Second, our entire industry is embarrassingly white.
I started selling ads in 1994 at Newsweek magazine. I started my digital ad sales career in 1999 at Snowball.com (later renamed IGN Entertainment). I started my media ad sales consulting practice in 2005, which affords me the opportunity to work with many different media publishing entities.
Here is the breakdown of my personal experiences working with African Americans throughout those years:
Number of black coworkers on sales team: 1
Number of black sales managers I worked for: 0
Number of black people I hired when building out a sales team: 0
Number of black C-suite executives I worked for: 0
Number of black executives involved in hiring me as a consultant: 1
Percent of black salespeople who have sat through my workshops: < 1%
Number of black panel speakers seen at industry conferences: 1
At your next weekly status meeting or the next 100 sales calls you make, look around the room. I guarantee it'll be a complete whiteout.
Working almost exclusively with other white people causes our racial divide to widen as a society. We spend most of our waking hours at work. It’s where we get to know, and must learn to work with, people we would otherwise never talk to. It’s where friendships are often formed, compassion grows, and teamwork is framed.
Close your eyes and imagine what it would be like if the conference room meetings you attend were 50% white and 50% non-white. Sit with that vision for a few seconds.
If this ratio became the new reality, our ability to truly relate to people without the identifier of color would increase, forming the foundation for positive change. Color would matter less when seen more often.
I recently discussed this sensitive issue with another colleague in our business. He shared a story about an HR meeting that took place years back. After a presentation stressing the need to increase the diversity of the company, he said someone in the room bravely asked, “What’s the goal?” They were asking what percentage or number would be considered the right mix. The question was met with resistance and awkward silence.
My answer will incite the problem of reverse discrimination, but I don’t know how else to fix this math problem. To me, 50/50 sounds about right.