Cultural Diversity & Asia: David Thomas (China Expert & Speaker)

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Cultural Diversity and the Bamboo Ceiling in Australia

In this epsiode, I speak to David Thomas, a.k.a the China Expert. Over the last 30 years, David has inspired, motivated and educated global business leaders, entrepreneurs and investors to pay attention to the massive growth potential offered by modern China and other emerging countries and taken them on a journey to identify and build long-term business and cross-cultural relationships. 

David’s interest in China started when he moved to Hong Kong (then a British colony), where he ran a wealth management business for several years. His father, Michael David Thomas, was the Attorney General of Hong Kong at the time, which gave him a wealth knowledge into the politics and culture of China.

After witnessing the opening up of modern China, he then moved to Australia to raise a family and has spent 25 years going back and forth between the two countries, committed to building ties in the region, seeing the opportunites for Australia in the Asian Century.

He is passionate about improving diversity in the Australian workplace through his “push & pull strategy”. His “push” strategy is to get in front of business leaders, arming them with the tools and confidence to deal with cross cultural barriers. His “pull” strategy is to run workshops and sessions to help people facing the “Bamboo Ceiling“.

If you’re interested in finding more about David, please visit www.theleadershipgroup.com.au and https://davidthomas.asia/bio/

For more information on his workshops, visit http://www.acsme.com.au/

Quotes (lightly edited for clarity)

  • The companies that are most diverse are the ones that produce the best results.
  •  [When] talking about Asia, people were interested but there wasn’t a great deal of action…if you take out iron ore, coal and education, our exports to China are pretty slim.
  • Australia is a very conservative country… It’s very difficult to get people to change their minds and their attitudes. We have to make changes in Australia to create more diversity within business, politics and media. Only if we can start doing that, then we’ll start seeing deeper and more confident engagement with Asia. But we need to get on as we’re 20 years into the Asian Century and I don’t feel we’re really getting anywhere at the moment.
  • If you don’t like the football, if you don’t drink beer around the BBQ, and I know this is very simplistic, but people like to work with people that they feel comfortable with. [But] if you want a diverse organisation, you got to promote people who you have nothing in common with and who you’re not going to go to the football with.

Timestamps

1:10 – Introduction

5:40 – Coming to Australia and initial impressions.

6:40 – Are Australian companies engaging with Asia? Why not?

9:20 – Biggest opportunities in Asia & China.

11:30 – Navigating the Australian workplace culture as a foreigner, lack of cultural diversity in Australian workplace, advice for new migrants looking to advance their careers.

18:00 – How David plans to improve diversity in the Australian workplace (Push + Pull strategy), the Bamboo Ceiling in Australia.

21:00 – The importance of diversity at the top.

25:00 – Personal example of David dealing with difficulties in the workplace, building confidence.

28:00 – On limiting beliefs, influence of parents.

30:00 – Conclusion