‘Invisible attributes’: You can’t tell diversity from only a photograph


She's The Boss Chats podcast participants. Source: supplied.

If you look at the photo that goes with this article, you might not think you’re looking at a diverse group of women, as someone recently suggested to me. 

This image includes women who are trans, over 70, young, Asian, migrant, refugee, disabled and Indigenous.

Diversity isn’t only about gender or skin colour. It’s about so much more than that, and at a time when many businesses are realising the importance of inclusion and diversity, I think we need to move away from only considering the visual interpretation of diversity and move to a deeper level.

Diversity and inclusion is about including everyone, all types of people and making them feel welcome and heard.

In my podcast series, which is where the image comes from, there are incredible women from all walks of life. They are all sorts of nationalities including African, Russian, Icelandic, American, Romanian and Greek women. They are migrant and refugee women, women in wheelchairs or on walking sticks, trans women, gay women, rural women and old women. They are women from privileged backgrounds, and women who have grown up poor or in traumatic circumstances. They are incredibly diverse and reflect the society we live in.

I’m a little bit sick of the way people either troll others on social media or make remarks about diversity based only on one attribute, like skin colour. Of course we need to make women with darker skin visible because historically they have a much harder journey than those of us with white skin, but what about the 20% of the population that is disabled?

We so rarely see disability as part of the rich mix of diversity, but that is also because a lot of disabilities can be ‘invisible’. You can’t see mental health issues, you often can’t tell if people have prosthetics or if they are blind or deaf.

The same goes for our LBGTQI brothers and sisters. They need to be made visible and their stories told too, but if you looked at a photo of them you may not realise that they are from a minority group. Let’s be honest, LBGTQI people come in all shapes, sizes, ages and ethnicities and straddle the full gamut of diversity.

Many migrant and refugee people have come from Eastern Europe or South America, as well as, of course, Africa or the Middle East. You may not be able to identify them easily in an image. You would need to talk to them, or be told, to not mistake them as Anglo Saxon or European.

Let’s not forget about age too. Diversity means including old and young, middle aged and elderly people. There is a discussion about ageism in business that is gathering momentum right now (thank goodness!) but some older people look younger than they are. Younger people can look older than they are. You can’t take an image at face value.

We need to have diversity in our role models and in the media. In Australia we have a fantastic mix of cultures and diversity and the importance of including these people can’t be underestimated, but I urge you not to make judgements based only on images. Ask questions, include everyone and help them to rise.


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Bronwyn Reid
Bronwyn Reid
10 months ago

Excellent article Jules. Yes, diversity comes in many, many forms. And we celebrate them all.

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