Recently I attended a panel at the BVE entitled ‘Inclusivity in Creative Industries’. A first for me on both fronts: speaking at an industry event in this way, and sharing views on a topic that has had much debate across all sectors.
And it’s needed. We should continue to challenge ourselves as leaders in advertising to recruit diverse minds. Fundamentally, diversity is good for business: a diverse workforce is going to be better at speaking to a broader audience, a win-win for brands and marketers. Inclusivity also has a positive impact on creativity and innovation.
Well, not quite...
The latest IPA census shows that that there is a slight drop in female leaders and in people from non-white backgrounds (compared to a few years ago) in member agencies. So there is more to do to ensure inclusivity in marketing happens. Of course it isn’t only about gender and ethnicity, but a broad spectrum of factors, including social mobility, sexual orientation and neurodiversity. Organisations such as Creative Equals and Grey’s Diversity Task Force are on a mission to drive change here on a practical level for companies. Their approach is one to be admired – setting standards, charters for change and various programmes to identify where inclusivity maybe lacking. And this is great, as long as this is received with a progressive response and action.
In my opinion, true change will happen when inclusivity is present at C-suite level and when business leaders and decision-makers see its benefits rather than seeing it as a tick-box exercise. It needs to become inherent within the values, purpose and mindset of each company in ad-land. While it’s important for agency culture to revolve around a vision or some form of shared ethos, this shouldn’t mean we default to recruiting a workforce with similar experiences and backgrounds to achieve this.
People from various walks of life shouldn’t be put off pursuing roles in marketing either. Maybe it’s the fact that I come from a family of determined Jamaican women, but I’d say perseverance and a decent attitude always goes a long way. I give this advice to rising stars, but it applies at any career stage. Equally, in my career I have seen the benefits of having mentors from similar and different walks of life in senior positions in agency-world. And having inspirational role models like Karen Blackett – WPP’s first UK country manager, reinforce the message that there are opportunities to be taken, if you truly want them and have the talent to match.
And that’s the crucial point: talent. Talent comes in all shapes, genders and backgrounds – add as you see fit. It’s giving talent in all its guises a chance, a space to learn, to flourish, to mature and to inspire. And to rub minds with alternative minds. When this happens the industry will no doubt have a new challenge, perhaps how to inspire the next generation of divergent minds – now that’s a panel I look forward to being on.
Louise King is head of content at Media Bounty