By Jem Bauermeister
Blah blah blah diversity
Everyone’s jumping on the bandwagon. It’s the new eco friendly for businesses. If you don’t talk about it then people think you aren’t doing it and if people think you aren’t doing it you’re in trouble. But then if you do talk about it you’re in even more trouble because what you said is perceived as wrong by a handful of people. And if a handful of people think you’re wrong they shout about it so much that people who weren’t that bothered tin the first place start thinking you’re wrong too. So in order to not be wrong, you look around at what everyone else is doing and saying about diversity and you copy them. You pay particular attention to the other people who aren’t getting into trouble and you try to make yourself just as mediocre as them.
So everyone has statements and logos and guidelines and hiring policies and stock photos of minority groups and hipsters in their communications. They’re all “doing diversity”. And they’re all doing it safely. Some even have women with hairy armpits in their adverts. And the white male CEOs go home and pat themselves on the back knowing that they’ve “joined the conversation”.
But how do we tell the difference between brands who do and don’t ACTUALLY care about diversity? Who’s doing it right and who’s just jumping on the bandwagon? And why should they care in the first place? And also what do we do about all the decent white men? The ones who’ve had the word privilege shoved in their face so much that they start to feel guilty for it.
I went to Digital Podge the other week with two other girls and one guy from SCA. It was an honour to be able to go and I’m so glad we did but it was so clear from being there who it is that runs the tech industry.
I don’t think anyone should ever feel guilty for their privilege. That would be ridiculous. There was plenty of perfectly nice people there who seemed very genuine. And I don’t think they should ever be ashamed for the positions they’ve made it to. But I met someone there who made me realise what the problem is. He admitted in the plainest and simplest words that his girlfriend has a better CV than him but he would feel threatened if she earned more than him. Let that sink in for a while. WHAT?
Back in 2012 my Mum had just finished her PhD and was looking for a post-doctoral researcher position. I remember her sending me a picture of the advertised jobs she was looking at which all had “(male salary)” after the pay figure. Just so that women knew they probably wouldn’t be offered quite that much. WHAT?
You may be thinking these are issues of equality. You might think the reason we shouldn’t discriminate against people based on gender, age, ability, sexuality, religion and pregnancy/parenthood is because it’s not fair. But that’s not the only reason. The main reason is that businesses are at a huge disadvantage if they don’t have a multidimensional
team. How are they supposed to serve a marketplace that they aren’t a part of? Businesses shouldn’t just be aiming to “join a conversation” and say the right things because they’re going to get into trouble if they don’t. They need to be actively aiming to have a team that represents their audience or else they will very quickly become irrelevant and die.
Every person I’ve ever met who is doing it right and looking genuine has one thing in common. And that is actually being genuine. So if you don’t actually care, talk to people who do. Talk to them so much that it rubs off. And once it rubs off and you actually care, you’ll start doing things for the right reasons and not just to look good. You might even actively start coming up with new ideas to improve the situation rather than trying to copy those around you. Looking good will fall to the back of your mind. In fact it might even fall away completely. You might start saying things that ruffle feathers for the right reasons. You’ll make some enemies sure but you’ll be happy about it.
Can’t find someone who gives a shit to talk to? I’ll start you off. Chat to Pip Jamieson at The Dots. Join Token Man. Talk to Marc Lewis, the Dean of our school.
And follow this simple guide on how brands / people / businesses should “do” diversity.
ACTUALLY give a shit.