Diversity, Equity and Inclusion - Getting into the industry with a disability was nerve wracking

Petrice Koutsis
By Petrice Koutsis | 24 August 2021
Petrice Koutsis.

AdNews, in partnership with the MFA (Media Federation of Australia), presents a series of articles from members of the MFA's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council.  The body promotes the MFA’s ambition to build a diverse, equitable and inclusive industry:

Petrice Koutsis, Partnerships Executive, Defence Force Recruitment, UM Brisbane:

What motivates you to advocate in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion? 
Getting into the industry with a disability was nerve wracking. Not knowing when a flare-up of my illness could arise, worrying about sick leave, worrying about going to appointments – just having to deal with all of these factors that a lot of people do not have nor need to consider.

A big ordeal for me was that I thought it to be a disadvantage, but that’s not what it is. The flexibility of catering to people with disabilities needs to be considered. We can do the same work as other people; we just need to do it a little differently sometimes.

I’ve only been in the industry for a year and a half, but I’m hoping to use this as a leverage – pioneering the change that the industry needs to diversify the needs of those who work within the industry.

I see being new as a benefit. As I haven’t been set in the ways the industry works, I am coming with an outsider’s perspective of the type of workplace I want to work in and what others coming into the roles like me would want.

Where are we seeing progress and where are there still inequities to be addressed?  

I recently spent two weeks in hospital for my illness, and I have been worried sick about missing work, which in turn made me feel even worse. The mentality of missing work and sick days is so stressful and bad for our health. Having this restriction on how many days you are allowed to be sick is a terrifying thing to think about for someone who is chronically ill with an unpredictable illness.

My team members were very caring and considerate while I was on leave, and wished me well, asked for constant updates and were incredible to interact with. However, I still had this looming dread over what I was coming back to. And not enough sick leave to deal with it. However, more broadly, I think there are still improvements to be made when it comes to accommodating for the chronically ill.

Advocating for open communication and being honest about illnesses is something I am really hoping to address while being a part of the MFA DE&I Advisory Council. Holding back because you’re scared of losing your job or getting into trouble is worse for your quality of work at the end of the day, because you aren’t working to the best of your ability.

What should our priorities be as an industry in the area of DE&I?

A top priority should be to make all differences feel equal. There isn’t one area that’s more important or more relevant than the rest. By lessening one’s experiences it creates a divide, and nothing will change unless this divide is eradicated.

We should also focus on instilling the changes we make, and showing real results that change the industry for the better. It’s one thing to say that something is happening, and it’s another to actually make that happen.


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