leader and diversity practitioner, and personal experience, Karen Loon examines how successful culturally diverse leaders at work resolve the contradictions and tensions of their identities within organisations. What can we learn from those leaders who have thrived and smashed the ‘bamboo ceiling’? Moreover, are there other factors holding organisational change back?

    The book proposes research-based recommendations for aspiring leaders and corporate practitioners whilst revealing the potential inhibitors to progress. Split into three sections, Loon examines current research on identities in multicultural nations and organisations, delves into the career progression of successful Asian-Australian leaders to explore how they negotiate identity in the workplace, and provides a roadmap of actions for business leaders looking to create more inclusive and diverse cultures in their organisations.

    Written for both people new to diversity and those keen on new perspectives, the book is well-suited for aspiring leaders at any stage of their careers looking to accelerate their careers, as well as C-Suite, HR, and Diversity leads.

    1. Introduction Part I – Laying the Foundations 2. Who Am I? The Influences on Our Identity 3. The Current State of Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations Part II – Lessons from Those Who Smashed the Bamboo Ceiling 4. Familial Ties – How Families Shape Culturally Diverse Leaders 5. Thriving at Work – What Culturally Diverse Leaders Do to Win in the Workplace 6. Navigating the Maze – How Culturally Diverse Leaders Manage Their Journey to Leadership 7. How Organisations Influence Us at Work 8. The Patterns of Life – Why Our Career Experiences Differ Part III – A Roadmap for Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations 9. For Individuals – A Roadmap to Super-Charge Your Career at Work 10. For Organisations – A Roadmap for Increasing the Cultural Diversity of Your Leadership 11. Linking It Together – The Steps We Must All Take


    Karen Loon is a Non-Executive Director and a former senior Big 4 partner. She has worked with the world’s leading banks and led diversity initiatives. She has qualifications in system psychodynamics and governance from INSEAD, and research interests in identity work and organisational change.

    "Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations provides a unique road map for fostering meaningful cultural diversity developing of leaders. The reader is invited to engage with her model for understanding diversity from the "inside-out" in order to orchestrate and leverage/harvest meaningful cultural diversity."

    Professors Erik van de Loo and Roger Lehman, INSEAD

    "Karen Loon documents stories of Asian-Australian company leaders, noting their successes and struggles along the way. Taking a deep look at organisational culture, she draws together lessons for both aspiring company leaders and organisations attempting to navigate the shifting grounds of cultural diversity. An enlightening read for all who wish to understand more about moving towards cultural inclusion in work organisations."

    Professor Susan Long, Director of Research and PhD Lead, NIODA

    "A treasure trove of contemporary research and evidence based practical tips from Karen Loon’s lived experience and interviews with respected business leaders and partners of leading professional services firms. Supercharge your career by learning how to change your mindset and action behaviours that will help break through the bamboo ceiling and lead to increased success. A must-read for Asian-Australian professionals, D+I practitioners and enlightened leaders who wish to promote greater cultural diversity in their workplaces."

    Katrina Rathie, Non-Executive Director and former Partner in Charge, King & Wood Mallesons Sydney

    "Karen Loon’s book elegantly blends a leadership manual with a collection of personal stories of leaders who smashed barriers and succeeded because they were different. It is a must-read for organisations seeking to build truly inclusive cultures and high-performing teams."

    Philipp Ivanov, Chief Executive Officer, Asia Society Australia

    "This book is an important addition to the small number of writings on cultural diversity in leadership in Australia. Grounded in real life experiences of culturally diverse leaders, I particularly like Karen’s roadmap for culturally diverse talent, which provides an excellent practical guide to inspire the next generation in Australia and beyond."

    Jon Terry, Former PwC Global Financial Services People Leader

    "Few Australians with an Asian cultural background have found their way into leadership positions in Australia. Karen Loon dissects the challenges in a captivating book that offers practical advice grounded in lived experience for leaders and organisations that aspire to change."

    Andrew Parker, Partner, Asia Practice Leader, PwC Australia

    "In this unique and meticulously researched book, Karen Loon analyses the real-life experiences of culturally diverse leaders who against the odds, made it to the top - and distils their insights into a practical guide for the next generation. Recommended reading for modern leaders."

    Mike Sum, Strategy Consulting Partner & Executive Sponsor for Cultural Diversity & Inclusion, KPMG Australia

    "Grounded in real experiences and lessons, this book delves into the inner mechanics that drive inclusion and diversity to reveal how each of us has a vital role to play. The roadmap is a great starting point for any aspiring leader."

    Ainslie van Onselen, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand

    "Passionate, provocative, practical yet personal, this book shines a light on the missed opportunities in Australia due to the ongoing failure to cultivate Asian leaders. Importantly it provides evidence-based tools for both individuals and organisations on how to do better."

    Antoinette Lattouf, Co-Founder, Media Diversity Australia

    "This is a book with a purpose – a timely reminder of Australia’s progress in breaking the bamboo ceiling, the tasks ahead to advance Asian-Australian representation and the steps we all must take for Australia to become the gold standard in inclusive leadership. Karen Loon’s own experiences and those she has highlighted is essential reading for Asian-Australians aspiring to reach their leadership potential and for organisations and institutions wanting to tap into that potential."

    Jieh-Yung Lo, Director, Centre for Asian-Australian Leadership, Australian National University

    "As cultural diversity moves up the business agenda, Fostering Culturally Diverse Leadership in Organisations weaves together lived experience, meticulous research and practical advice for leaders to deliver a much-needed roadmap for fostering diverse and inclusive organisations."

    Penny Burtt, past CEO, Asialink and co-founder of the Asian-Australian Leadership Summit

    "Pragmatic and actionable, a must have book for organisations and professionals seeking a blueprint to unleash the potential of authentic leadership from the richness of cultural diversity."

    Suet Koon Lai, Executive Coach