3% Conference Manbassador track challenges men to be part of the solution

The Manbassadors track at the 3% Conference challenges men to act

One of the 3% Movement’s main goals is to get men more involved in the push for diversity, to have them champion more women, people of color and LGBT employees in the advertising workspace, especially at the C-level. That’s why the growth of the 3% Conference’s ‘Manbassador’ track is so important.

In five solid, passionate and sometimes uncomfortable sessions, the panelists relayed their knowledge, their ups and downs in implementing change and challenged people to raise the bar on diversity and equality in the workplace.

Kicking off the sessions on Thursday afternoon in New York was longtime diversity champion Michael Roth of IPG, who called himself one of the “only original Manbassadors.” He talked briefly about his company’s efforts to drive diversity and inclusivity.

“We’ve made great progress…but for people of color, our industry is very weak. We need to do better at that..If we don’t represent the marketplace, we’re doing a lousy job,” he said before introducing industry legend Keith Reinhard.

Reinhard, chairman emeritus at DDB Worldwide, showed how the agency has had a history of championing women, even during the Mad Men era. He said that founder Bill Bernbach made it a point to hire women for roles that normally went to men, including the first woman copy chief, Phyllis Robinson. DDB recently launched the Phyllis Project, a global creative initiative committed to increasing the number of female creative leaders in every region of the DDB network. Reinhard also pointed out that women created some of the most enduring campaigns, including Avis’s ‘Number Two’ and VW’s ‘Lemon.’

Reinhard’s ‘It’s in Your Hands’ session was less about his legendary career and more about what happens when men step forward to mentor and champion women. In fact, he used the words of women mostly, rather than his own, concentrating on 12 women who have been mentors and have been menteed.

He mentioned quotes like “good mentorship come from good relationships,” “mentorship is a two-way streak,” “good mentors encourage their mentees,” “don’t forget to give tough love,” “good mentors open doors,” “allow yourself to be a safe harbor,” “good mentors engage,” “be approachable,” “mentorship is part information and part inspiration,” and “being a mentor is long term.”

The family dynamic

The second session in the track, ‘First Person,’ found Michele Sileo, partner and chief growth officer at Eleven, and God-Is Rivera, director, inclusion and cultural resonance at VML, discussing the flipping of the family/work dynamic with their own very personal stories.

They both discussed their negative gender moments at work. Sileo noted that her first was when she wasn’t invited to a guy’s night out with colleagues in Las Vegas while Rivera walked into her management office for the first time and felt like an ‘other’ in a room full of white men.

Neither woman was deterred and both have succeeded greatly. Sileo noted that working with Donny Deutsch helped boost her confidence. “He asked my opinion all the time – not just me, it was all women. He put me in a position to show up with a point of view,” she said.

For Rivera, an early boss was “into ability and intuition; he did not care what you looked like,” which made her confident in the importance of her ability.

The talk turned to family and how their family dynamics have evolved over the years. Rivera talked about not falling into gender roles and came to tears talking about how her husband went against his traditional role and stayed home while their daughter was born and her career took off. “He stepped into a role he wasn’t used to. He wanted to support me. When I came home and thought I couldn’t do it anymore, he supported me. Society has told us we have to be mother, provider, but don’t be afraid to step into something different. Don’t fall into what society tells you,” she said.

Both talked about how good it is that more employers are working with women – and men – to have more flexible schedules to deal with family issues, but the conversations need to be upfront.

“What men can do is publically honor the schedule or arrangement. Acknowledging the flexibility people have can relieve the guilt,” said Sileo.

Rivera concluded that some people aren’t comfortable with the shift towards powerful women and diversity in the workplace, but if conversations happen, we’ll all be better off.

Their discussion led into a screening of Izzy Chan’s ‘The Big Flip,’ a documentary that follows four American families as they navigate the trials and triumphs of at-home fatherhood and mothers as main breadwinners, which was followed by a discussion with Chan highlighting how difficult, yet rewarding, it can be when traditional gender roles have flipped.

Courageous conversations lead to action

Race and inequality in the workplace was tackled head-on by ‘Courageous Conversations.’ The session featured Wieden+Kennedy’s director of client confidentiality Scott Kleiner opening up by saying that he and his elementary school principal wife were talking about raising their white children in a predominantly white Portland, Oregon with a respect for diversity. He said it got heated and that his wife eventually called him a racist, which led him to question everything, including how diversity affects his community at work.

Kleiner showed a video of W+K founder Dan Wieden talking to an audience, stating that his company hires many privileged white people to do work for an inner city audience that might not even see nor be moved by advertising.

That prompted Kleiner to call Glenn Singleton, president and founder, Pacific Educational Group and a 30-year champion of racial equity worldwide. Kleiner and Singleton eventually persuaded W+K to adopt a 2-day immersive program Singleton developed called ‘Courageous Conversations’ that helps open the conversation about race and unconscious bias.

“We have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” said Kleiner before handing the floor over to Singleton.

“Race matters,” he said frankly before going into some of the hot button issues. He also stated that “courageous conversation precedes courageous leadership” and noted that “systematic equity transformation” is needed to have racial diversity accepted. He noted that Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor was the person who said that race matters.

He said we have to transform the essence of who we are as a culture. “Race matters because of the history and it’s still happening. We’re still building systems that are exclusive rather than inclusive,” said Singleton, adding that one has to be disturbed by the racial disparity in the workplace.

“Our system is set up for that disparity, unless you disrupt it…when we don’t see half the people in the system as people of color, we have a racist system,” he said frankly.

Singleton also stated that the only remedy to address racial disparity is affirmative action, and the only remedy for gender equality in sports is Title 9, so there have to be programs in place to disrupt the system.

The program also pointed out the lack of diversity in chief executives and leaders at the highest level of business – 16 out of 500 chief executives are people of color and there are currently no women of color among the 500.

To change the system and continue the dialogue, Singleton encouraged people to have tough conversations. Ultimately, to have a voice in the conversation, people need to stay engaged, experience discomfort and “speak your truth.”

The final session of the track, ‘He’s Doing It,’ featured four men who are championing diversity in their respective workplaces, and noted that it’s never easy, but it is possible.

Wunderman proudly supports The Drum’s 3% Conference coverage. We believe true diversity does not check boxes, it checks itself. http://wunderman.com/

Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

All by Kyle