Efforts to recalibrate the ad industry to become more equitable and diverse are plenty. In 2019, Milwaukee threw its hat in the ring with the launch of Greater Equity 2030, an effort to increase the diversity of creative occupations in Milwaukee by 2030 by adding 1,600 people of diverse backgrounds into the workforce.
One of the key parts of the program focuses on internships. As we reported earlier, the lack of a pipeline for people from underrepresented backgrounds to enter the ad industry is one of the key reasons why advertising remains so woefully homogenous. Greater Equity partners with Milwaukee Public Schools and the City government to organize internships with agencies, which also include holding open houses inside schools and visits from execs to schools to share what their businesses do and hopefully raise interest in advertising.
Greater Equity’s focus began with a study conducted with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development. The goal was to create a report on racial inequities in Milwaukee’s creative occupations, including music, PR, writing, advertising, design, marketing and filmmaking.
The report found that people of color were significantly underrepresented in the creative sector relative to their overall representation in the labor market. These disparities mirrored what is happening all over the country, where the report found that in nearly ever metropolitan area, Black people and Latinx people are underrepresented, whereas White people held what the report called a “disproportionate share” of jobs.
The report found that it will take an estimated increase of around 1,600 Black and Latinx employees in Milwaukee’s creative occupations for the workforce in those jobs to mirror the share of racial minorities in Milwaukee’s overall workforce.
This summer, Milwaukee-based agency, Hanson Dodge, which is one of the founding partners of Greater Equity, will host a summer internship program for 16 high schoolers who identify as BIPOC or of mixed ethnicity. The program, developed in partnership with the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, plans to run for two weeks, beginning last week, and will include an assignment on behalf of one of the agency’s real clients: Visit Milwaukee.
The internship’s assignment with Visit Milwaukee will ask the interns to build on a campaign the brand did with R&B artist Grace Weber. Interns, who will be paid, will be invited to present the work to the client. “A two-week paid internship, culminating in a real client assignment, gives a teen participant enough exposure to know what’s going on inside this world so they can potentially go back to school with an interest in pursuing a career within the industry,” said program manager and assistant account executive, Eric Smith.
Hanson Dodge’s 16 interns join a total of 54 interns across four other creative agencies and firms, all of which will focus on attracting a diverse pipeline of interns into advertising.
For Greater Equity, the idea is to partner with businesses in the industry who can work together on a shared framework. Each business partner assigns a Greater Equity liaison, who works on recruitment, hiring and best practices. Business partners also commit to sponsoring one open house for students, visiting classrooms, display pledges in the lobby and work on annual planning. Each partner makes an annual contribution to the organization.
“The focus on a diverse talent pipeline is simple and obvious: our industry, through the ranks, doesn’t reflect the diversity of the world around us. We need to work on all fronts to change that. One way to improve for now and the future is by developing a much larger diverse pool of talent to consider careers in our field from the beginning,” said Hanson Dodge president Stacie Boney. “I believe the biggest opportunity to create visibility and interest for our industry is when kids are in those formative teen years (high school). They are starting to imagine what they might do with their lives, and just like at any age, we can’t know what we don’t know.”