"I don't think there is a chair, director or CEO of any of our top 150 companies who can fluently speak any of the languages of Asia."Menadue said it was "obviously too late" for leaders to acquire Asian language skills but, worse than that, he argued the cosy directors' club wasn't even recruiting executives for the future with the necessary skills for Asia. The CPA Australia report adds support to Menadue's argument, revealing the perceptions of some 6000 business decision-makers from Australia and internationally. The respondents placed a relatively low level of importance on access to, and knowledge of, Asian markets and bilingual staff, while at the same time overestimating Australia’s integration with Asia. CPA Australia is urging business leaders to attach greater value to Asian experience and knowledge when recruiting staff. That's difficult when the cosy directors’ club seems only interested in promoting from within. Take Pacific Brands, which today faced a second strike vote and potential board spill over executive pay. The Bonds, KingGee and Stubbies brand owner couldn't be a more iconic Australian company, but even it had to face up to the new reality, sending manufacturing to China in 2009. When Pacific Brands chief Sue Morphet resigned after the company posted a $450 million loss in August, who did the board choose to replace her? Not an executive known for their Asian experience, but a formal naval officer with strong leadership skills that chairman Peter Bush instantly hit it off with. We've known for decades the impact the boys' club has had on the representation of women in board and leadership positions. Pacific Brands is one of the few listed Australian companies that has a gender balance on its board. But now we see the dominance of white men on Australia’s boards and executive committees has impacts beyond gender, and unless there's change soon, Australia will miss out on the next growth wave.
In this Asian century, who in business is talking the talk?
Are we unprepared for the so-called Asian Century? A new report saying we rate poorly on Asian knowledge and languages is a wake-up call to corporations, writes business journalist Charis Palmer.