Think HQ: Diversity Includes Socio-Economic Background As Well As Culture 

Think HQ: Diversity Includes Socio-Economic Background As Well As Culture 

Thanks to high-profile campaigns such as #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter, more businesses than ever before are talking about diversity and inclusion. 

This is often interpreted as cultural diversity. However, Jen Sharpe, founder, and managing director at Think HQ said that a lack of variety in the socio-economic background also “plays into” the broader lack of diversity in the Australian communications industry. 

“I think the networks that exist and who choose to go and study PR and advertising may very well be influenced by those people around them. So I think that socioeconomic background plays into it,” Sharpe told B&T

Fostering diverse teams includes factoring in culture, age, gender, sexuality, and socio-economic background, she added. 

Change Needs To Take Place At ‘All-Levels’

For Dr. Som Sengmany, Think HQ’s multicultural insights director, lasting change needs to take place at all levels of an organization. 

“The [FAIR Report] uncovered that action has to take place from a top-down and a bottom-up level,” he said. 

“So the top down is about organizational change and creating policies, making sure recruitment practices actually deal with unconscious bias”. 

He went on: “the concept of the bottom-up is also understanding why culturally diverse people aren’t applying to go and study public relations and media. Why isn’t there a path into the industry for people from culturally diverse backgrounds?” 


Last year’s FAIR report, published in December, showed that while experts in the communications industry are ready to become more culturally inclusive, there is a “major gap” between perception and practice.

Sengmany said that one practical step would be creating a clear pathway for diverse people to enter the industry. 

Learning From Other Parts Of The World

“The Australian comms industry actually has a lot to learn from the US,” he said. 

“I think what’s different, and what’s really interesting in the US, is that they also have paid practitioner bodies in the industry. For example, they’ve got a Hispanic PR association and the National Black PR society – those actual bodies advocate for cultural diversity and inclusive practices within the industry,”. 

For Sharpe and Sengmany,  recruiting diverse candidates is just the first step in building a diverse team. 

“The second thing and this is the more challenging part, is, as it’s always ongoing, – is the transformation of your workplace to accommodate for a greater diversity of staff, and to create a genuinely inclusive and safe environment for all,” Sharpe said.

This is not easy, however, with Sharpe adding:

“I just don’t think there’s one business or organization who could hand on heart, say that they’ve reached success in this space. So there’s just no obvious blueprint for how it’s done”.

Covid Was A “Game Changer” When It Comes To Diversity

There was positive news, however:

“I think the advertising industry and the use of talent, there, it is getting better.  I think marketers can see the opportunity [of diversity]. You can see through advertising, that there is a shift, more of a broader reflection of the Australian community, but it seems to be the media outlets themselves that are falling behind,” Sharpe said.

With as much as 30 per cent of the population speaking English as a second language, the cost of mainstream media such as TV not embracing diversity is high.

For Sharpe, Covid was a “game changer” in exposing the inequality in communications between English and non-English speakers. She says systems weren’t in place to “communicate to everyone all at once”.



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