Note: This letter was originally published in our weekly newsletter and is being republished here.
The other day, after noticing that an event lacked ethnic and racial diversity and representation in its panellist mix as well as in its advertising and marketing, my first thought was, “Here we go again…”.
But I took a deep breath and reminded myself that just because I happen to notice that I’m often the only ‘person of colour’ (or at best, one of a few) at many sustainability-focussed events I go to, and that the viewpoints offered are usually generic and singular, doesn’t mean that organisers and coordinators intentionally make an event non-diverse. Some have no idea about issues unless it affects them and their target demographic directly. Others (most of us actually) have an unconscious bias towards people who look like, live like, talk like, dress like, live in the same postcode like they do but they’re not maliciously enforcing some sort of White Australia Policy (note: White Australia Policy was a real set of immigration and labour policies that prevented folks of Non-European backgrounds such as Asians and Pacific Islanders from migrating to Australia; these set of laws were legally abolished in 1973, thank goodness!!).
So instead, I emailed the crew. Here’s a snippet of the email I wrote (mind you, I am direct and frank, who has time to beat around the bush? hahaha!):
“…I have to point out that there seems to be an overall lack of ethnic and racial diversity with panellists etc as well as on your Instagram feed. Eco Warrior Princess champions inclusion and ethnic and racial diversity in sustainability and media… and would love to see this reflected in your event too. Just thought I’d voice this as we are interested in seeing a more diverse sustainability community!…”
I received this response to my email:
“For our speakers and exhibitors, we take applications from both exhibitors and external parties, and then collate our schedule. If you have any one in mind, we would love to ensure we can become more diversity for next year!”
Now I could have gone back and forth with questions like: Where did you advertise for these spots? Was it published in communities that are multicultural or in the same, typical communities again? Did you post on your Instagram and Facebook where algorithms are often geared to who you already know and like, or did you actually try something different to attract a more diverse community? Should you have played a more proactive role by approaching a diverse set of people directly in order to have a more diverse event, given that you are the organiser? And, should diversity and inclusion be in your business values anyway since we can’t have true sustainability without including minority and marginalised groups?
But I didn’t. You want to know why? Because I firmly believe that most of us aren’t awakened to much until, well, we’re awakened, either by an experience, a discussion, an expressed opinion, or someone taps us on the shoulder. Maya Angelou said it best: “When you know better, you do better.”
Now truthfully it can be annoying to often be the one to say something, but then, looking the other way, moaning or gossiping doesn’t fix the problem now does it? And kudos to this amazing team for being so welcoming and inviting of the idea to make our community more diverse and inclusive!
If you’re interested in learning more about improving diversity and inclusion in media, business and fashion, check out this post I wrote on the matter.
Anyway, here’s what I’m reading, watching and listening to:
Podcast Shows / Films:
Daughters of Destiny, Netflix. This is a documentary series that really tugs at the heart and opens your eyes. The series shot over 7 years follows girls from India’s ‘untouchable’ caste who are usually denied education as they are provided an education and a chance to help lift their families out of poverty. A must-watch in my opinion.
Regionalism, politics and the Queensland factor, Big Ideas. Provides great insights as to why Australian Labor got such poor results in Queensland, discussing misconceptions about Queenslanders and dismantling stereotypes. Important if we are keen to understand how to mobilise people on climate change (and particularly as we look to the US 2020 election, given Queensland is kind of representative of America’s mid-west!)
How to Save the Whole Stinkin’ Planet, by Lee Constable. Educational book for teaching kids about reducing waste, composting etc and includes fun and practical activities that engages kids.
Stung! On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean by Lisa-ann Gershwin (I’m a slow reader hahaha)
How Canadians Raised Millions to Save 2,000 Pristine Acres, The New York Times
Bushfires reveal urgency of climate change fight, The Sydney Morning Herald
And that’s all from me. Enjoy the rest of your week and if there’s something that’s bothering or concerning you, about representation and inclusion right through to greenwashing or lack of climate policy, do what I did and just let the person/brand/organisation/politician know! 🙂
Peace, love and all that jazz,
- Mind Your Culture: How Asian Cultures Perceive Love, Honour and Shame
- Communicating Sustainable Living: Expanding the Narrative So That It’s Culturally Inclusive
- Don’t Be Fooled, the Civility Debate is a Tool to Silence Marginalized Voices
- The Vegan and Cruelty-Free Makeup and Beauty Products That I Use (Which Suits My Asian Skin Tone)
- Rin Models Bringing Diversity to the Fashion and Modelling Industry
- The Problem with Apu: Why We Need Better Portrayals of People of Colour on Television
- Sinchi Photo Competition Celebrates the Strength and Beauty of Indigenous Cultures
Feature image by Brittani Burns.