Diversity and inclusion are concepts no longer confined to human resources departments but have rather moved to the forefront of discussions across the business landscape and wider culture -- albeit perhaps unevenly. In my industry -- advertising, public relations, and related services -- only 23.5% of professionals are African American, Asian or Hispanic, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while people of these races (excluding those of two or more races) make up an estimated 37.3% of the U.S. population.
I don’t profess to be an expert on the subject, but over the course of my career, I have learned and noticed some simple actions that make a difference. For instance, I know that hiring one woman, person of color or LGBT staffer to meet an arbitrary quota isn’t enough to solve a problem that demands focused and intentional effort from industry leaders. I know that recruiters can do more than meet numbers and percentage quotas; they should be self-aware during the hiring process to focus on the merits of each individual applicant rather than letting ingrained biases influence their thinking. I believe this process starts with recognizing that biases are often rooted in misunderstandings, such as what diversity really means and why we need it.
In general, it feels as if diversity in advertising only becomes a hot topic whenever a controversial spot hits the airwaves. But ads may only become more inclusive if they’re created and sold by diverse groups of people.
Overall, I believe the most important part of any inclusion initiative is equity, a focused and intentional effort to correct imbalances and create an accessible, fair workplace. Equity-centered hiring emphasizes the importance of bringing staffers with varied backgrounds into the ad industry. It involves and engages diverse groups of people in the company culture and gives them a much-needed share of the company voice.