Arriving at Diversity. Next stop, Inclusion. Final destination, Equity.

Diversity is only the first stop en route to equity, writes Katy Eng, national head of Diverse, Omnicom Media Group, ANZ.

Diversity has always been a part of my upbringing as a bi-racial American woman who grew up in predominantly Anglo-Celtic areas and migrated to Australia 11 years ago.

A quick scan of my AncestryDNA results will show my mother’s heritage (English, Scottish, Irish and Germanic), has mixed with my Dad’s Chinese background giving me a near 50/50 split.

Until I was twelve, I never lived near my Chinese-American relatives and I had zero Asian friends. My mother always did her best to celebrate our heritage and was a big appreciator of the culture, but it was something I recognised within myself privately rather than felt outwardly.

It wasn’t until I’d graduated university and moved to New York City to start my media career at OMD that I suddenly found myself surrounded by Asian friends whose parents had immigrated to the U.S. as adults and still had strong cultural and linguistic ties. My grandparents both went over to the States as teens and my dad grew up very American-ised, not even speaking Cantonese unfortunately. In fact, in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it was really uncool and unpopular to speak anything but English to “fit in” which has resulted in none of the language passing down – something that saddens me to this day.

My new Asian circle were “real” Asians, unlike me. They could speak Cantonese or Mandarin, they grew up in Queens, lived in Chinatown, cooked Chinese dishes, shopped at Chinese grocers, had family back in China or Taiwan that they were in touch with and could visit. All of that made me feel like an imposter. Slightly Asian in looks but nothing else to show for it.

I’m writing all of this because I read recently that appreciation for Diversity begins by owning your own story. In reality, we are all diverse. Being diverse is just being different. And is there anyone amongst us who isn’t “different” in some way? Whether it’s our ethnic background, the religion we observe, how we present ourselves to the world, how our mind thinks, who we love, how we learn, what our bodies are capable of…

I like to joke that once you add up all the “Diverse” people in Australia, you actually outnumber the “normal”, mainstream people (Anglo-Celtic, Christian, English-speaking, 18-54, heterosexual, identifying as a man or woman.)

So, Diversity is here. It’s who we are. I’m confident the new Census data released next month will continue to show us to be one of the most multicultural countries in the world.

It’s inclusion that we are striving for as I’ve been learning in education sessions presented by the wise Winitha Bonney, OAM. Showing people that no matter what makes them “different” (sorry, I can’t stop using air quotes when I say this because, again, we are all different in some way!), they still belong just as much as anyone else. They are warmly welcomed, valued, and respected.

In business, inclusionary practices and an intolerance for exclusion is set from an organisation’s very top, as my colleague, Kristian Kroon eloquently wrote. It must be an ACTIVE welcome. An “overtly inclusive statement” as I learned through the SBS Inclusion Program, which I highly recommend.

Inclusion can be as simple as:

  • Looking people in the eye in the office and giving a small smile of friendliness (yes even people you don’t know – be brave).
  • Inviting everyone on your team to eat lunch together, not just your usuals.
  • Asking a quieter person in a meeting if they’d like to contribute anything and giving them that space to think and speak.
  • Learning your colleague’s names and pronunciation even if it takes some awkward repetition on your part (again – bravery).
  • Having patience with a colleague who might think or speak differently than you do.
  • Asking people about their lives in a genuinely curious and non-judgmental way – purely just being interested in them as a person.
  • Reminding yourself that EVERYONE has something to teach you if you are open to learning from them.

Inclusion happens when we start to realise that all life is of value and that we are all diverse in some way, shape or form.

If we all commit to making some small, daily efforts towards acts of kindness in our offices and communities, these will have real impact to our country and our world. We will find ourselves many steps closer to Equity, where differences are accommodated, and everyone gets what they specifically need to have the best chance of success.

Katy Eng, national head of Diverse, Omnicom Media Group, ANZ.


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