I have been leading an agency in the Midwest for more than 20 years now. Reflecting back over the years, I can say that we have always welcomed the idea of a diverse and inclusive environment. We are inclusive. But I can’t say that we are diverse, at least not in a statistically balanced way. I know many other agency leaders in the Midwest and I see the same thing in their organizations. But it’s not just the agencies and leaders that I know personally: a lack of diversity exists for the advertising and marketing community as a whole.
Growing up my parents taught me to treat all people equally regardless of race, background, gender or sexual orientation. My parents got that right. In school I was taught that the issue of racial inequality had been mostly resolved by heroes like Martin Luther King, Jr. and that we have been on a progressive path ever since. My schools got that wrong. Watching the video of George Floyd and the reaction of our country makes it clear. Progress has been derailed. It’s going to take a lot of work to fix things.
While emfluence has always welcomed the idea of diversity and inclusion, it hasn’t created a diverse agency. As a leader, it’s just now that I am waking up to this. I could have seen it at any point if I was looking for it. Now, while we work remotely and meet as a team in our entirety by video conference, I look at all of our faces on screen and see a highly talented and passionate team of people who are mostly alike. We have one black team member. About a week ago she told me that she had been apprehensive about coming in to interview after looking at the pictures of our management team on our website. You can guess what it looks like. We are grateful that she looked past it. But it made me wonder how many other candidates have looked at it and taken a pass at even applying for a position with us. Our lack of diversity is contributing to our lack of diversity. If we are going to grow, we need to solve for that.
What happened to George Floyd—and what has happened to many people of color—goes against everything emfluence believes in. At our core, our mission is to create great jobs for great people, regardless of their race, gender, religion, orientation, or national origin. We deeply value diversity and inclusion, but we are not diverse. Over the last few weeks, we have taken time to discuss internally how we can move from merely supporting diversity to actually being diverse. We started by providing educational resources and open forums for communication about racial equality. We are updating our public facing content to more accurately reflect how we really feel about creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive culture. We have committed to changing the way we recruit talent, select vendors and look for clients. We are discussing our creative processes and our strategies. We are still listening and learning, but we are also taking tangible action to make a sustained impact.
One agency deciding to be proactive won’t solve the problem, but it’s a start and it’s within our control. If more agencies did the same, we could change an industry and that industry could help to change other industries. The voice of the advertising industry is strong. To make it systemic, the next big thing we need to do is become more diverse. Supporting the idea of diversity isn’t enough. It’s not going to come to us. It hasn’t for 20 years. We need to actively seek it. We invite all of our partners, clients, team members and agency friends to join us in actively seeking diversity as an enduring commitment to help right what is wrong.
emfluence is #activelyseekingdiversity