In this issue:
- R/GA CMO on expanding inclusivity efforts to include formerly incarcerated people.
- Combatting inequity when hiring DEI consultants.
- What the closing of the Creative Circus school could mean for the future of DEI efforts in ad education.
- Women are missing from creative roles at the majority of PR agencies, which could limit their ability to meet their clients’ needs.
- How dismantling an organization’s drinking culture could help build inclusivity.
R/GA CMO speaks out on importance of “second chance” hiring practices for building agency inclusivity
Ashish Prashar, CMO at R/GA, is speaking out about his experiences navigating the ad industry as a formerly incarcerated person, and ways executives and hiring managers can make agencies more accessible. In an interview with Digiday and an op-ed in Adweek, Prashar pointed out that given the disproportional impact of the American criminal justice system on BIPOC people, agencies are depriving themselves of a talented and diverse workforce by refusing to consider applicants who have served time. His recommendations for agencies include:
- Eliminating background checks as part of the hiring process.
- Supporting legislation such as New York’s proposed Clean Slate law, which will remove people’s criminal records, so that even if a potential employer does run a background check, the applicant will not be treated differently.
- Shifting hiring mindsets towards what an applicant can bring to an organization, not what they have done in the past.
- Allowing employees to bring their full selves, and all of their past experiences, to the workplace, creating a culture where past incarceration is not stigmatized.
Prashar points out that a lack of comfort in the workplace is one of the biggest drivers of employee attrition. In a market where competition for talent is fierce, agencies simply can’t afford to put up additional barriers to hiring or retaining employees – especially not when those barriers also work against inclusion efforts.
Making the process of hiring DEI consultants more diverse, equitable, and inclusive
In a piece for Inside Philanthropy, Aparna Rae and Kendall Guthrie argue that organizations need to move away from an open-RFP process when hiring DEI consultants. Such processes are intended to be open and transparent but, in actuality, often replicate the inequities they are purporting to solve:
- DEI consultants are often expected to construct elaborate proposals without compensation as part of the pitch process. The large number of meetings and documents required can put outsized strain on small, independent firms, which are more likely to be BIPOC-owned.
- The process itself, argue the writers, is racialized, as many of the people doing the hiring of consultants tend to be white.
- When a firm submits a proposal but is not hired, the ideas and initiatives in their proposal sometimes become part of the hiring organization’s DEI plan anyway – meaning the organization is essentially receiving DEI advice for free, putting the consultants at another disadvantage. Furthermore, the firm that is hired is often larger, white-led or white-dominant.
Rae and Guthrie propose an alternative process, one in which organizations develop a clear, concise statement of purpose for their DEI work, instead of a vague call for proposals, and invite prospective firms to paid working meetings to get a feel for how they work. Once a consultant is hired, organizations should pay 25% to 30% of the consulting fees up front, as net 60 and net 90 payment terms can disadvantage smaller firms (that may be BIPOC-owned) that operate on tighter margins.
Rae and Guthrie argue there are numerous benefits to moving away from the RFP, including standing out in the recruitment process by offering compensation during the interview, and forcing organizations to kickstart their DEI efforts by planning out part of their initiatives in their draft statements. Media and marketing companies hiring DEI consultants might consider taking similar approaches.
The Creative Circus school is shutting down, with implications for DEI in ad education programs
The Creative Circus – an advertising portfolio school in Atlanta that was well known for prizing diversity among its students and graduates – announced via a LinkedIn post that it’s no longer accepting new students and that its final class will graduate in 2023. The announcement was met with nearly 200 comments, most expressing sadness and consternation. “At a time when more doors were closed than open, [The Creative Circus] gave me the confidence to open them myself,” wrote Amy Stevens, an alum now working as the Senior Manager for Content Design at Allstate.
In Adweek’s coverage of the school’s closure, questions were raised about the future of advertising education. The article noted that tuition at The Creative Circus was over $45,000, which doesn’t include the opportunity cost of taking two years out of the workforce. More portfolio schools and in-house advertising education agencies are offering classes for free, such as the ONE School’s program discussed in last week’s newsletter. Lower tuition costs and increased virtual learning options may be the future of inclusivity in advertising education, and The Creative Circus’ closure may be the first signal of an impending shift within the industry.
‘It’s as if we’re still communicating only half the story’: Lack of women in creative PR roles can lead to audience disconnect
The majority of creative roles at PR agencies are held by men, reports PRWeek. There are a number of potential reasons for the disparity. Creative positions are fairly new for the PR industry, so many recruits come from similar positions at ad agencies – where the creative departments tend to skew male. Ottilie Ratcliffe, partner and creative director at Milk and Honey PR, also points out that society teaches women to stay quiet, to not take up space, and to undersell their own abilities – exactly the opposite of what clients want from creative PR work. The perception of longer work hours in the PR industry may also be dissuading women from considering these positions.
Regardless of the reasons, the lack of diverse voices at the creative table may lead to one-sided PR work that is less likely to deliver success for agencies’ clients. Women currently represent 51% of the population but 85% of consumer buying power, and clients are increasingly looking for creative work that will resonate with those audiences. Increasing the number of female creatives can help bridge this gap.
Shifting from a culture of drinking to a culture of connection
In an anonymous interview with WorkLife, a chief strategy officer who has been sober for seven years reflected on the pervasive belief that work bonding and alcohol consumption go hand in hand. In a culture where whiskey is stored in office desks to celebrate wins and big decisions are often made over drinks, employees pursuing sobriety may feel left out or suffer career setbacks. A study from Cornell University also found that consumption of alcohol in a workplace environment increases the potential for sexual harassment.
In the past free alcohol at work events was typically seen as a valuable perk, but employees are increasingly placing a higher value on benefits such as flexible work schedules and longer parental leave over an open bar. The CSO interviewed by WorkLife shared strategies her organization uses to promote employee bonding that don’t involve alcohol, such as requiring their employees to spend Friday afternoons doing something they love that is not work-related, with the expectation that they will have to share their experience at Monday’s staff meeting.
Sexual harassment and discrimination are top concerns for journalists in Asia, according to a new report
A new report from the Asian American Journalists Association sheds light into the reality of working inside newsrooms in Asia. The study, conducted in 2021, was designed to provide a perspective on diversity and equity inside workforces in Asia, in order to design relevant programs for the region. It found:
- Diversity is a core value: 90% of newsroom workers surveyed said diversity improved the quality of the news, while 65% said it would attract more advertisers.
- At the same time, discrimination was a concern: 22% of people said they’d encountered someone making disparaging comments about people of a specific age; 21% said they’d encountered comments about a specific gender.
- 56% of female journalists said they’ve been on the receiving end of sexist remarks or sexual innuendos at their news outlets.
Solutions suggested by respondents included: providing seminars about DEI to executives and leadership and facilitating mentorship by senior journalists who have reported on DEI issues.
Other notable reads:
- The United Nations’ International Labour Organization released a report concluding that workplaces with higher levels of diversity and inclusion were also more productive.
- Harvard Business Review explored how the shift back to in-person and hybrid work could disadvantage women, while AdAge analyzed the similar negative impact on working parents of all genders.
- Vice’s chief people officer Daisy Auger-Domínguez on how to make a return to the office more inclusive for workers of color, per Charter.
- LinkedIn’s newly released Workforce survey highlighted a number of data points relevant to DEI efforts at media and marketing companies, including that 20% of Americans would take a pay cut for a job that offered them a better chance to “be their whole self at work.”
- Campaign reports on Cannes Lions announcing the finalists for its See It Be It accelerator program for women in the media and marketing industry.
- Mediabrands creates new Inclusive Media initiative and names Justin Senior to lead the program, reports The Message.
- The BLAC internship program helped 23 black interns land jobs in creative roles last year, according to Morning Brew.