Welcome to DEI in Media and Marketing, a newsletter about diversity, equity and inclusion for professionals committed to driving meaningful change within the media & marketing industries.
In this issue:
- More inclusive family leave policies and language may be the new frontier in competitive recruitment.
- The 3% Conference has ended after a decade. What comes next for female representation in advertising?
- BuzzFeed News Union pushes back against BFN layoffs, potentially expanding the role digital media unions play in diversity and job security.
- Edelman U.S. CEO Lisa Osborne Ross on the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, and the uphill battle Black women professionals face.
- How global organizations can move away from an American lens when addressing DEI issues for their employees outside of the US.
Agencies shift to more inclusive family leave policies
Agencies are shifting towards more inclusive policies around family leave, a WorkLife analysis found, largely driven by same-sex male couples, who historically have received 22 weeks fewer paid leave than different-sex couples. The article argues that paternal leave needs to be considered equal to maternal leave – and perhaps the terminology itself should change, from paternal/maternal to simply “parental.”
AdWeek provided a further breakdown of three steps some companies are taking to improve their family leave policies:
- PMG, Media.Monks, Dentsu, and VaynerMedia are removing the words “mother” and “father” from their leave policy documents and replacing them with “primary” and “secondary” caregiver.
- While many companies offer different amounts of leave time for primary and secondary caregivers, MMI and Dentsu both offer the same amount, with Dentsu also extending the time off benefit to parents in adoption and foster situations.
- Healthcare plans at Media.Monks, PMG, and Dentsu now cover infertility treatments; Dentsu also covers surrogacy costs and “proactive” egg freezing (previously it covered egg freezing only for medical purposes).
Moving beyond traditional ideas of families and parental support may be the future of inclusivity in the industry, and inclusive policies may also become a competitive advantage in the fight to recruit and retain talent.
A new direction for the 3% conference
The 3% Conference – an annual event championing diversity and female leadership that regularly drew around 2,000 attendees – is shifting gears after a ten-year run, reports AdAge. The conference will be changing its focus from a large annual conference to year-round content and shorter in-person events. The annual conference will be discontinued because of the impact of COVID, per AdAge, and the news drove questions on social media about what comes next, since there is plenty of work left to be done in DEI in the industry.
The 3% Movement, which founded the original conference, is tentatively planning for eight annual virtual events and three in-person. It will also continue its programming around virtual mentor matchmaking to pair young female talent with senior female creative leaders. Kat Gordon, founder and CEO of the 3% Movement, said the organization will soon publish a report summarizing the crowdsourced ideas from the last conference around combatting the “-isms”: sexism, racism, and ageism.
Related: The 4A’s Talent@2030 conference was last week, with a number of sessions focusing on ways the industry can support women, including a conversation about flexibility in the workplace to support women of color in particular, and a discussion around pay equity.
BuzzFeed Union files Unfair Labor Practice suit
Last week, BuzzFeed News announced a plan to downsize and lay off almost 2% of its employees (which would work out to around 26 people). Three of its top editors resigned, and the BuzzFeed is being pushed by investors to shut down the newsroom, which loses roughly $10 million a year, per CNBC.
The Daily Beast reports BFN’s communication to employees included language about “preferring buyouts to layoffs,” but in a statement posted to Twitter, BuzzFeed Union expressed skepticism. The union said that any buyouts would have had to be negotiated beforehand as part of a “strong complete union contract,” and they will be filing an Unfair Labor Practice suit with the National Labor Relations Board against BFN.
Back in December, on the same day that shareholders took BuzzFeed News public, members of the BuzzFeed News Union walked off the job. At the time, the employees were protesting BFN’s proposed salary increases of only 1% a year and a salary floor of only $50k, which they argued was not enough compensation to recruit a truly diverse talent pool, per The News Guild. Unions in digital media may be a formidable force moving forward in employee advocacy, including staff diversity and job protections.
Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings highlight the uphill battle Black women professionals face
The Senate Confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson have unleashed a torrent of emotions among professionals of color. One big one came from Edelman U.S. CEO Lisa Osborne Ross. In a statement posted to LinkedIn, Ross said calls for Judge Jackson to release her LSAT scores – despite having a legal career spanning three decades, and previously being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals by the same Senate – made her think about her own experience rising up the ranks in PR and marketing, including comments she regularly receives that diminish her own accomplishments in her role. She explained that people frequently express surprise at “what a big job” she has, or say how proud they are of Edelman U.S. for elevating her to CEO.
She argues that these kinds of comments and skepticism minimize the achievements and competence of Black women, and the discourse around Black female leaders needs to change.
Meanwhile: After the murder of George Floyd, the AP Stylebook released guidelines for journalists, instructing them to avoid using “vague” phrases such as “racially charged” or “racially motivated,” instead encouraging more direct language such as “bigoted” or “biased.” Christopher Ingraham pointed out on Twitter that the New York Times, CNN, Politico, and the Washington Post all used similarly vague phrases to discuss the line of questioning during Judge Jackson’s confirmation hearings, and argued that the industry as a whole needs to be more committed to confronting racial bias. It’s possible that the discrepancy between the diversity of media creators and the diversity of media consumers, as covered in last week’s newsletter, could be contributing to this issue – as a reminder, only 60% of the US population identifies as white – but newsroom employees are much likelier to be white and male than the U.S. overall.
DEI isn’t just an American issue
DEI is a global issue – and those companies with global footprints would do well to remember that, writes Poornima Luthra for the Harvard Business Review. Luthra says that non-US-based employees of global companies tend to dismiss DEI initiatives as “an American problem,” and such organizations need to ensure their global DEI efforts don’t look the same as initiatives for their US employees, as they should be more tailored for a local context. This may be very important for media and marketing companies, who have offices all over the world but may have management sitting mostly in the U.S. or U.K., leading to a potentially myopic way of viewing diversity issues.
Some specific recommendations from Luthra:
- Collect data on a team’s current level of DEI understanding/maturity to know your starting point.
- Put effort into understanding local heroes and struggles around DEI – a Martin Luther King Jr. quote may not resonate outside of America.
- Be careful with terminology, especially when translating (Luthra offers the word “inclusion” as an example, which in some languages can be translated into words more closely representing “assimilation” or “tolerance”).
- Inclusion also looks different in different countries, i.e. Japan is more racially homogenous, so DEI efforts tend to focus around gender and age as opposed to race.
Other notable reads:
- Jeff Greenspoon, CEO of Dentsu Canada, spoke with Forbes about the company’s new DEI strategy, which he says they are building on a base of transparency and accountability.
- Is the #girlboss movement dead? Adweek’s Emmy Liederman offers a critique of the movement’s exclusionary and capitalist roots, and speaks with female media leaders about the future of feminism.
- Neurodiverse talent can have a meaningful impact on the diversity of thinking at companies, reports Worklife.
- Liveclicker released a report on the media habits of Gen Z, including a section on Gen Z’s perception of gender and other aspects of identity as more fluid than previous generations. Implications for brands and marketing are discussed.
- A column in LBBOnline poses an interesting question: how will identity expression, including race and gender, work in the metaverse?
- Adweek reports that Proctor & Gamble has invested a huge sum in Group Black, a collective and accelerator for Black-owned media.