Don’t wait for the cavalry

Words by Melanie Clement, Communications Executive, NABS

Diversity. A broad word, isn’t it?
Nadya Powell summed up what diversity should look like during the Advertising Week Europe with the phrase:
“You want to be having arguments”.
Isn’t she right? A diverse set of minds, opinions and cultural representation allows for ideas to be unleashed that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. I’m sure we all have had one of those points in our careers where a pint break is needed to drown out the headache from disagreements and arguments.
This all becomes obsolete in that moment; the moment when you look at each other with that satisfied glare, knowing that this is it, this idea is great; we are great. Whilst bringing in more diverse people to the group could cause more conflict, in the end, the work will benefit as the ideas will be better and stronger – leading to the best outcome and result possible – something you can be proud of.
Despite this outlook, the industry continues to drag behind with a complacent attitude towards diversity. In a city as diverse as London, I wonder to myself how this is STILL an issue within the advertising world?
Nishma Robb headed the panel discussion AdvertisingSOWhite: Seeing is Believing at AWE, joined by a diverse speaker line-up. The stats shared from Unilever’s Unstereotyped research resonated with me as the figures show a staggering 60% of women and 49% of men reveal that stereotypes have affected both their career and personal life. Whilst not surprising in a time where diversity is such a centred topic, the figures continue to disappoint with IPA research showing that only 30% of woman hold executive roles and 12% come from ethnic backgrounds.
Faced with these stats Nishma asked the challenging question:
“What’s happening? Is this all empty talk?”
A key term that struck me was unconscious bias – something that we all have yet aren’t necessarily aware of in our day-to-day lives. This is a major roadblock and one of the most challenging obstacles facing diversity.
Brands talk more and more about wanting to create products for Millennials but who knows the language of this audience better than Millennials themselves? Throughout the in-house discussions and the external agency creations, why are we not including the key people that are so crucial to the project’s success? Millennials are the generation with the greatest ability to date to shift the way brands and companies communicate and they are the generation going in to our industry with the most diversity amongst them. Companies looking to embrace diversity need to do so by providing a support network that encourages young people to want to stay and be a part of the development of their organisations, rather than feeling like small, sidelined fish in big ponds.
Beyja Mulenga expressed his thoughts on how the younger and more inclusive generation is experiencing the industry:
“They are quickly shifting and going back out” of the advertising and media industry due to the “culture shock”, having not been fully aware of the cultural differences such as age, gender and ethnic background within agencies and brands.
Nadya expands on this point with the statement “tokenism doesn’t work”. Young people want to see companies actively taking control and challenging diversity policies.
Have you ever felt outcasted during your time within the industry? As a Millennial coming away from this panel I’m more encouraged than ever to get out there and show them what they are missing! We are not a generation that just sits back. We make things happen.
Richard Robinson summed things up best with his line:
“Don’t wait for the cavalry”
I can’t think of a better way to put it. We know people are talking about diversity but we don’t see a lot happening. Don’t wait for your boss, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Ghandi
Richard is a member of The NABS 100 Club – like-minded industry leaders, who generously pledge to mentor and inspire the next generation.
Join the revolution and help rising stars reach the top. Please email Kyliefor information on becoming a member of the 100 Club.
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