The Drum Awards Festival - Social Purpose

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By Gareth Price | Global Strategist

October 18, 2022 | 7 min read

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Maintaining the sense of urgency apparent in the immediate wake of the brutal murder of George Floyd and turning good intentions into meaningful actions were key themes running throughout a Black History Month panel hosted by Meta.

marketing diversity inclusion

We need a mix of initiatives to deliver meaningful change in the marketing industry

While the cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine has pushed racial inequality out of the news headlines in recent months, Black History Month (BHM) acts as a timely reminder of the need to continue the push to deliver genuine systemic change.

Meta’s Fik Woldegiorgis, director of country business marketing for Europe, Middle East, and Africa, opened proceedings by highlighting a recent Media for All (MEFA) study which found that 47% of Black respondents say their organizations had pledged to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the wake of George Floyd’s death but are yet to deliver [Media For All, MEFA Measures Survey, 300+ respondents (MEFA members, UK), April 2022].

While IPA president and international chief executive officer of VCCP, Julian Douglas, suggested we had come a long way as an industry in the past two years – recognizing that initiatives like BRiM (Black Representation in Marketing) had put us on the right path – he encouraged everyone who works in marketing to accelerate that push.

The perception gap

Douglas was joined by the founder of the Barber Shop, Dino Myers-Lamptey, who highlighted the ‘perception gap’ apparent in MEFA’s study, which found a clear difference in how much progress was perceived to have been made by individuals of different ethnicities, genders, and levels of seniority.

That perception gap means that individuals not directly affected by a lack of representation in their company are more likely to be positive on progress on DE&I efforts than those from minority backgrounds, particularly women and those earlier in their career.

MEFA’s survey, for instance, found that senior white males believed the most progress had been made since Floyd’s death, but younger Black females diverged the most in their lived experience of that.

VCCP’s Kenny Dada, who was recently featured on the IPA’s iList of trailblazers, echoed that finding, saying that she felt some of the urgency had passed in recent months and more needed to be done.

She also highlighted the fact it was marginalized communities that were still being called on to do the bulk of the work, calling on the rest of the industry to start “holding the buck, instead of passing it.”

As head of diversity and inclusion at Publicis Groupe UK, Kate Williams pointed out there is “no single silver bullet” to achieve this. She suggested we need a mix of initiatives to deliver meaningful change.

Accelerating careers through sponsorship

Sponsorship was highlighted as one of the biggest opportunities to drive change.

Unlike mentorship, which Dada noted “can be passive,” Douglas said sponsorship was about “becoming someone’s champion [and] sharing opportunities to accelerate their career.”

Sponsorship requires an influential person in a senior position to advocate for and direct opportunities to a more junior member of the team.

To that end, BRiM has developed a multi-company pilot sponsorship program which launches this month. As part of BRiM’s Sponsorship Program, companies from across the marketing, media and advertising industry have selected one or more Black mid-level sponsees to participate but anyone can download the BRiM Sponsorship toolkit to get started on that journey too.

Shining a spotlight on Black talent

Myers-Lamptey also highlighted that it’s important to show Black employees “there’s a path to progress” and Williams challenged the industry to question some of the prevailing “narratives around ‘harder to reach communities’”.

BRiM is equally keen to challenge the notion there’s a lack of Black talent within the industry and shine a spotlight on the abundance of Black marketers doing extraordinary work.

In partnership with The Black and Brilliant Advocacy Network, BRiM has developed ‘The Changemakers: Black and Unboxed Awards 2022’. The Changemakers is about spotlighting both emerging and senior leaders to help them fuel their careers, encourage others to follow them, and to show hiring managers that these people do exist. Nominations are now open and Douglas called on the industry to enter.

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Time for collective action

As Myers-Lamptey highlighted, as the leaders in storytelling, the opportunity is there for our industry to lead the way in increasing Black representation – both on and off camera. However, as Williams noted, “D&I is everybody’s job”: “There is no passivity, you’re either part of the solution or unintentionally part of the problem.”

Ultimately, as Douglas highlighted, “talent is equally distributed, but opportunity isn’t” and we all need to recognize we have a part to play in correcting that imbalance.

To paraphrase Ernest Hemmingway, how do you increase Black representation in marketing? Two ways. Gradually then suddenly.

Now is the time for everyone in the industry to turn our good intentions into meaningful action and deliver the change we promised.

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