Marketing Diversity & Inclusion

True diversity means no one is ‘The Only’

By Jennifer Risi and Kat Gordon, Worldwide



Opinion article

June 25, 2018 | 5 min read

For many of our colleagues in creative industries, being “diverse” has too often meant someone is “the only”: the only woman; the only person of color; the only mother. In an industry where collaboration is key, this is a lonely place to be.

A sea of colourful umbrellas in different positions

Diversity is about a mixture / Pixabay

The #MeToo movement and its “Time’s Up” aftermath have brought people together and reignited diversity conversations around the world. From Fortune 500 Boardrooms to Michelin-starred kitchens, both the powerful and the newly-empowered are engaged in a long-overdue discussion about just what it means to have a workplace that’s diverse and inclusive.

But talk is cheap. Real change takes time, and the time has come to take real, decisive action.

On the opening day of the Cannes Lions festival, conversation turned into commitment as Ogilvy’s Worldwide co-chairman and chief creative officer Tham Khai Meng announced that the agency will develop a global pipeline for senior women of color over the next 24 months and hire 20 senior women in creative globally by 2020.

Of course, this starts with nurturing and promoting existing leaders from within Ogilvy as well as hiring outside talent. For too long, creativity has been framed through well-worn archetypes that distorted what leadership can and should look like. Creatives begin their careers with very low pay and very long hours; it’s a hard knock industry, and its future leaders often rise through trial by fire. Our success will be measured by how those who withstand those challenges are positioned to truly drive creativity across their organization.

This is a commitment not just to conversation but to results, and getting results requires that we recognize diversity as far more than a headcount issue. It’s about ensuring leaders are valued not as tokens but as executives who are empowered to do great work. This is where a brand’s net promoter score comes in: diverse leaders must be able to recommend an organization to their colleagues, friends and family as a place of welcome and creative nourishment. If someone feels their role is not to drive excellence but to check the boxes of a corporate mandate, they’ll find the exits.

Our commitment demands that we ensure no one is invisible, and women of color in particular have been denied a seat at the table for too long. Today, black women in particular represent the single-most educated portion of the workforce with the highest stated desire to lead, yet have the lowest correlative representation in leadership. Single women of color globally typically find themselves left out of the conversation altogether. We are committed to changing that and being held accountable.

As we know, this is not just the right thing to do – it’s also just good business. One in five women in the world is Chinese, and one in six is Indian. Our creative work must be planned, shaped and executed by those who understand the broader roles those women play in a global society. Only a truly diverse workforce can create work that speaks to them.

This means never going with the obvious – as one of our colleagues put it: We want an industry where women can work on beer, and men can work on diapers. In identifying women and people of color to lead that work, we should be asking ourselves tough questions: How are we bringing them in? Are we talking to young people at their schools? Who are their heroes? Are we doing enough?

This is about growing ourselves and our understanding of our industry as we look to promote women and people of color from within and welcome more diversity from the outside. Only by asking the right questions, taking measurable action and holding ourselves accountable for results can we achieve true diversity in creative leadership. This work will only be complete when no one feels they are “the only.”

Now let’s get to work.

This piece was co written by Jennifer Risi, Ogilvy's worldwide chief communication officer and managing director of the media influence team and Kat Gordon, co-founder of the 3% Movement.

Marketing Diversity & Inclusion

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