Visit Interpublic Group's website home page and "Diversity" is front and center on the navigation bar, linking to a dedicated section at interpublic.com/diversity/ and a sub-section on results. While agency holding companies all emphasize their culture, career opportunities and diversity, no industry leader has been as single-mindedly focused on advancing diversity, and especially gender equality, as IPG's chairman and CEO Michael Roth (pictured above). In an interview, Roth and Heide Gardner, IPG's Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, expressed appreciation for the industry's recognition of their successes in advancing women into senior positions, incorporating diversity and inclusion into the IPG culture, but stressed that more work is needed. Roth, Gardner and IPG will be inaugural inductees into the Diversity Hall of Honors at the Advancing Diversity Honors event to be held during CES on January 10 at Caesars Palace from 4 to 8 p.m. Also being inducted are Unilever, Nielsen, the Advertising Council, iAB's iDiverse program, Ernst & Young, Kay Koplovitz and Ruth Hedges. Visit ces18.com to learn more about the event and register to attend.
"There's a great deal of research that indicates we are doing better as an industry with gender in management and the executive levels," Roth commented. "But inclusivity, which means the intention of including traditionally marginalized or excluded groups, extends beyond women to people of color, LGBT, disabled and other groups, along with embracing diversity of views, diversity of experience and skills. Inclusion is our ultimate challenge in business and society. Aside from being right, it's a positive business case," he emphasizes. (View Roth's She Runs It talk on diversity.) "We started our efforts over a decade ago, but now many of our clients are demanding that the teams representing them are diverse? In a recent major pitch, all the executives sitting at the table from the client were female. Imagine if our team was all male! We must have a diverse organization; in fact, some RFPs demand it and government work requires it."
Roth points out that the same issues apply to IPG's media partners. "The insights and content from media owners need to reflect what we are looking for," he says. "The same rules apply. Investors demand it also."
While working with the AAF, Gardner's early work with clients such as Bob Wheling at P&G, Phil Guarascio at General Motors and Andrea Alstrup at Johnson & Johnson, who had corporate commitments to inclusion that they believed should also be reflected at their agencies, led her to recognize the business value of advancing diversity for reasons beyond its moral and human importance. "The leadership of our industry needs to walk the talk; when we embarked on our strategy at IPG, many executives' first response was to share the organizations they belonged to and contributed to," she recalls. "That's great -- but we require accountability and taking specific actions for moving the needle within their business groups."
Roth agrees. "We are continuing our work with women and expanding our focus on people of color," he notes. "Forty-two percent of our agencies' executives are female while black women represent only one percent of that leadership level for our industry. It's clear we have much further to go, and we are continuing to hold our leaders accountable for workforce goals for people of color. The industry overall has had a leaky pipeline on retaining people of color that we're addressing inside IPG. We've launched a strategic effort to provide tools and a framework for narrowing these gaps."
"You have to do that proactively," Gardner points out. "We are focusing on addressing issues like creating pathways for sponsorship of people of color. Unless leaders take people of color under their wings, we will not see the kind of progress we would like." IPG has sponsored research focused on disrupting perceptions of bias, which Roth describes as "an assessment of how bias can creep into the retention and advancement of people. What can make the biggest difference in retention and advancement is personal involvement of people in leadership roles. We're doing a lot more coaching and advocacy by those in positions of power and influence. One of our programs includes an element that involves identifying team members who have high potential, mapping out a personal game plan for going forward and connecting them with senior executives who are good mentors."
"You need top-down accountability for meeting objectives," Roth declares. "Accountability filters down; with executive incentives dependent on meeting benchmarks for success, it has teeth. I always believe in moving the needle with clear targets." He points to a success record with three-quarters of the first group in the program receiving promotions and another 15% making moves to get more experience.
Roth credits his passion for inclusion to his parents' decision to stay in Brooklyn as it was diversifying and as many of their neighbors moved. "I grew up in an environment that was inclusive," he explains. "The neighborhood was changing and my parents chose to stay. Inclusion was part of my daily life and it still is. When I joined IPG, I saw all white male executives. It was clear IPG and the industry had to do something. We're communicating with consumers, and we need to be representative of those consumers. Diversity and inclusion is a corporate responsibility."
The Advancing Diversity Honors event presents a networking opportunity for the advertising and media community to join hands in solidarity and support for diversity and inclusion. The event is being hosted at CES to share best practices and clearly communicate to the tech community the importance our industry places on diversity. For more information and to register, visit ces18.com.
Click the social buttons above or below to share this story with your friends and colleagues.
The opinions and points of view expressed in this content are exclusively the views of the author and/or subject(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet, Inc. management or associated writers.