The Standard You Walk Past, Is The Standard You Accept

For story on how the advertising industry has changed for women in last 40 years. Image shows Margie Reid, managing Director - OMG, Melbourne. Photo by James Boddington. Fairfax Media/Age Business News. Friday May 15 2015

Inspired by retired Chief of Army and 2016 Australian of the Year David Morrison, OMD Melbourne managing director Margie Reid urges us to lead the way for gender equality and diversity in the media and advertising industry.

Margie Reid
Posted by Margie Reid

In the words of retired Chief of Army Lieutenant General David Morrison, “The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.”

This Australia Day, let’s grasp the opportunity to change our mindset and behaviour, and stand together with our celebrated 2016 Australian of the Year, to set the example as an industry of equality and diversity.

In 2013 David Morrison become renowned for his internal address to the Army, where he made a public stance on his intolerance for poor behaviour towards women. He called for all in the Army to have “moral courage” to stand against it, and reposition the Australian Army as an inclusive organisation:

Some say he stood back and tolerated this behaviour for years, and the recent changes to his attitude make him a hypocrite. However I salute him.

He may have grown up with gender stereotypes, learned behaviours and accepted norms, but once he was in the position as Chief of the Army David Morrison took the opportunity his position provided to effect change in male dominated institution based on a warrior culture.

It takes an extraordinary leader to admit that change is needed, that the behaviour patterns are wrong and can no longer be tolerated. To have the courage and moral decency to stand up and demand respect for others and embrace genuine diversity, is cause for celebration.

It is never too late to ensure every Australian has a “fair go”.

Malcolm Turnbull took the opportunity last night to remind us to be “agile in a year of innovation”. To me innovation comes in many forms and cannot be defined by one single idea. It’s time to lose the negative stereotypes and inequality, and to become an industry ready to innovate in every facet.

David Morrison

David Morrison

What if the leaders of our industry, males or female, could make the same stance David Morrison did with an organisation that has a culture that is inherently male dominated? Think about how we could be an industry of diversity and equality.

In the two and a half years since David Morrison told misbehaving troops to “get out” of the force if they could not accept female colleagues and treat them equally, the number of women joining the army has grown by 2 per cent.

There are defining moments in your career and people who will challenge you. For me, Guy Russo was one of these people.

A year ago I attended a conference for women in senior roles where Guy Russo, CEO of Kmart challenged all of the woman in the room with direct reports and a management team to review the pay scales of our reports when we return to our offices – and shame on us if the women in our organisation weren’t paid equally for the same roles, and if our management teams weren’t made up of a diverse group of people.

It takes time to make these changes in organisations, but if we don’t display the same courage and leadership David Morrison has shown then diversity and equality won’t happen in our careers.

I ask our industry leaders, male or female to keep championing and sponsoring diversity whilst coaching and mentoring our future leaders to ensure that these issues are addressed. The media and advertising industry have the platform to make change happen, and we have the ability to see what true diversity and equality can bring to a business and the people who work in it. It’s about the right people, with the right skillset, in the right role, no matter their gender or background.

Let’s not be an industry that walks past a standard and accepts it as it is, but rather let’s set a new standard.

I looking forward to seeing the great impact David has on Australian culture in the year ahead and the change for our future generations.