Nathan Young, the Periscope strategist who cofounded 600 & Rising in June, resigned as president last week after two months of driving unprecedented progress on the diversity and inclusion front in Adland.
Under his direction and at his strong urging, the major holding companies publicly released detailed data on the racial makeup of their workforces for the first time. So did dozens of agencies around the country.
The data reinforced what everybody in the industry knew — Adland is as overwhelmingly white as it has always been. Or close to it anyway.
Agencies and holding companies also unveiled detailed plans for improving diversity in their own firms, in some cases committing many millions to getting it done. That’s no small accomplishment.
The holding companies have resisted releasing the data for years, despite the efforts of governmental bodies and stockholders.
The HCs argued that the data — collected annually by EEOC mandate — could be misconstrued, taken out of context or used against them by competitors. But basically, they didn’t release the numbers because they didn’t have to. The story those numbers told wasn’t pretty.
Young’s argument was you can’t fix what you can’t measure.
He wasn’t perfect and the stresses on him were no doubt enormous — which he cited last week with his decision to resign. It’s not easy holding down two full-time jobs, both with long hours, one of which pays the bills and the other that you do because you passionately believe in the cause.
Young is a firebrand in the best sense of the word. And no doubt his fellow cofounder Bennett D. Bennett is, too.
Now, the group is pausing for 30 days to think about its future. There’s talk of a restructure and taking into greater consideration input from the broader 600 & Rising community, which grew from 600 into the thousands in a short period of time.
Young set up the group as a nonprofit, with a board and a group of advisors. My opinion, for what it’s worth, is tweak it maybe but don’t blow it up. Hire a core group of dedicated pros — who don’t have other full-time jobs to worry about — to keep the momentum this group has achieved from stalling.
The holding companies should fund such an effort, if they’re at all serious about improving their D&I numbers. They say they’re serious. They’ve been saying that for years with some, but not much, improvement to show for it.
A dedicated third-party group that keeps the HCs focused on this issue may just be the key to achieving diversity across the industry.
As for the next leader — and every group needs one — make sure he or she is a firebrand like Nathan Young.