In this issue:
- For news organizations, an emphasis on audience engagement could help drive diversity and equity within their own walls.
- Starcom adds five women to its executive team, bringing the total number of women in the C-suite to eight.
- Some efforts to demonstrate a commitment to gender equity for International Women’s Day backfired.
- Media companies are attempting to demonstrate a commitment to social justice by creating roles designed to address social impact, though the scope of these positions is poorly defined.
- Underrepresented employees have unique health and wellbeing needs, especially in the area of mental health.
- Organizational efforts to increase diversity in leadership often start with specific training programs for marginalized employees, but these programs send an insulting message of inherent inferiority.
Greater audience engagement could help drive diversity and equity within newsrooms
Most newsrooms think of diversity and inclusion work as an internal affair, but an opinion piece published by Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab argues that news organizations won’t be able to make real progress on inclusion and equity within their own four walls unless they prioritize greater engagement with their audiences and communities.
This could include:
- Giving individuals outside of newsrooms opportunities to shape stories and coverage decisions.
- Ensuring external input and feedback is surfaced consistently during editorial meetings.
- Putting systems in place to track the diversity of sources.
- Ensuring a two-way dialogue between newsrooms and their audiences in order to close feedback loops.
A lack of diversity in newsrooms is an ongoing challenge for many publishers and media companies, and one that ultimately impacts the nature of their coverage and their broader businesses. (Research conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2018 found that more than three-quarters of newsroom employees were white, for example.) Although progress is being made, publishers and media companies must remain focused on practical approaches that can help them follow through on their diversity commitments.
Five women join Starcom executive team
Starcom continues its legacy of installing women at the top with five new women in leadership roles at the organization, which already boasts an above-average number of female executives, with 70% of management positions currently occupied by women, per Adweek. (Industry-wide, women occupy only 27% of management positions, according to a McKinsey report). Starcom’s new female leadership talent includes:
- Maureen Glure as Chief Client Officer, U.S.
- Gina Jacobson as Chief Growth Officer, U.S.
- Kim Einan as Strategy Head, U.S.
- Karla Knecht as Chief Operating Officer, U.S.
- Diane Harrison as Chief Talent Officer
The five join three other women already occupying positions in the C-suite: Kristin Harlow, Chief Investment Officer, U.S.; Stephanie Stopulos, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, LA; and Pat O’Connor, Chief Financial Officer, U.S.
International Women’s Day: How brands celebrated
Beware the Gender Pay Gap Bot, a Twitter account that responded to tweets from companies/organizations mentioning International Women’s Day with tweets highlighting the pay differential between male and female employees at those companies. Access Hollywood and McKinsey & Company were both high profile offenders, according to the Twitter account, which said both pay women over 20% less than men.
It’s a good example that talking about diversity isn’t the same as actually improving it. But as always, brands honored IWD with a selection of campaigns and initiatives. Examples included:
- Ad agency 72andSunny’s “Loopholes” campaign advertised a fictional cereal with tampons and pads as prizes in the box, intending to raise awareness around the lack of federal support to buy menstrual products.
- Nissan Infiniti is partnering with the navigation app Waze to highlight street names and landmarks honoring women in their “Pave it Forward” campaign.
- Twitter created a new Community called “Women in NFTs,” hoping to expand women’s access to the NFT trading/discussion space (only 32% of NFT-related tweets have come from women).
The rise of social impact roles
Many media organizations are demonstrating their commitment to addressing larger societal issues through new roles focused on corporate social impact, but companies are struggling to define the scope of such roles. Some organizations are interpreting “social impact” to include DEI initiatives, potentially putting pressure on future Chief Social Impact Officers not just to address the impact a company is having on society, but also internal culture issues. “Social impact” is a broad, amorphous term – it could potentially include anything from DEI, to environmental and sustainability issues to community relations.
So far, the approaches have varied: The PR agency Finn Partners defines social impact as “solving for society’s most pressing issues and generating tangible social change,” according to Morning Brew, which leaves room for broad interpretation. Other agencies, such as Havas New York, seek to integrate social impact across a wide range of roles in their organization, including HR, design, and business development. Time will tell which approach will yield better results, and how exactly organizations will define “social impact” in the future.
Understanding the health needs of underrepresented employees
Media and marketing companies have focused more of their attention on the mental health needs of their employees in recent years, further catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But representation and employee mental health can intersect, as many underrepresented groups face unique healthcare and mental health needs. It’s a particularly pertinent issue for advertising and marketing companies, which talked a lot about diversity but historically been slow in addressing it within their own ranks. (In 2019, executives at the major ad agencies were between 82-85% white.) Meanwhile, burnout and exhaustion has been a problem for years in an industry where long hours masquerading as “client-centric cultures” are the norm.
Harvard Business Review provides a list of common healthcare challenges and ways for organizations to address healthcare gaps.
- The negative impact of incidents of police brutality on Black people’s mental health, particularly incidents that receive national attention.
- Historical lack of access to health insurance among American Indian and Alaskan Native populations, resulting in higher rates of chronic health conditions.
- LGBTQ people facing discrimination from the healthcare system, leading this group to avoid seeking care despite experiencing depression, anxiety, and substance misuse at a rate almost three times higher than non-LGBTQ people.
Some proposed solutions:
- Organizations hosting facilitated discussion sessions for specific identity groups, i.e. a processing space for Black employees following a high-profile instance of police brutality.
- Targeted training for managers on supporting employees of different backgrounds during times of unrest.
- Creating Employee Resource Groups specifically focused on well-being.
Training programs tailored for marginalized employees fall flat
Organizations seeking to expand the number of underrepresented employees in leadership positions often implement and highlight training programs designed for those employee populations. These programs are particularly prevalent for BIPOC employees, and especially BIPOC women, explains S. Mitra Kalita in TIME.
While such programs may be seen as an investment in BIPOC employee growth and development, the message delivered to BIPOC employees is clear: you are not as competent as your white counterparts. The existence of these programs can also imply that the company is not at fault for a lack of BIPOC leadership. The programs indicate that the problem at hand is a lack of knowledge/skills with BIPOC employees themselves, not a systemic flaw in the organization, such as a lack of promotional opportunities for BIPOC employees.
Other notable reads:
- DEI initiatives and progress will not happen organically – such change requires a concerted effort and focus on reducing implicit bias. The Search Engine Journal has tips on breaking down bias in the marketing and SEO space.
- The rise of influencer partnerships can be an opportunity for companies to fulfill pledges on diversity and pay equity, according to a new analysis by AdAge.
- Campaign Asia released a round-up of gender equity within APAC companies for International Women’s Day, including analysis of women in leadership.