The media industry is approaching diversity and inclusion all wrong
Top-down policies and workshops that alienate the wider workforce are doing diversity and inclusion a disservice. Hatched's Raeshem Chail reckons there's a better way.
The announcement of the Ad Council’s upcoming census made it official: diversity and inclusion is the industry’s latest hot topic.
Making our industry more inclusive is something that’s hugely important to me. My family migrated to Australia from Singapore and my ancestors are originally from India so growing up, I felt like I didn’t quite fit. And that’s a very uncomfortable place to be in.
In the media industry, where people are often hired because they are like the person doing the hiring or they feel the need to conform to being the ideal “media person”, this discomfort is very real for a lot of our colleagues across the industry.
So it’s great that organisations are making noise about embracing diversity and being more inclusive.
But the danger is that that’s all it is: noise.
We’ve all seen the announcements of agencies implementing diversity and inclusion policies or making pledges to break out of the inner-city hiring stereotypes. However, these moves can be box-ticking exercises that sound good on the surface and don’t lead to real, systemic change.
I think there’s a better way to make our industry more welcoming for everyone. And a year ago, I started on the journey to make it happen by forming the Hatched Belonging & Connections team.
To be clear, I have no formal training in this department but actually, that has been an advantage because instead of applying a formulated approach, I’ve been able to think outside the box and focus on what will resonate with people.
The mission statement of the Belonging & Connections team is to create an inclusive environment; to be able to have conversations and celebrate every person’s individuality. And celebrating individuality goes far beyond focusing on women, LGBTIQ or ethnically diverse people. Being inclusive means including everyone rather than alienating people who feel as if the term “diversity” doesn’t apply to them.
In the past year, we’ve run two events. The first was designed to develop an understanding of people’s values and beliefs across the business. The second centred on the topic of what has shaped us to be who we are today. This led to powerful, deep conversations as we got to know our colleagues beyond the surface level.
The result of running these events has been genuine shifts within the business. We’ve made changes to our recruitment process as well as the layout of our office to make it more inclusive.
Through the experience, I have discovered there are several key requirements to making a real difference.
The business needs to be willing to change
There’s no point interrogating the diversity and inclusion credentials of the organisation if you’re not going to adopt the changes required to make a real difference.
When I first started down this path, I was very clear with the executive team at Hatched that we needed to be willing to face uncomfortable truths about the way we do things. Within the organisation, there’s a genuine willingness to make changes for the better which makes it worthwhile.
You must put in the time
The person leading the charge needs to dedicate the time and have it built into their normal day-to-day role. Like many businesses in the industry, we don’t need a dedicated full-time person managing diversity and inclusion, but it does need to be a priority rather than an afterthought. Without this, there’s a real danger of any efforts becoming exercises in box-ticking.
Passion is a must
Find someone or several someones within the organisation that are passionate about making a difference. At Hatched, we started with just three people and today our team has expanded to nine. I’m constantly impressed by the passion of our team and the ideas they come up with including a book we are creating to educate the agency about language they may not be aware is offensive to people from different backgrounds to them.
Keep employees top of mind
This isn’t about making the business look good. Put the people first, consult them and include them in the process and you’ll see results much faster.
For organisations yet to start on this path, begin by looking internally. Ask the team how you can give everyone a voice to talk about who they really are. From there, assess what you are missing in the organisation and consider whether you need to change the way you hire.
Genuinely making the effort to create a more inclusive and diverse organisation has so many benefits leading to better working relationships which, in turn, increases productivity.
Don’t waste this opportunity by treating it as a something that has to be done just because everybody is talking about it.
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