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Aussie CEOs: White Blokes Called Andrew Or Michael

The average Australian chief executive officer is a white male, most likely named Andrew or Michael, who was educated at a sandstone university according to a study called “Easy to Classify”.

Gender and cultural diversity remain at skeletal levels at ASX 200 companies.

There are more CEOs named "Andrew" leading these companies than there are women, the report found.

Academic Conrad Liveris, an employment and diversity expert reviewed the data sourced from annual reports and websites, paired against the Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

Liveris said these CEOs follow a "very distinct pathway" and a "very traditional male sort of experience".

A Typical CEO's Academic Path
IMAGE: Getty Images

When the average CEO finished school he went to a sandstone university, likely in the city that his company is situated, to study engineering or commerce.

If he studied engineering, he eventually moved into project management, with some finance experience.

If he studied commerce he moved toward accounting and through financial units.

"Eighty per cent of CEOs were educated at sandstone universities with long historical links to their cities - University of Melbourne, University of Sydney, University of Queensland, " the report said.

Only six percent of the CEOs surveyed studied the humanities and hold Bachelor of Arts degrees, while 4.5 percent studied law and commerce, and most became admitted lawyers.

CEO's Stay Close To Home (And Their Universities)

The education experiences of Australian CEOs largely reflect the years they were educated, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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Most CEOs continue to live and work in the cities they studied in.

"It’s important to note that CEOs have limited international experience, which may be a distinct weakness in an export-oriented market."

A CEO's Career Path

The average CEO has worked in the industry his company operates in for more than 10 years.

Before becoming CEO, he likely headed a business unit or was CFO of that company.

His professional experience is primarily domestic. If he has international experience it is usually earlier in his career and in one jurisdiction, that is not across borders. It is more likely to be in banking than any other sector.

IMAGE: Getty Images

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Liveris said there is a narrowness in who becomes CEO of an Australian company and is encouraging reflection given that these positions have "considerable economic clout, and social and political from that."

'One-Size Fits All' Not Good Enough Says Indian-Born CEO

Sheba Nandkeolyar is the CEO and co-founder of first of its kind multicultural marketing and integrated communication company in Australia.

"Business today is border-less. Our Asian neighbors and their economies, especially China and India will play a huge role going forward in contributing to Australia's economy," she told 10 daily.  

Sheba Nandkeolyar is the CEO and co-founder of MultiConnexions. IMAGE: supplied

Frustrated by her previous employers' (which were large transnational corporations) lack of lateral thinking and diversity of thought, she set out on her own and started her own agency.

She said it's disheartening that Chinese and Indians in Australia have "practically nil representation" on Australian boards -- especially ASX listed boards --  given that almost 50 percent of Australians are either born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.

Nandkeolyar said given the nature of a global economy, business leaders and professionals with Asian experience should be sought after.

"They are prized in countries such as USA, Canada, UK etc, but unfortunately the Australian boards are happy to continue with a a one-size-fits-all strategy in business, dictated by a typical profile over decades."

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au