What The D Word?! Six ways to actually support diversity

Only 16% of people in Australian advertising have a culturally diverse background. If you want to help change that, here are 6 ways to cut the crap and actually push diversity, writes Shyaire Ganglani.

The Australian Advertising industry has a problem. We all know it, but like ostriches, we bury our heads in the sand. How many times has a coworker implied things like English isn’t my first language when it’s the only language I speak? More times than I can count. I kept telling myself that next time, I’d speak up, then next time came and I still stayed silent. Well, no more.

​​The recent Create Space Census by ACA took a deep dive into Diversity and Inclusion in the advertising industry in Australia. The study showed that one in five people say they’re likely to leave the industry based on a lack of inclusion/discrimination. In fact, according to ‘Only One In The Room’, only 16% of people in Australian advertising have a culturally diverse background. Considering how many creatively talented People of Colour (POC) I know, that’s just ludicrous.

If you want to help change that, here are 6 ways to cut the crap and actually push diversity:

1) Saying you employ lots of women does not count as true diversity. While it’s a good thing, women are no longer the focus minority in this industry. We need to consider the ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, age and more. If most of the women you employ are white, then you can’t call it diversity. At previous interviews with large companies, I’ve asked what their diversity is like and they’ve said  “we have lots of women”. When asked if they employ many POC, the answer was ‘we’re working on it’ or ‘only in the finance department’. 

Action: Put a hiring quota in place and hold your HR team accountable. Then reassess every 3-6 months. 

2) Hiring POC at lower salaries is a massive setback. And saying things like ‘they should’ve known their worth and asked for more money’ doesn’t help. It puts the onus on the victim when we’ve been undervalued for centuries. So if we think we deserve less, it’s because the system has drilled this into us. I remember asking for a raise at one of my first gigs in Australia and having the employer tell me that they were doing me a favour by sponsoring my visa. Unsurprisingly, I backed down and didn’t get the raise. 

Action: When in doubt, pay your POC more, even if they don’t ask for it.

3) Make a safe and inclusive space. Your team has to ‘do the work’ to make this possible. And everyone has to do it. Your leadership team, your head of departments, not just HR. Change starts at the top. And when someone tells you they felt discrimination, don’t dismiss it. I’ve had HR hear a senior staff member yell ‘UberEats’ at me because I’m brown and was riding my bike out with a backpack and then contact me the next day to smooth things out on their behalf. If you say your agency has a zero tolerance policy, prove it.

Action: Check out Brené Brown’s ‘Braving Inventory’ as a test to see if your environment is a safe, inclusive space. 

4) Tip the scales in favour of POC. Promote them, encourage them to speak up and give them more leadership opportunities. I’m not saying to give it to those who don’t deserve it. Putting POC at the bottom of the food chain is harmful, whether it’s conscious or not. Think about the message you’re sending. When we don’t see people like ourselves in senior positions, it feels to us like they are exclusively reserved for people not like us. 

Action: Take the time to reassess your team structure and push diversity at every level, especially at the top. 

5) Be an ally. If people who look like us are the only ones pushing the agenda, it looks self-serving and desperate. We need you on our side. We need you to start discussions in rooms and speak up. Don’t be afraid to go to bat for us. Start a Diversity/Inclusion group, demand regular meetings, and if it’s not a priority for your company, demand that it is.

Action: Start meaningful conversations. And if you think something is offensive, say something. 

6) Push. Your. Clients. To. Push. Diversity. This one’s important. Keep pushing diversity in all your ads. It helps us feel like we belong, it helps those around us know we’re represented and have equal rights to that product or service. I’ve seen a senior white person in the room raise their hand and ask “How are we being representative of diversity with these ads?”. And we need more of that.

Action: Push back on your clients and get all kinds of diversity in your ads, even if they insist ‘it doesn’t feel Australian’. Minorities need representation too.

The first step is acknowledging that we have a massive diversity problem, then, we need to break it down and figure out key focus areas to tackle from lack of representation to discrimination to unconscious biases.

So ask yourself: what will you do to make a change? And to my fellow POC: find a company that will support you, and let you have a voice because it’s incredibly validating and empowering. And trust your gut because if something feels off, it probably is. 

Shyaire Ganglani, associate creative director, All Or Nothing.


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