Diversity & Intentionality: Building Bridges Between Media Professionals and Academia at Education Summit

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Media community companies and leaders are being judged by how intentionally they focus on, commit to, and advance the diversity goals and opportunities that will be discussed and shared during the upcoming 90-minute Media Education Summit being hosted this Thursday by MediaVillage and AdvancingDiversity.org. The Summit is bringing together leading educators with industry diversity and inclusion activists to build the bridges required between media professionals and academia.

All media and advertising professionals engaged in advancing education and diversity, along with educators, parents and students can register here for the August 13th Summit (1pm ET). Dean Gracie Lawson-Borders, Howard University Cathy Hughes School of Communications; Dean Mark Lodato, S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University; Andrea Press, Media Studies Department Head, University of Virginia; and Kai Wright, Founder & Curator of blacklist100, and lecturer at Columbia University will engage in a conversation with MediaVillage and AdvancingDiversity.org founder Jack Myers during the 90-minute must-attend event. The Zoom event will be available through pre-registration and will also be live streamed at MediaVillage.com.

Dean Lawson-Borders emphasizes the importance of critical thinking, skill building, and succession planning when it comes to nurturing talent. "We have to prepare people for succession planning. If you get a candidate that comes out of Howard and they're doing great [in business], what practices can we identify and formalize within the industry and organizations to ensure we're doing the best job to bring other people along? When it comes to diverse talent, don't tell me the pipeline isn't there. Where we have a gap is retention and promotion to the next level."

Dean Lodato, who will make his first public appearance speaking to the media community at the Summit, commented: "Intentionality has to be a part of this process. You can't simply enact a plan, a system, an idea and walk away from it. Leaders have so many responsibilities and obligations. It's sort of an easy habit to say, 'Okay, I've got my person on this issue and I've signed off on the plan. So we should be good.' We just can't sign off like that and assume that everything is going to work out. It takes a lot more effort. In a corporate mindset and frankly even in an academic mindset, [diversity] is one of those issues where we've got to do more. I want to grow the numbers of diverse students, faculty, and staff but just because I do doesn't solve the problem. There's a whole ecosystem in the building; there's a culture in the building; there's accessibility to leadership in the building. All of these things play to the issues we're talking about. We need to intentionally make diversity a priority and intentionally assure the organization focuses on achieving key goals."

UVA's Press commented in a pre-Summit conversation, "I'm excited to hear industry people talk about fixing problems of diversity while equally anxious to share the structure of the education we're providing our students because we are feeding them into media industries and watching them excel with skills that are both valued and in scarce supply."

The curation and launch of the Inaugural blacklist100 by Wright put a finer point on the "pipeline versus retention" argument by creating a resource guide to Black leaders who are excelling across industries, including media and advertising. A living and interactive document, the blacklist100 is a digital example of the type of talent that is available. But, says Wright, corporate leaders must be honestly committed to changing the way leadership looks, feels, and operates. Wright and Myers will engage in a keynote conversation to open the Summit, followed by Myers' conversation with Press, Lawson-Borders and Lodato. Wright will join the panel for a concluding focus on key recommendations to the media community.

The discussion will include the need to move beyond data as a measure of success in advancing diversity. As Lawson-Borders pointed out, "data doesn't get to inclusion, belonging equity and fair treatment. Data isn't enough. We need to be judged by who we include, not exclude." Lodato adds, "we need to be more proactive and less reactive, building diversity and inclusion into the culture."

Myers, the nation's leading practicing media ecologist, has long maintained that education and diversity are core pillars to ensuring business growth. The Media Education Summit manifests his commitment to "solutions that show just how the educational, media and advertising communities can come together to create a more knowledgeable and diverse workforce and assure that we as an industry are doing all we can to attract and retain the best and the brightest minds."

The recent Call to Change announcement signed by over 600 media and advertising professionals establishes a roadmap to address diversity and is a shot across the bow of this long-festering issue. MediaVillage has long championed the necessity of connecting academic thought leaders with industry practitioners to create a virtual circle of best practices. "As an industry, we have underperformed in every measure of diversity, retention, and nurturing a diverse talent pool in our workforce," says Myers. "It's a proven fact that advancing education and diversity drives growth."

COVID-19 continues to be a disruptive force cutting across our professional and personal lives as we wrestle with displacement and new ways of connection. Technology has been a vital way for many of us not only to continue to produce work but build relationships and maintain our commitment to ongoing learning. As a byproduct of the "new abnormal," we see an increase in digital communication, and sessions that were previously designed for the physical world have found a home online. In short, our digital spaces are becoming even more cluttered than our physical calendars. MediaVillage has staked out a lane with an emphasis on ongoing online education and advancing diversity as the most important pillars for growth. The Summit conversation will include a discussion on plans for college re-opening and virtual classrooms.

This week's Media Education Summit couldn't be a timelier gathering of academics and professionals with the expressed desire to confront the existing shortcomings and opportunities within advertising and media. The conversation and subsequent insights generated by this program are intended to be a valuable introductory curriculum for organization that is intentionally working to address these challenges. This masterclass on how to use shared expertise to create more relevant and useful ways to link the pillars of education and diversity should not be missed. Register for the in-person ZOOM conversation here, and watch the live stream at www.MediaVillage.com

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