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Black History Month Inclusion Diversity

How to improve the experience and representation of Black talent in advertising

IAB UK

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October 13, 2022 | 5 min read

“One in three of our Black colleagues in advertising didn't feel they belong in the advertising industry,” revealed the All In Census of 2021

“One in three of our Black colleagues in advertising didn't feel they belong in the advertising industry,” revealed the All In Census of 2021. It’s a stark fact that illuminates the fundamental changes needed in order to both retain and celebrate Black talent in the ad industry. To this end, we’ve asked members of the IAB UK Inclusion, Diversity & Equity group how we can ensure that the conversations and ideas sparked during Black History Month (BHM) maintain momentum, are embedded within our businesses and drive change year-round.

From employing a professional to ensure you’re making meaningful progress, to partnering with external organizations doing great work, here are the insights and advice from Bauer Media, Blis, Index Exchange, LADbible Group, Microsoft Advertising, Quantcast and Xandr.

What is the one thing companies can do to make the biggest difference when it comes to Black representation in the industry?

Kelly Jacobson Collins, privacy compliance director, Blis

Follow through with actions not words. Of course, we have to keep talking about the issue as this is one way people learn about it, however, talking isn't enough. For example, at Blis we've created our Rising Talent program to hire young, diverse people including those from the Black community. We are partners of Brixton Finishing School, MEFA and Digilearning to support and nurture diverse talent in the community.

Chea Ruiz, senior commercial account manager, Xandr​​

Too often companies focus only on diversifying recruitment. Whilst this is a great start, this is not where it stops. Companies need to look internally and understand if they are creating equitable environments. Do Black employees feel seen and heard? Is there opportunity to excel and be promoted? Are they being paid fairly?

Change comes from the inside, and it is imperative that companies are doing the research and implementing the practices, starting from the top. And if they don’t know how to, hire someone who does! Companies can go beyond box ticking by affecting genuine organisational change and empowering Black employees, increasing retention and representation in the industry.

Jeff Simmons, client partner lead, Microsoft Advertising

To ensure Black representation is accounted for and prioritized, I believe companies must be intentional with the data they have, take stock of the current position and look to improve numbers - but also actively push to be analytical and read between what the numbers don’t say.

We all have biases and therefore to ensure we’re aware of those biases I would implore companies to look at eight key metrics for assessing success: sourcing; selection; representation; retention; promotion; development; pay and benefits; employee engagement.

We then have several follow-up points to address progress, success, and blind spots. Data is our ally and it’s important that we use it as a tool to address the problem and not just focus on the output.

How do we ensure that conversations during Black History Month go beyond just October so that actions and progress are made year-round?

Simone Payne-Powell, director, People, Index Exchange

This year's BHM theme of 'actions not words' really pushes us to consider the processes we can put in place to create a more diverse workplace - one where our Black colleagues can feel empowered and welcome. This coming year, one area I'm particularly excited about is continuing to develop our strategy to hire more amazing Black candidates and retain existing ones. By putting our employees at the center of our actions, we can ensure that this progress continues consistently – so that we will continue to be a more diverse and inclusive Index.

Adele Bridgeman, talent business partner, LADbible Group

The enthusiasm shown for the month needs to echo across the entire year and companies need to commit to measurable and tangible DE&I goals in the same way they commit to yearly business planning to get them in the right shape. At LADbible Group, we’ve launched a few Inclusion and Ally groups, one of which is Tribe Network: a community of people committed to championing and spreading awareness of Black and ethnic cultures, which works with our Department Heads and Board to advise and create tangible change across the business in our output.

Megan Lum, head of HR, EMEA/APAC, Quantcast

One of Quantcast’s DE&I pillars is ‘community investment’ and, to this end, we have established a corporate partnership with Brixton Finishing School. Corporate partnerships are a great way to ensure actions and progress continue year-round because it’s not just a one-time volunteer or fundraising event. Pick a local organization that matches your company values, goals, and DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging) mission and build a partnership that you can grow and nurture quarter over quarter and then year over year.

Curtis Moldrich, digital editor, CAR magazine, Bauer Media

Over the last few years, we've been forced to re-examine and rethink our approach to diversity and inclusion at Bauer Media, and every month – as well as every BHM since then – our ‘Race and Equality’ pillar group has come together to think about what effective, lasting change we can achieve. This has taken the form of our brands sharing meaningful and engaging articles around race with our audiences, as well as a newly formed work experience program, designed to attract and develop talent from a wider range of socio-economic backgrounds.

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