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A Single Action To Drive Successful Representation

We’ve all heard the saying “representation matters”. I’m making the assertion that “successful representation matters” because the former statement is not enough. It is the representation of successful women, successful people of colour and successful people of various backgrounds that matters.

We all know the former statement is important. Perhaps you’re sick of hearing it, and maybe you know it’s important but don’t know what to do next. Allow me to explain why successful representation matters to someone like me.

When a person of colour or woman of colour is represented in marketing and media, it is a proclamation of acceptance. It cuts deeper when you see someone like yourself portrayed as an aspirational figure on a poster frame, in a magazine or interview because it affirms your acceptance as a whole: the way you look, your practices and your values. When you see someone successful who looks like you, wider society has positioned you as a leader. You are no longer an outlier. Your skin colour, religion, creed or sexual orientation are welcome in the workplace.

When successful representation is executed artfully, it enables people to speak to their stories, strengths and struggles that were formative to their success journey. Acceptance is affirmation of an intelligent and open-minded society; one that does not fear change for the betterment of its people.

Those who resent the crumbling of a system that has unjustifiably served them to date are fearful of what the consequences will mean for them. Thoughts like these are usually linked to the protection of money, titles, and the illusion of power. Regressive thoughts are not limited to those of a particular hue or gender. Sadly, I’ve seen women undercut other women, or people of colour (who are in a position of power) stand by silently when others have made derogatory comments in a workplace.

The redefining of what success looks like matters because if you do not look or act a particular way, then you are looked past, or over, for ‘status quo’ individuals. Corporate titles are usually used to measure a person’s socio-economic standing in society and in the workplace. We must acknowledge that such titles and traditional markers of success are not truly encompassing Australian stories. The definition of success must be expanded to celebrate those who overcame systemic and behavioural barriers to advance their careers. It must be expanded to include those who did not follow a customary path or career choice and are still leaders within their communities.

Making a difference within your immediate orbit can be powerful and effective. Here is a foundational step that you can take in your workplace:

If you can influence marketing collateral, and if you can influence media, pledge to a 30% rule.

Pledge that you will have 30% of your media and marketing focussed on successful women. Pledge that you will have 30% of your marketing collateral, like website images and RFPs, include successful women and people of colour.

You can adjust the pledge to represent others from a diverse background. Representing women and people of colour are dear to my heart. The pledge is inspired by McKinsey’s Diversity Wins: How inclusion matters (May 2020) report, which states companies with 30% more women on their executive teams outperform teams with only 10-30% women.

I urge that we must become a society that is embedding true representation of the Australian diaspora in our workplaces. Creating change isn’t dependent on the colour of your skin, your gender or sexual orientation. It is dependent on having a mindset focussed on the growth of your team, no matter how different they might appear to you.

By creating space for the representation of successful women and people of colour, you are actively choosing to dismantle the pecking order of what success looks like in corporate Australia. The representation of success must undergo an evolution if we are to truly embrace the individuals who contribute to Australian society. If you want to see examples of accomplished Australians, then tune into my Instagram Lives on Wednesdays (@darshana_is_dash). You will hear from lawyers, models, and others who have manufactured their unique and unconventional pathways to success.

This isn’t about tokenism. This is about reflecting the diversity of your workplace and Australia without turning it into an achievement, but rather, an integrated and normalised way of working. We can be better, and we must do better if we truly consider ourselves as leaders.

Change starts small.
Small can be powerful.
Powerful actions influence outcomes.