Not Another Panel Discussion about Diversity
72andSunny Amsterdam's Laura Visco shakes up our expectations of diversity and forces us to look at reality.
Last week at D&AD I joined the panel, Diversity: Not Another Panel Discussion.
We discussed why diversity is a hot and vital topic and yet the leadership ranks of the creative world remain predominantly white and male.
Instead of focusing on the negative, I started with myself - a South American female creative director, on the panel - I believe change will come!
As for the discussion itself, things got quite interesting when people started to ask questions. One person asked if any metrics exist that prove that diversity works.
We need to get this right: diversity is not a moral imperative, it’s a creative one. Yes, it does make the work stronger. You don’t need data to prove that being around people who are different from ourselves makes us smarter, because it forces us to go the extra mile, every minute, every day. Most simply because you can’t rely on obvious cultural references or lazy short cuts. Learning different perspectives forces us to go deeper, and it makes us work more diligently and piques our curiosity. Diversity takes us out of autopilot to reach a totally unexpected consensus. The consensus a German, a Brazilian and a Barbadian can reach.
Most importantly, diversity is not about ticking boxes when hiring, it’s about reshaping those boxes. Creating a diverse workforce means taking talent seriously as a discipline. In order to do that, we need to redefine what fitting in really means when hiring. Are we mixing and matching in an obvious way? Only minds who don’t think alike can lead to the unexpected. And the unexpected often leads us to creative excellence. So should we focus on people who don’t necessarily fit instead? Having someone who is the exact opposite from you is a blessing. (And yes, it’s also a business advantage).
Going back to the questions, the most surprising one was about the dilemma of having a child or having a career as a female creative. I was shocked because nobody would ask that question to a man, ever. It’s 2016, and having a child should be a shared responsibility. This is one reasons why fair paternity leave is so important, and needs to be part of the agenda. It corrects the mindset that children are a female’s responsibility, which is certainly not the case. Not anymore.
All in all, we need to stop thinking about diversity as doing the right thing, but as doing the best thing - something that makes creative work significantly stronger. Advertising needs people from different backgrounds (and yes, that includes mothers and fathers!). Advertising needs different eyes to view problems so we can reframe creative challenges in unexpected ways. That’s how we can grow this industry into a more interesting, relevant one: not only by looking different, but by smashing group thinking and coming at things in a more diverse way.
And, we need more panels to continue the conversation - at the least to submit people into action. From the Truman Old Brewery to reality.