All Talk: What Are We Actually Doing About Diversity and Inclusion in the Ad Industry?

By Havas Media InSites Archives
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We all know that we need diverse voices in advertising, and we know why: Consumers from all walks of life want to see themselves represented on screens, on billboards, and in print. To get that right, advertising and media agencies need representation behind the scenes to create the most meaningful content for a wide variety of consumers.

Everyone is talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but how are we putting those well-intentions into action?

As a recruiter at Havas Media, I have seen the struggle to find not only great talent, but also great, diverse talent. It's important to first recognize that most of us have not had a hard time getting hired as a non-diverse candidate. For example, I am a white female who went to a Big Ten university and have never experienced a hiring bias due to my name, the color of my skin, or my sexual orientation. During my interview with my soon-to-be boss, Lisa Evia, president of Havas Media Chicago, we discussed the importance of hiring diverse talent. This sparked an instant connection as improving diversity is a key organizational goal at the agency.

We make a conscious effort to always look for diverse talent, and with every open position we include at least one diverse candidate in the mix. Since implementing this action, we have seen an uptick in our diversity percentage — 33 percent growth over the past two years. We certainly don't claim to have all the answers and we recognize we have a long way to go ourselves, but here's what we've learned so far.

Hiring for diversity isn't just a recruiter's responsibility, but an organization's effort as a whole. Educate your managers on the importance of hiring diverse talent and how it helps the business. Our clients are well known American brands that sell products and services to a diverse marketplace. We need a broad diversification of employees with different perspectives on the business to successfully position and sell into that marketplace.

Help diverse candidates visualize themselves in an advertising and media agency. At some of the events Havas Media has co-hosted with city colleges, such as Harold Washington, we tell students about the amazing career opportunities in advertising and media. This is a way for us to introduce Havas to the students, as well as have a teachable moment around the types of career opportunities they can potentially pursue in the ad space in general. We find that most of these students didn't know that these opportunities even existed.

Other events we participated in have been resume reviews, career fairs, and LinkedIn seminars. This is a great way for us to help students create their "personal" brand on their resume and LinkedIn.

Future plans include creating a rotation program where it feeds directly from the city colleges into our agency. Many of Harold Washington's students go to school at night and work during the day to pay for school. This initiative would allow us to help students pay for their education and expose them to an array of different jobs, such as planning, buying, analytics, paid search, and paid social. Many of the skills and competencies you need to be a successful ad professional are learned on the job versus in the classroom, and we are looking forward to building out this initiative.

Retention is just as important as recruiting. Once you increase your efforts of hiring diverse talent, turn your attention towards retention. It's important to create a work environment where all parties feel valued and heard. If you don't already, send out employee satisfaction surveys. Don't be afraid to ask the tough questions and be sure to take action on feedback.

Additionally, allow your employees to get involved in the cultural aspect of your business. One of our initiatives has been to roll out culture committees throughout each office across the U.S. These committees meet weekly to discuss various topics ranging from Women's Equity Day, Pride Month, and Black History Month. They are 100 percent employee-run, and they are a great way for our company to focus on sensitive topics in a safe place. It's also an opportunity to create internal programming — such as our award-winning Black at Work — that sparks meaningful conversations among our staff.

Ultimately, agencies must continue to make a mindful effort to have diverse talent in the pipeline by constantly pushing the business to invest in events and programs that focus on diversity. This starts by consciously focusing on hiring individuals with different backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences.

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