What a January we’ve had. A time for reflection, for kicking out the bad habits and creating some new ones. Resolutions that are more than likely broken by now.
And there’s been a lot of reflection about the lack of diversity in our industry. In fact it’s been a hot topic for quite a while now. The Drum’s Diversity Census brought a lot of current issues to the fore yet again. There is no lack of will to see change. And yet look around any agency and its clear that we’re not listening to our own advice. Things just aren’t changing fast enough.
My own organisation, SheSays, has grown to 20,000 members over the last nine years across every continent, through the commitment of incredible women around the world who volunteer their time to change the skewed gender ratio within agencies (especially in creative and tech) and tackle the issues that hold us back.
We started with just a few women in London who wanted to do something, not just shine a light on the problem. We weren’t sure what we were going to do or where it would take us, but we all had a commitment to action, and tried things out until we found what worked – mentoring, events, recognition for work, providing role models and visibility for senior women out there. And SheSays is only one of many change agents tackling diversity (or, as MediaCom chairwoman Karen Blackett rightly points out, inclusion). From Creative Equals to The Ideas Foundation, there are many individuals committed to positive change across every area of our business.
But we still need more action and less talk. Nothing is going to change if we sit back and wait for it to happen. So Alex Goat, Jonathan Akwue, Daniele Fiandaca, Nadya Powell, Tolu Farinto and myself launched The Great British Diversity Experiment at Google on 11 January to prove what should be common sense. More diverse creativity means more diverse ideas, new answers to old problems.
We want to prove diversity works. And so do the packed house that came to the launch – the excitement in the room was electric, and there were queues out the door to take part. We don’t know what will happen over the course of the next month, but we’ll all learn something from it, together. At the least about being more open to other points of view and experiences, and aware of what inclusion means, on a personal, visceral level.
There are 180 participants and mentors who made it to London for the launch, and more in Manchester, giving their time and energy to work on a big issue brief from our partner Tesco on how to reduce personal food waste. As a retail business that touches everyone in the UK, we’re proud to have them and their agency BBH on board. MediaCom has given us a platform at SXSW to reach an international audience. Flamingo is making sure we have credible research to back up our findings. And we’ve had generous support from many other businesses and individuals too, including the IPA and The Drum. Thank you all.
But we shouldn't stop here – we need more action; more passionate people within the industry committed to diversity and inclusion to run their own experiments, start their own groups or change the nature of their own companies. Just look at what Andrew Barratt has achieved with Ogilvy Pride. You don't need to be the leader of a business to have a massive impact. You just need to roll your sleeves up. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution I can stick to in 2016.
Laura Jordan Bambach is co-founder of SheSays and Cannt Festival, president of D&AD and Creative Partner at Mr. President. She tweets @laurajaybee