Why diversity is still dwindling in Australia

With Australia's creative agencies still in the grip of a disastrous diversity problem, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's Stefanie DiGianvincenzo looks at how we can redress the balance.

It’s a question I get asked more often than you’d think. ‘Why the lack of diversity? How can we help?’ It’s always with the best of intentions, and often, the person asking is already helping – by showing empathy and self-awareness, and thus not being part of the problem.

It’s the people who don’t ask – or more damaging, people who are oblivious the problem – that are driving rare talent out of the industry faster than we can hire them.

Whether it’s an all-white, all-male announcement of a senior leadership team, a club for the industry’s fine gentleman to get together and bond, a female performing near-naked with a bag on her head for agency celebrations or an attack – often anonymous – on groups that foster support and networking for women in the industry, there’s always something.

Each time, proving there are still people out there that have little to no regard for the nuanced, complicated and extremely personal issues facing minorities across the creative and tech industries.

Sad, really. That they can think their behaviour is without consequence, and that diverse talent will eventually leave us as a result of their vitriol.

Groups like SheSays and Cannes’ See It Be It might be a joke to some of these ‘gentlemen’ – but they’ve been instrumental to my career. They’ve kept me from feeling isolated, and they’ve connected me to people that have so generously passed on their own insights into how to navigate a business that wasn’t built for me.

Of course, these issues aren’t exclusive to me, or even to women for that matter. They’re felt by anyone who doesn’t fit the image of what an ad or tech leader looks, talks and acts like.

Jonathan Mildenhall, Global CMO of AirBnB has spoken at length about his personal experience as a black, gay man – most strikingly, I thought, in TBWA’s short film Backsplash. In it, he says he remembers feeling both “special and uncomfortable” – a feeling I could relate to, despite being part of a different minority.

Leslie Miley, director of engineering for growth at Slack was, for a time, Twitter’s only black engineer. He recently spoke on one of my favourite podcasts, Reply All, about how unconscious bias eventually drove him to leave Twitter.

He said: “You look around and you’re like ‘wow, look at who’s getting promoted, look at who’s getting the accolades, we don’t have any minorities in a position above manager, what’s up with that?’” Another experience that mirrored my own.

Hearing about these kinds of issues from someone who wasn’t a woman made me realise that, actually, all minorities in our industry are affected by the same bias, and are facing the same challenges.

Which is largely why Google’s Tara McKenty and I founded D&AD Rare. It’s a new diversity masterclass that’s designed to equip anyone who isn’t a middle-class, straight, white male, with tangible tools and networks that will empower them to get on with it – regardless of any prejudiced and privileged groups like the GGC that might pop up. Oh, there’ll be gin there too.

Stefanie DiGianvincenzo is creative director at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.