“I’m not even going to try and pronounce that!”
“No but you’re like a cool Asian”
“Wow, you dress really white.”
These are all genuine questions and comments I have received in the workplace as a first-generation, Australian woman of colour. Surprised? Probably not. Which is the problem.
The roots of this issue stem far beyond racist remarks, sexist attitudes or even plain ignorance. The issue is that diversity feels like the ultimate PR campaign: great awareness, high volume of mentions and always a topic for discussion. But how can we move it down the funnel?
While I’m just shy of a decade into my career, and am only representative of racial and gender minorities, my experience in this short time has shown me enough to know there is so much more to be done. Diversity is by no means an issue exclusive to the marketing and advertising industry, but the influence, channels and share of voice we have means it can start and make good progress with us. I truly believe we have the ability to clear the path for the next generation, but it needs to be more than a performative initiative, casting a person of colour in a campaign or including a minority in a team photo.
Australia is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. Our last Census shows that nearly half of the population was either born overseas, or had at least one parent born overseas. Over a quarter of the population is first generation Australian. So why do our workforce and creative outputs often fail to acknowledge this? The sooner we acknowledge the reality of who we are and who we’re actually talking to, the better off we will be.
We also happen to work in one of the most fast paced, creative and innovative industries. We live in a world where everyday, we make a conscious effort to be inspired by something new, constantly evolving and pushing ourselves to be across the latest and greatest.
We also live in a world where people can pronounce quinoa, but won’t attempt ‘Saynaree’.
If the same initiative and care was taken to learning and understanding minorities - our perspectives, triggers, struggles and triumphs - we’ll all be better equipped to create things that feel less performative and truly inclusive.
In the last 10 months, the industry has had time to take stock of our shortcomings. Here are three things we can all do to be better allies:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Be proactive in wanting to learn more, staying curious and listening.
- Engage with diverse creators and brands. Expose yourself to different points of view and give minority voices a platform and audience.
- Encourage diverse talent in the workplace. Our Ethnicity Network and Open House initiatives are two examples of how we’re hoping to attract employees from all backgrounds and walks of life to M&C Saatchi.
While I am more than happy to be one of many who have lent my diverse voice to spreading awareness, the responsibility can’t solely sit with us. It’s on everyone - regardless of gender, race, status, sexuality, background - to work together and create a more diverse environment for our industry and our audience.