Coming clean about where your agency is failing to tackle DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) can feel like a bit of a backwards step and is also kinda terrifying. ‘Diversity hushing’ is just that, it’s keeping quiet about shortcomings, or successes, for fear of backlash.
I’ve been in the events industry for over five years now and can see that we’re taking steps in the right direction, but it is still very much a white man’s club. So when Gabby invited me to join her panel at Confex on diversity hushing, I was looking forward to sharing how Diversity Alliance had helped us at Smyle and why it is so important to be open and honest about DEI in the events industry.
Talk to the people who know
You don’t know what you don’t know, so talk to those who do! At Smyle we partnered with Diversity Alliance to kick-start our journey to a more diverse and inclusive agency. We also worked with recruitment agencies that nurture talent from underrepresented backgrounds and held workshops with colleagues. These in-house listening sessions allowed us to find out where we could improve as well as what was working already.
The Snowball Effect
The thing about investing in DEI is that it can start small, and grow into your internal culture and then into your client work. As this snowball effect has taken off at Smyle we’ve been a lot better at celebrating different cultures and bringing in external speakers to recognise awareness days. Overall, we have been more open with each other and conscious that everyone has different needs to thrive. It’s really helped people feel they can be their true selves at work. Day to day you might not feel big changes happening, but if you reflect back on a year or more, there is lots to celebrate.
We heard a question during the session about how we should inspire someone who isn’t really affected by better DEI. But the fact is that a more diverse workforce, more inclusive campaigns and more accessible experiences will benefit everyone. A more diverse workforce means you can reach more diverse clients and their audiences, and that’s just good business! Creativity is stronger and people can vibe off the authentic change that is happening around them.
The part of diversity hushing is that organisations don’t want to share their DEI targets in case they miss them. But if you aren’t sharing your targets or where you want to be better, how will you keep yourself accountable? Accountability is so important when tackling something as powerful as DEI, we’re trying to change systems and biases that are ingrained in society!
Being open about DEI is scary, however, it’s not anywhere near as scary as it is for the people trapped by oppressive systems for many, many years. That said, it brings a bead of sweat to the foreheads of many a business leader. If you are lucky enough to have a position of privilege, I ask you to take that fear and tackle it head on, approach it with openness, and accept that it’s likely you aren’t doing enough. DEI is a journey, and like with any good journey you have to start somewhere. So start by being open and transparent about where you’re at, and where you want to be. I believe it’ll make it more rewarding for you and those around you.
Written by Laura Piper, Marketing & Communications Manager. 02/03/2023.