In this issue of DEI in Marketing:
- Agencies adjust policies and examine gender equity initiatives in the wake of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade.
- How to prevent burnout among agency DEI staff.
- The role of anonymous social media accounts in highlighting sexual harassment within the advertising industry – and whether it affects change.
- Adjustments to organizations’ disability policies in the face of long COVID.
- FCB focuses on diversity goals in the coming year.
Agencies commit to funding abortion access for employees
The emergence of a Supreme Court draft opinion indicating the majority of justices will vote to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent protecting women’s right to abortion in the US has prompted quick reaction from the ad industry.
Expanding healthcare benefits to fund abortion access
IPG, Publicis and WPP all committed to funding any necessary travel for employees who will need to travel to seek abortions. A memo from WPP CEO Mark Read read, in part: “We don’t know the full details or impact of these potential changes in reproductive rights yet, but we do know we want our people to have the same health coverage regardless of where they live.”
PR agency Bospar offered relocation compensation for all employees based in Texas, where abortion is illegal after six weeks of pregnancy, reported AdAge. Marketing company Alembic Technologies will cover any medical travel an employee “personally deems serious and needed,” saying employees do not have to disclose details. And agency Big Spaceship shared quotes and stories on its Instagram page from agency employees who have received abortions.
In contrast, PR firm Zeno (part of Edelman Holdings) privately advised its clients to not release any communications around abortion, saying it could hurt their business in red states. Zeno’s clients include high-profile companies such as Coca-Cola, Netflix, Starbucks, AT&T, Corona, Pizza Hut, Astra Zeneca, Kia Motors, Prudential, and Hershey’s.
Impact on gender disparity
Industry leaders noted the implications the overturning of Roe v. Wade could have on gender disparity within advertising. Amy Small, EVP, creative at Media Cause, wrote this week for Campaign on how reduced access to abortion will magnify gender inequalities in the industry. The media and marketing industry has lost 10% of its female employees, mostly due to lack of childcare, including COVID-related school and daycare closures. Small argues that if lack of access to childcare is already contributing to female employee attrition, the situation will only worsen in a future where women do not have the option to terminate their pregnancies. Several organizations are also adjusting their policies around the expectation that more employees may have no choice but to carry a pregnancy to term; these adjustments include enhancing parental leave and providing more predictable work hours.
Who takes care of the people taking care of DEI?
The work of making a company truly diverse, equitable, and inclusive is far too heavy for one employee or a small group of employees to bear, reports Digiday in an article examining the limits of the Chief Diversity Officer concept.
It’s been an ongoing matter of debate in the industry, which has seen a rush to appoint diversity leads, often without giving them the appropriate amount of resources to make in impact. Last year, Jai Tedeschi, VP and Global Executive Director of Culture and Operations at the R/GA agency, spoke about the importance of operationalizing DEI initiatives.
It’s not just people with DEI in their job descriptions who are burning out due to the emotional burden of DEI work, reports Worklife. Churn is exceptionally high among agencies’ social media managers, who are often responsible for creating company responses to social unrest and events such as the murder of George Floyd. These employees are then tasked with addressing the hateful comments people post in response, along with the inherent expectation of being “always on the clock.”
Some key takeaways for agencies looking to reduce burnout among these groups:
Are anonymous social media accounts the right way to address sexual harassment?
Last week the anonymous Instagram account Balance Ton Agency (translates to “Balance Your Agency”), which describes itself as dedicated to reporting “abuse in advertising,” posted allegations that led to an investigation at the Havas advertising agency, per AdWeek. The account, which has over 338,000 followers, posted a series of allegations of inappropriate behavior perpetrated by two Havas executives, referred to as “JC” and “CC.” Havas announced its CEO Julien Carette and creative director Christophe Coffre will temporarily step down as an internal investigation is conducted.
The situation is reminiscent of a similar social media-driven movement in 2018, when the @dietmadisonave Instagram account listed men in the media industry who have been accused of sexually inappropriate actions, as reported by the New York Times. One of the men accused in the account’s posts, Ralph Watson, was ultimately fired from his position as chief creative officer at the ad agency Crispin Porter Borgusky, and subsequently sued the account for defamation, per CNBC.
Next step in DEI initiatives: policies on long COVID
Charter reports that companies are ldeveloping workplace procedures to address the struggles of employees with long COVID. Long COVID, loosely defined as COVID symptoms that last for weeks or months beyond the initial illness, may already be preventing 15% of employees from returning to the workforce. Because long COVID is an emerging condition, it can be difficult to recognize, define, and diagnose, meaning that some employees suffering from the condition may have an impacted job performance without an official diagnosis. Some potential ways to address long COVID include:
Diversity goals at FCB
Campaign reports that the FCB agency has identified DEI initiatives as a major growth area and a focus for the company moving forward. In keeping with industry trends (as covered in last week’s newsletter), FCB’s current employee data reflects disparities between the representation of women and POC employees on its staff, and the representation of those groups in leadership positions. However, FCB has created a structured inclusion initiative with goals to diversify its overall workforce and leadership representation, along with an emphasis on creating a more equitable culture and producing work that reflects a diversity of viewpoints. The agency reports it will continue to invest in DEI projects moving forward, including an “Upstream Inclusion Practice,” which will focus on working with clients to create more inclusive messaging.
Other notable reads:
- AdWeek covers how brand storytelling around Black Americans is changing from negative stereotypes to more inclusive portrayals.
- David Moon Ki Lee, Chief Creative Officer at Squarespace, writes for AdAge about how his family’s immigration background drove his success story.
- The Influencer Marketing Code of Conduct is being updated to include a focus on DEI initiatives, including calls for brands to be mindful of pay gaps and diversity in the influencers they hire, per AdWeek.
- WorkLife reports that inclusive design for women in the workplace, including transparent glass walls in offices and conference rooms to combat harassment, could be the next step in promoting gender equity.
- Ashish Prashar of R/GA writes for the Independent on ways society needs to shift its attitude towards the formerly incarcerated.