‘The Media Has A Way To Go On Diversity’ – Diversity Council Leader Lisa Annese On Industry Diversity And Why Sunita Gloster Is An Important Addition To Their Board

‘The Media Has A Way To Go On Diversity’ – Diversity Council Leader Lisa Annese On Industry Diversity And Why Sunita Gloster Is An Important Addition To Their Board

The Diversity Council of Australia (DCA) has appointed one of the nation’s leading diversity and sustainability advocates, Sunita Gloster AM (pictured above), to its board.

DCA CEO Lisa Annese told B&T that Gloster’s appointment couldn’t come at a more pertinent time and her experience and perspective working in industries where diversity and inclusivity in the workplace have been challenged will prove invaluable.

In her assessment of how diversity in the media industry compares with other sectors, Annese said: “We have got a way to go in terms of having proper media diversity, which includes diversity on camera, behind the camera and the people who run media outlets,” she said.

“What our research shows us is that the people who make content have been not a leading industry haven’t been at the forefront of the diversity, equity and inclusion conversation. 

“It’s unfortunate because (the media) is a sector that has a lot of impact on everybody’s lives. Some other sectors are more contained, for example of you are digging something out of the ground or you are manufacturing biscuits. There are no other sectors that influence the culture and the zeitgeist more than the media, so it’s especially important for the media sector to respond to changing societal and community expectations.”

Annese said she doesn’t know why the media is a laggard when it comes to diversity, but points out that more progressive industries  – such as banking, professional services and law – tend to have greater regulatory and stakeholder pressure applied to them to drive change.

This especially applies to sectors where there is a “war for talent”; for example the male dominated engineering sector, which had to introduce progressive policies to recruit and retain more women.

A diversity & change champion

Gloster is one of Australia’s most prominent media, tech and adland figures, a regular in B&T’s Women in Media list and a Women Leading Tech Champion for Change.

She is also a board member for the UN Global Compact Network in Australia and has extensive experience in advertising and marketing, having held leadership roles at the AANA, Accenture, WPP,  M&C Saatchi, HMDG London and Lowe and Partners (now Mullen&Lowe), to name but a few.

Gloster is a regular panellist on the ABC’s advertising TV show Gruen, and understands the media and advertising industries inside out.

“Sunita brings to the Board fresh perspectives cultivated across a breadth of sectors and we look forward to working with her to build on DCA’s achievements and continue driving progress towards inclusive and diverse workplaces,” Annese added.

Gloster said she was “honoured” to join the DCA board, adding: “DCA has long been the principal driver of policies and knowledge that have advanced diversity in Australia’s workplace… I am committed to working with the board and management team to make further progress in imbedding best-practice diversity policies and practices in our workplaces.”

How Australia’s advertising industry compares with others (Create Space census 2021)

A game of catch up

Annese said that her experience and insights into the media, tech and advertising space should help these sectors “catch up”.

“What’s interesting is that people have so many options in terms of what media they consume and how to access it. So the competition between media owners has probably been triggered and we are starting to see some change,” she said. “The impact of technology and social media platforms has radically altered the sector and the media has to move with the times.”

There have been high profile cases in recent times in which some have questioned media companies paying to platform an alleged rapist and how women in the public eye, including a former Prime Minister are treated. And some sectors in the media have faced scrutiny about the gender diversity of leadership teams, although that has certainly improved in some areas.

There have also been perceptions of an ‘old boys club’ mentality in some sectors of the media, but Annese reckons that younger generations coming through into leadership roles doesn’t necessarily mean this mindset will go away.

“The research shows that there’s a proportion of young men who have really concerning attitudes towards women and, actually, many men in generations older are more progressive.

“I think sometimes people can be mistaken in believing ‘when the boys club dies out, we won’t have these problems’, but in reality it will just be replaced by something else. The whole tech sector is a relatively ‘new’ sector.”

More gender diversity data on Australia’s advertising industry (Create Space census 2021)

In adland it’s a slightly different story. Once very much entrenched in ‘old boys’ culture, agencies are now mostly staffed by women; around 60 per cent to 40 percent, according to the Advertising Council of Australia’s last Create Space industry census released in 2021. 

Adland has an inclusion score of 62, compared to Australia’s average of 43; which measures how staff feel about factors like a ‘sense of belonging’, ‘absence of discrimination’ and ‘presence of negative behaviour’. 

This mark is below the global advertising industry average (64) and the UK (67), which is widely regarded as more progressive when it comes to tackling diversity and inclusion in the boardroom.

The next Create Space census, which is due out this year should shed further light on how this has progressed but one aspect is clear, there is still a way to go when it comes to non-gender diversity, especially in leadership roles.

Annese said that although Australia is progressive on gender diversity, it still lags in other areas – such as race, sexuality, disability, neurodiversity and other areas – but that ignores the broader diversity point.

“The idea that gender is one thing, race is another thing and disability is another thing ignores the fact that actually everything is connected. So, for example, not all women are the same. You have women who are racially marginalised, women with disabilities and women from lower social classes that all have different lived experiences,” she said.

“If you are focusing on gender equality, you need to look at all women and do it by design.  There are a lot of organisations in Australia that have a strong focus just on gender and look at women as though they’re a homogenous group. But there are equally many organisations that move well beyond gender.

“Our challenge is to start to talk more about these other aspects and ensure diversity and inclusion in on the radar of businesses holistically.”

Gloster is an ideal candidate to drive these conversations and change. She begins her role at the DCA on 26 June 2024.

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