Agencies celebrate Black History Month and publish flashy diversity mission statements on their websites, but driving change can be a slow process.
That was one takeaway from a Tuesday session on diversity at the 4As conference in Washington, moderated by Simon Fenwick, executive vice president, Talent Engagement & Inclusion, 4As.
Fenwick conversed with three minority leaders: Rosa Nunez, senior vice president, senior director, diversity & inclusion, Burson Cohn & Wolfe; Lukeisha Paul, head of diversity, equity and inclusion, U.S., GroupM, and CP McBee, senior sales director, Microsoft.
"What do better business outcomes mean?" asked Fenwick. Diversity of thought, for example, broadly means a wide range of experiences and opinions. This holds true for three white men all growing up in different geographical regions.
Nunez counters that "of course we all have a different way and approaches," but the industry needs a deeper layer of experiences and histories.
Panelists agreed that actions to broaden diversity should focus on commitment, culture and communication. Training is critical. “We are all biased and that is OK, but how to mediate biases when they are prevalent?” asked Nunez. "It is all about creating a culture that is welcoming."
The most difficult thing about diversity and inclusion is just "sitting and listening without judgement," says McBee. Almost every conversation comes with a different outcome. However, MeToo or equity inclusion become meaningless when there aren't strong policies guiding their missions.
Vulnerability is absolutely critical. It is difficult to expect others to share without you sharing something personal as well, says McBee. You don't need to be a leader of color to share your journey, you just need to be authentic and honest, he said.
Paul received a hearty round of applause from the audience when she disagreed with those saying changing diversity is challenging.
“When I look at the challenges of the industry as all-male, we put goals in place to encourage more females by offering women-friendly policies. We did the same to age down our industry. We can do better and we must to increase the diversity of faces,” she said.