Two of Australia's leading creative directors, Clemenger BBDO Melbourne's Stefanie DiGiavincenzo and Google's Tara McKenty are launching RARE Syd, a new initiative aiming to start the conversation around the lack of diversity in the workplace, in particular, Australia's creative industries.
RARE is a four-day masterclass featuring industry leaders from around the world and aims to give talent from diverse backgrounds the network and knowledge they need to succeed.
Hosted in Sydney at The Glue Society from 20 – 24 November, the concept for RARE came about based on the recognition that while there's been a lot of talk about diversity, there's been little action.
Creative and tech departments are still lacking in diversity of gender, colour, class, preference and perspective, especially at the top. Being a minority brings about a set of issues that many aren't equipped to deal with, leading to great talent dropping out of the industry prematurely.
Clemenger BBDO Melbourne creative director and RARE co-founder, Stefanie DiGiavincenzo, says that her personal experience and frustration around an industrywide lack of action led her and Tara McKenty to bring RARE to life.
'RARE truly is a response to a collection of experiences that Tara, myself and many other creatives of diverse backgrounds have had in this industry. Workplaces have been enshrined in a particular way of thinking, acting and behaving, and often it's at the detriment of fantastic talent who don't fit a certain profile," said DiGiavincenzo. Google creative director and RARE co-founder, Tara McKenty, added that the content being provided in the RARE masterclass will go a long way to encouraging diversity and arming people with the tools they need to succeed in departments that aren't geared to nurture diverse talent.
'There's been so much talk about increasing diversity through different means and measures, but we're still fundamentally missing out on the most important driver of change in all of this – the diverse talent themselves. With the collection of creative leaders in attendance at RARE, we're hoping to provide future leaders with the knowledge and networks they need to remove that sense of isolation and equip them with tools they can use to overcome any barriers to their success," added Tara.
The four-day masterclass is designed to combat the challenges that minorities face in the workplace, by arming them with tangible tips and skills from industry leaders who've overcome similar experiences over the course of their careers.
The RARE program has been developed in partnership with Berlin School, with the lineup of speakers including BBDO India Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, Josy Paul, CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Amusement Park, Jimmy Smith, Noongar Physician, researcher and professor, Sandra Eades and world-leading stencil artist, Vexta, among a host of other local and international creative leaders.
All proceeds from the event will be put towards grants and initiatives that further deliver on RARE's objective to boost diversity. If you are interested in supporting or sponsoring the event or a scholarship please contact www.rare-syd.com.
For further information on the RARE program www.rare-syd.com.
Question: Can you tell us about RARE?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: RARE is a new diversity initiative which was established in answer to the dwindling numbers of minorities in the creative industries – particularly at leadership levels. More than just a 'meet-up' group, RARE is a collection of projects, events and products that are designed to equip minorities with the tools, knowledge and inspiration to deal with some of the unique issues that they face in their day-to-day. Our platform has launched with a leadership masterclass – facilitated by some of the world's leading creative minds, as well as Berlin School for Creative Leadership – designed to give attendees an advantage towards their career aspirations, and arm them with the insights they need to tackle unconscious bias, isolation and marginalization in their workplace. All proceeds from the masterclass – including ticket sales and sponsorships – are going back into the industry in the form of grants and scholarships that help drive diversity further, like paid internships for interns from low-socio backgrounds, indigenous scholarships to top art and design schools, and paid maternity leave for female CDs who aren't entitled to benefits.
Question: What inspired the creation of this platform?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: Tara and I have both faced the challenges that minorities are currently experiencing in the workplace – and in many ways, still do. But we've been fortunate enough to have exposure to amazing mentors and programs that have equipped us with the tools to overcome them. Of course, huge numbers of creative minorities haven't been so lucky, and many of them walk away from the industry before they make it to leadership levels. We'd always spoken about launching an initiative in this space. But, one day when a friend of ours (Carmela Soares, another female CD) was trolled for sharing her frustration with the lack of diversity in an article on Campaign Brief, we decided it was time to act.
Question: How do you hope to tackle diversity with RARE?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: By going to the heart of the issue. Minorities face a set of unique challenges in creative departments across the globe. They can feel marginalized, overlooked, and are often on the receiving end of prejudice and bias – both conscious and unconscious. But rather than mandating that agencies change – which, to be fair, is an unrealistic expectation in the short term – we decided it would be more effective to equip minorities with some of the tools, knowledge and inspiration that has helped people like Tara and I stick with the industry and rise through the corporate ranks. In this way, we should see more minorities sticking around longer, and therefore a shift in ratios at leadership level over the next 5 years. Of course, over time this should gain momentum. Once our candidates make it to CD and above, they'll be in a position to influence culture and support the minorities on their teams towards their career aspirations too.
Question: What ways can women begin the conversation to promoting diversity within their workplace?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: I'd suggest that conversation within the workplace hasn't ever really moved the dial. That's been the acceptable solution for the past 10 years, but what it's led to is fatigue – and even distain – from people within those offices that can't relate. For women who feel like they need support and want to help change things, i'd say arm yourself with the connections and insights that'll empower you regardless of the office culture. Whether that be through programs like Rare, or just by hitting up someone you admire on linkedin and asking if they'll be your mentor.
Question: Why did you choose to work with Tara McKenty on this project?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: It's not often you, as a female CD working in Australia, meet another female CD from oz. But when you do, you tend to stay in touch and stick together. Which is exactly what happened when Tara and I met on the jury for D&AD in London back in 2016. At that time, we spoke casually about working together to improve diversity at home. And so, when I saw the backlash against Carmela's article in Campaign Brief, Tara was the first person I called. At that moment, we decided enough was enough, and started working on what eventually became Rare.
Question: How can Australian women support RARE Syd?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: This coming Thursday 24th November, our RARE Syd closing party is taking place at Glue Society from 5.30pm-9pm. There, we'll be launching and auctioning off Sample for Rare – a limited edition beer brewed based on the diversity statistics of the industry, a collaboration between Sample and Maud design studio. Also featured in the auction will be the original works from Rare artists in residence – world-renowned artists that have flown in from around the world to create exclusive pieces during the week of Rare, including Vexta, Gemma O'Brien, Andrew Steel and Minky Stapleton. All the proceeds from the auction go towards grants and scholarships that will drive diversity across the industry. If you want to support the event, come along! Bid on some art, try the Rare beer, and network with other Rare minds.
Question: Can you share with us the numerous benefits you've found of having a cultural, gender and sexually diverse work place?
Stef DiGiavincenzo: Progressive companies around the world know, innovation isn't possible without diversity. If you have a bunch of people who think the same, it stifles the chance to break out of 'how we've always done it' to facilitate something new and ground breaking. So from a business perspective, having a range of perspectives and life experiences not only supports innovation, it makes the work better – more interesting, more relatable to the wide array of cultures and generations in our society, and therefore, more effective. If you don't have diversity in your company, you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back.
From a personal perspective, though, diversity makes the day-to-day fascinating. Some of my favorite jobs have been in departments with a real mix of culture, ethnicity, sexuality and (duh) gender. I find the way people from different backgrounds think refreshing. Working in homogenous departments is like eating steak and steamed veg for dinner every night. Diversity is like sitting down to dinner and being served a Moules Marinieres with a side of crunchy bread!
Interview by Brooke Hunter