Interpublic Group CEO Michael Roth has been pushing for diversity and inclusion reform at the holding company since he was named CEO in 2006.
During a MediaVillage event with founder Jack Myers on Thursday, Roth recalled that during his first meeting with senior executives at the company everyone in attendance was white and male. He knew then that the company had to do better, because management simply didn’t reflect the growing diversity within consumer segments that client brands were targeting.
And the company has done better, but nowhere near enough. And the industry as a whole has an even longer way to go, said Roth. “We suck compared to the rest of the world,” he said of the industry’s D&I record to date. “Obviously we are doing something wrong.”
Roth noted a recent internal “tone from the top” survey of IPG employees that was “not where I thought it would be” for the firm’s D&I scores. Issues included day-to-day contact and not feeling a sense of inclusion in the IPG culture and “DNA.”
But Roth said he is listening and that the company will continue efforts to improve. Just this morning, Roth noted, he heard positive feedback from an employee on recent efforts albeit with a related “here’s something that happened to me” story.
“We’re going to screw up,” he said, adding that the company is committed to “paying attention and doing something about it.”
Last week, word surfaced of a racist email written several years ago by former Deutsch Chief Creative Officer Brett Craig. He was terminated soon after. Under Roth, the holding company has taken swift action to rectify other transgressions as well.
Two weeks ago, IPG was the first Adland holding company to release detailed EEOC racial data on the makeup of its workforce. When he arrived at the company in 2006 one of the first D&I initiatives Roth put in place was to tie some executive compensation to diversity hiring goals. In the future more leaders within the firm will have compensation tied to those goals.
But it’s not just about hiring, Roth said. “We can invest in their careers,” and keep track and examine why people of color leave the company, not just why they join it. For minorities, he added, “the path is less clear to success” within the industry.
Separately this week, Myers published a proposal outlining steps that he believes could help end systemic bias in the media business.