Colloquial’s Margot Alais and Craig Mack (pictured below), were both attendees at last week’s Changing the Ratio conference in Sydney. Here, the two have penned their thoughts on the day’s events and some important takeouts, too…
We’re a small team at Colloquial, but what we lack in size we make up for in diversity. In our small group we have established industry leaders, incredible, young talent just out of university, gay men, lesbians, what marketers would call traditional families, single mums, middle aged white guys, couples, singles, artists, scientists, control freaks, go with the flow freaks, people with backgrounds, and ethnicities, from all around the world, and even a few who are open about living with mental health issues. To say diversity is core to the values of our agency is no understatement, and that’s why our team were so passionate about attending Changing the Ratio recently.
Sally Ann Williams said it best in her talk, “If you do not intentionally, deliberately & proactively include; you will unintentionally exclude”. We don’t have full scale diversity, but for a team of less than 20 we cover more ground than some agencies two and three times our size.
During her talk Williams continued to impress upon the audience that representation matters. For her, a balanced ratio matters in her STEM industry, not just for opportunity but because everyone needs a seat at the design table. The cold hard fact she presented on women being at greater risk than men in car accidents, because seat belts and air bags were traditionally tested on crash test dummies the size of the average male, tells us why.
It’s no accident that Colloquial is as diverse as we are. No matter the agency, business, conference, pitch or project, the ratio needs to be by design—not by chance, or simply based on the skills we think people might be able to bring. This was beautifully highlighted by both Deng Thiak Adut and Roger Antochi. The stories of their backgrounds and successes emphasise the importance of employers being more open-minded and less led by judgement or misguided preconceived ideas about people, and instead focus on the unique views, experiences, insights and skills that they can add.
Going back to William’s point about deliberate inclusion, Westpac’s Head of Advertising Andrew Howie shared the work done to engage local Chinese communities by developing bespoke Chinese language OOH and POS assets and creative. There are powerful learnings and inspirations for brands in this approach. Australia is a truly multicultural society and while many of us understand that there is an audience waiting, many don’t know how to approach the challenging conversations that are needed to begin such inspiring work. It would have been great to hear how Howie engaged the Westpac board, leadership team and broader network to create an environment hungry to truly nurture diversity, in the face of any potential controversy.
Along with Howie, Australian Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Tim Soutphommasane (main photo), disability advocates Cátia Malaquias and Angel Dixon and LGBTQIA champion ARN’s CMO Anthony Xydis reminded us that diversity goes far beyond gender. As evidenced just by our small team at Colloquial, diversity, inclusion and ‘changing the ratio’ go far beyond and deeper than many of the discussions from the conference.
Events like Changing the Ratio, and the ongoing discussions and changes that they should inspire, are needed because we do have a problem of representation in marketing, media and the creative industries. And representation matters.
No one limits their media consumption to only things that reflect themselves—we’re curious beings, so while we want to see our experience reflected, we’re also curious about how others live – and we should be encouraged to explore the world outside of our filter bubbles. But for minorities, we are shown how the majority live constantly, they’re seamlessly integrated in the media we consume everyday. We’ve seen them and now we want to see ourselves reflected too.
If there was a key takeaway, it’s that we need to actively engage and implement strategies that will get our industry and the work we produce toward a more diverse and inclusive goal, and that we need to include everyone—disabled, able bodied, straight, gay, trans, men, women, young, old, culturally diverse and indigenous Australians (a group who weren’t even part of the discussion on the day).
We had great conversations about the need to create more diversity and inclusion, and we heard incredible stories about what happens when we do. But let’s remember that Changing the Ratio isn’t about showing off how well we can do representation and it’s not about getting in on a trending moment. LGBTQIA representation should happen all year round, not just during Mardi Gras. Using actors with Down Syndrome shouldn’t only happen on World Down Syndrome Day. Designing for the disabled shouldn’t be something that we proudly build a campaign around, it should just happen. The visibility of Indigenous Australians in our media shouldn’t just increase when NAIDOC or Sorry Day is around the corner.
The conference was excellent in identifying why we should do this and why it would be beneficial—it was great in pointing out the holes we should fill. What we need to do now, simply, is act.