Diversity Is Not Optional If Advertising, Marketing, and Media Are to Grow and Thrive

Jack Myers is on a mission. The founder of MediaVillage and AdvancingDiversity.org has spent the past two years amping up his efforts to bring more diversity and inclusion to media, marketing, and advertising. In this Q&A with The Drum, he reminds industry leaders why diversity is vital to their future success and shares steps they can take now to build a more diverse workforce.

Why is it so important for marketers to embrace and advance diversity and inclusion?

One reason is that there’s a more educated group of diverse candidates coming out of the schools today. But media, marketing, advertising, and entertainment are significantly behind in advancing diversity within our organizations. Media and advertising ranked toward the bottom of industries recruiting diverse students from the top 20 universities.

We’re behind in our retention rates of diverse students who join our industry and are still with us five years later. We rank toward the bottom in morale among diverse young people who are working in our industry as ranked by LinkedIn.

So, it’s essential in the media, marketing, and advertising community that we recognize the challenges we have as an industry in not only recruiting, but also retaining diverse talent.

What’s one thing media, marketing, and advertising executives should be doing but aren’t?

Well, a couple of things. One is [accountability.] Companies such as Verizon, P&G, and Unilever are requiring their agencies to maintain records and report back to them on the inclusiveness of their organizations. Not just the people working on their accounts, but across the whole organization. So that’s one positive step the industry’s been taking. But you don’t like to see it as something that’s being forced.

The next trend that we’re seeing, which is a positive one, is recognizing that gender and gender pay equality issues are not by any stretch fully evolved. And we’re just beginning to have an industry-wide focus on cultural diversity.

But we’re also seeing that the recognition of diversity and inclusion, the consciousness around that, is expanding into other areas; for example, the disabled and veterans. There also are people now being released from prison for minor drug offenses. We need to have a program that recognizes these individuals and their potential and determine how we train and move them back into society and provide them with opportunities, as well.

Talk about how you’re spotlighting successful initiatives.

As part of my work with womenadvancing.org, I partnered with The Las Vegas Tech Fund to create an event called The Women in Tech Awards. As we began planning for it, we realized there was a much broader mission of diversity and inclusion. So, we expanded it out to AdvancingDiversity.org and the Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors. [The goal was] to create awareness…by evangelizing best practices out to the industry.

The great thing about the Hall of Honors is none of the individuals or their companies are looking for aggrandizement from the work they’re doing. They’re looking to spread the word and to communicate that diversity and inclusion is good for business.

The first year and again this year was really reaching out to those who had been fairly public about it [and] those whose work in the industry I was familiar with.

The 2019 Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors inductees and their initiatives are:

  • Kat Gordon, Founder + CEO, The 3% Movement
  • Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G, Diversity Leadership
  • Ricardo Marques, VP Marketing, Budweiser’s Diversity & Inclusion Campaigns
  • Diego Scotti, CMO, Verizon AdFellows Initiative
  • Pam El, EVP/CMO of NBA, Gender and Diversity Leadership
  • Bob Liodice, CEO, ANA’s Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing
  • Madonna Badger, CCO/Founder, Badger & Winters, Gender Equality in Advertising
  • Alma Har’el, Director/Founder, #FreeTheBid

You also run a job fair. Why?

We host it at CES, first of all, to attract people at CES who are in technology who might not have considered media, marketing, and advertising as a career — and to communicate to them that there are opportunities in our industry. Second, to [encourage] the 40 educators who attend from different schools around the country to go back to their schools and communicate the opportunities for their diverse students.

It’s especially important that we create a model for young people around the country to recognize that there is an industry here that is open and looking for ways to be more attractive to them. The problem we’ve had in our industry…is that we’re centered on the coasts and secondarily Chicago. But major cities are more expensive…and our industry notoriously underpays for entry-level jobs.

So, one of the things we really need to address the incoming salary levels. We also need to address college loan concerns. And that’s why a percentage of the revenues being generated by the Advancing Diversity Hall of Honors go to…college loan relief to media, advertising, and marketing team members who are diverse.

What can marketers do today to diversify their teams?

Pay attention to the results that those companies that have been advancing diversity are having economically. Marc Pritchard and Diego Scotti and Ricardo Marques have all been very vocal that their internal research shows that the more diverse their organization is, the more successful their business is.

Also, look at pay scales for starting jobs and bring them up to a level that is commensurate with other industries. And when you bring in young people, provide them with mentors who can guide them, tutor them, and support them — not just in the first few months, but throughout their careers — and who they can look up to as a role model reflecting their own culture and their own societal norms.

If we do not reflect our culture and society, we’re just not going to grow or thrive. If there’s any industry that should be out in the lead of reflecting our culture, it should be advertising and media and marketing. Instead, it’s well behind in its recognition and support of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

But there has been a massive shift in just the past two years. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how the industry is stepping up. And, if I can take some small credit [by launching AdvancingDiversity.org], I can take pride in that. But, really, the industry is taking some giant steps forward.

This article originally appeared on The Drum.