Diversity and inclusion was one of the most discussed topics on Fishbowl in 2018. Driven by movements like #MeToo and TimesUp, as well as by the recognition that media should be more considerate of minority perspectives, the discussion around Diversity & Inclusion carried more urgency, and prompted more questions than it ever has.
That’s why we invited talent and cultural strategist Nadia Jones to host a diversity and inclusion workshop on Fishbowl to address some of our community’s most pressing concerns.
Nadia has over ten years of experience working on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and currently runs her a cultural consulting firm called Culture Cipher Consulting. Prior to launching Culture Cipher, she was the former Vice President of Talent at Huge, and was an Executive Director and Senior Diversity Officer at Morgan Stanley.
Nadia shared actionable insights and best practices that advertising professionals can suggest to their leadership and implement at their agencies to create a more inclusive workplace and industry environment. Check out the following highlights from the workshop below:
We are a small shop of 10 and are sorely lacking any people of color on our team. How do we recruit interest without coming right out and asking for POC to apply?
Treat D&I as you would any other business imperative — and that is with care and deliberation. Put a premium on recruiting diverse candidates.
Nadia Jones: The biggest thing is to be present. Keep your ear to what is happening in the D&I space. If I were still at an agency, I would have asked recruiters to show up at the Huge RBG event last week or the JWT event last night. Not to be leeches, but to have a presence. Be in the know. Diversity pipeline programs. Seek referrals from underrepresented folks in your agency. Show up at multicultural career fairs. MAIP. Peruse academic institutions’ affinity groups. Engage diversity recruiting specialists. Put a premium on deliberately recruiting diverse candidates.
How do we keep leadership from getting so offended and defensive when we professionally and respectfully flag culturally inappropriate work? Oh, the amount of possible Pepsi moments I’ve prevented!
Sometimes, you will be a guest and sometimes, a host — different viewpoints, different power dynamic, but same intent and that is to make room for at least one more.
Nadia Jones: This is by far the most common gripe I have seen and heard about across agencies. And the reality is short of what I’m assuming a host of you have already done— which is, raise your hand, clear your throat and drop cultural intellectual missiles —willful ignorance is hard to combat. Let them suffer their offense. It’s not your job to succor those wounds.
I have no doubt someone raised their hand and objected to the Pepsi and H&M campaigns before they were rolled out, but they didn’t have enough authority and/or sway to stop it. So, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t prevent it from drowning itself.
Can marginalized people take any measures to prevent unconscious bias toward themselves in the hiring process without throwing their identity under the bus?
Cultural Expression and Authenticity
The language we use to talk about people of color, women and LGBTQ (and a host of other identities) is dynamic and has socio-cultural and historical import. And consequently, how we talk about bias is tantamount to how we interrupt our biases.
Nadia Jones: I would say it depends on where you’re at in your career. The sad reality is that the more junior you are, the more likely bias has a greater initial impact due to a lack of more ‘objective measures’ (e.g. professional accomplishments). Earlier in my career, post-9-11, I used to remove my middle name (Ramadan) from my resumé. Quite frankly, there’s only so much covering one can handle until it starts to impact your mental well-being. And honestly, if you have to compromise so many layers of your authentic self before even walking in the door, is this really a place you want to work?
Based on your experiences, what are 1 or 2 traits that a company/ leadership has that allows diversity to be celebrated & encouraged. How does this affect employees (Black/non-Black) in & out of work?
How to be an Ally
Be curious – of other people, their experiences, and their lives. Practice empathy – stemming from curiosity. Show up for D&I events.
Nadia Jones: So, the number one trait for not just leadership, but quite frankly, society at large, is curiosity. Be curious—of other people, their experiences, their lives. I find the most ‘enlightened’ people (so to speak) are those who are either well-traveled (and I don’t just mean within Europe or to coastal high immigration hubs—NY/Cali etc) Experience life being ‘the other’ somewhere.
And I recognize that not everyone has the luxury of foreign travel, but this curiosity can also be sated by the pursuit of learning—a book, an article, a podcast. In this day and age, we actually have no excuse for ignorance outside of willful neglect. The second trait, that stems from the first, is empathy. How can we expect people to design programs, policies and practices for people with whom they are unfamiliar and consequently, for whom they lack empathy?
How do you have a conversation with someone that makes an unknowingly inappropriate or insensitive comment that not only impacts you but others around your office?
These conversations are meant to expose our vulnerabilities as humans and as such, are supposed to be uncomfortable for everyone. It is important that we are open to learning the nuances and impact of the language we use.
Nadia Jones: I’m going to assume (hope) that this is a onetime offhanded comment and not a series of comments which in aggregate reveals a pattern. If the latter, the approach I’m about to discuss changes slightly, depending on who this person is, position relative to you etc. If the former, I would take this on as such:
1. Take a deep breath and assume the speaker just doesn’t know any better — this is big. Shout out to my homey, Egya for the mantra ‘First assumption is love…until you prove me wrong.’ Gets me through some hard moments.
2. Determine what you want from the convo—an apology? Punishment? A teachable moment?
3. Schedule time to speak to this person directly—Hey Joe, can we chat for a second
During the Conversation
4. Have the convo in private—not in the bathroom or middle of the hall.
5. Keep the convo short, simple and direct.
6. Stick to the facts—when we were meeting earlier, I heard you say ‘X’.
7. Ask clarifying and open-ended questions. ‘Would you tell me what you meant by that?’
8. Focus on how the statement made you feel—When you said x, I felt infantilized etc., the team felt ostracized. What have you…but be mindful of talking for everyone.
9. End with what you would like—I want you to be mindful of that going forward. Thank them for their time and keep it moving.
10. Worst case scenario, talk to HR. Obviously, there are a host of variables that may change this fact pattern—for example, if this is a client or your manager etc, but this should serve as a solid foundation.
Can we talk about ageism? Once we reach a certain age should we just leave the agency business? Is that fair?
Make your voice known, which is not easy but absolutely necessary.
Nadia Jones: Ahem—as a 40+ woman of color, I would love to talk ageism. No, please do not just leave the business. Make your voice known, which I know is not easy, but absolutely necessary. In addition to the spending power of the ‘seasoned’ consumer demographic, having a spectrum of ages represented at the table provides valuable insight and varying perspectives—thereby providing a better service to our clients. Spoken from a few gray hairs myself…
We want to thank Nadia for taking the time to share her expertise with our Advertising community. For additional insights and conversations from our Diversity and Inclusion workshop, be sure to check them out here.