White Adland Leaders Discuss Challenges Of Creating Diverse Workforce

Reflective of the current crop of CEOs, an Advertising Week New York panel on diversity brought together four white, upper-class senior-level executives to discuss how they are leading their organizations to become more diverse and inclusive. 

"We are aware," said MDC Partners CEO/Chairman Scott Kauffman, alluding to the lack of diversity in his session. "Two of the four speakers are middle-aged Jewish men." But he points out that it is a challenge to build a diverse panel, just as it to champion inclusivity in the broader workforce. 

Diversity isn't just about gender or color, but characteristics like age, class, and ability, said Kauffman.

While the panelists parroted familiar comments about taking a stand and the importance of leadership during divisive times, Roth pointed out that clients are increasingly demanding that agencies have a diverse group servicing the client. Unless you have a diverse workforce you will never see potential blind spots, he said He mentioned one case with a campaign that was "totally off-base," but the team involved did not see it. 



Panelists discussed their views on the importance about speaking out about current affairs, with Deirdre Mahlan, president, Diageo North America realizing her voice only after encouragement from team members in light of the nightclub shooting in Orlando. Both Roth and Kauffman became more vocal after the Charlottesville riots.  

Ultimately, it is a business proposition, they said You need to lead the company that people want to work for and that clients want to do business with. 

This "journey will never be over," said Shannon Schuyler, principal, chief purpose officer and corporate responsibility leader at PwC. As soon as leaders stop paying attention to adding new faces, "there will be five thousand white men again. This is a long-term proposition."

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