Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Driving Real Change in Your Marketing Organization

The lack of diversity, equity and inclusion in the marketing industry, amongst many others, has been a well-known issue for many years. The Black Lives Matter movement has brought light to the need for action from agencies and organizations to start making real change. 

To give some perspective, 85% of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) member company CMO’s are white, while 3% are black, 5% are asian, and 4% are hispanic/latino, according to their 2019 Diversity Report. 

So, what can you do to drive diversity, equity and inclusion in your company? 

A Top-Down Approach isn’t Enough

DE&I cannot happen without real intent and effort. Top-down approaches drive compliance, not commitment. Senior leaders, all the way down to frontline employees, have to see and understand their role in the company and be committed to building and retaining a diverse teams. It’s important to note that quotas do not automate diversity, equity or inclusion. Hiring goals may boost numbers and create the illusion of DE&I, but does not actually create an inclusive culture. First, it requires taking an honest look at the end-to-end employee experience, with a focus towards creating conditions that promote equity and inclusion on a daily basis, as well as designing ways to measure that impact. Second, companies must be willing to put a real financial investment into improving diversity. Organizations that have specialized DE&I recruitment and outreach solutions have shown real results. 

Make an Ongoing Effort 

Having one yearly “diversity training” is not enough. Just as any behavior change, DE&I takes individuals being able to identify key moments when they can build new habits and attitudes. When these new habits and attitudes are put into action in an environment that supports meaningful conversations and healthy tension, real change can become possible. 

It’s essential to shift your business overarching goals, mission and vision to build and support a culture based on awareness, acceptance and the development of an increasingly diverse team. This may even require investing in minority-owned training and coaching firms. In the marketing and advertising industry, it’s common for companies to recruit from the same pools of people who just jump from one job to the next. Consider becoming a part of college internship programs with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other distinguished minority organizations, including NSBE, SHPE, NBMBAA, ALPHA and others. When it comes down to it, senior leaders must be committed to increasing hiring, developing, promoting and retaining black and minority representation at all levels of the organization. 

Consider Your Culture and Brand 

In any real transformative effort, brand and culture go hand-in-hand. What you offer to your customers reflects your values and your biases. When working on building better DE&I, the relationships going on internally and externally with your company. What does your brand, your employees and your customers say about your organization and culture? Are your employees’ and customers’ values and beliefs congruent with your company vision and mission? Ultimately, everything all of these elements are intertwined and to drive real success, everything and everyone must be in agreement. 

How Members of the Organization Can Help

It’s important to remember that this is NOT about hitting minority quotas. This is about opening up your organization to members of minority communities that enrich the culture of your organization, bring real value, and propel your company forward in progression and innovation. Hiring managers should focus on real skills and qualifications, ensuring that no candidates are screened with biases. 

As far as employees themselves pushing for change, this can be done in a number of ways:

  • Do your own research and educate yourself on why having DE&I in the workplace is important. 
  • Find data and present that to the decision-makers, as well as give real action items that push for change. 
  • Use your voice. When you see or hear something that you know is not right, stand up against it. It’s not enough to “not be racist,” we must be anti-racist. Those that have privilege must use it to give a voice to those without. 

Final Thoughts 

Throughout this process, one of the most important things to remember is that you cannot expect the POC to tell you what needs to be changed, what you’re doing wrong, and what you should be doing in your organization. Take initiative to educate yourself with books, podcasts, documentaries, or whatever other means you find necessary. Real change is not possible without real action. 

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