Ad Week Europe began today and already high on the agenda of trending topics was diversity. Diversity is no flash in the pan trend and the conversation continued on from Ad Week Europe 2016 – Channel 4 led the agenda and launched its Superhumans Wanted initiative. In fact the enduring conversation around diversity, equality and inclusion is reassuring because as today’s panel made up of Alice Pfeiffer (Editor of French fashion magazine, Antidote), Luis Vicente (Senior sports industry expert and founder of 3V Sports Partners), Kim Gehrig (Director for ‘Man on the Moon’ and ‘This Girl Can’, SOMESUCH & Co) and Vanessa Kingori MBE (first female publisher of a male magazine at Conde Nast, British GQ) asserted, visibility is paramount to change. Visibility is so important because it shows in the face of unequal opportunity, the path to success has been trodden by peers and contemporaries. Visibility makes success accessible.
Improving access to opportunity is critical to improving diversity within the advertising industry. If we improve access then we can give those from diverse backgrounds the tools to improve and excel. Business results derived from diverse groups as opposed to homogenous groups have long been proven however as the panel keenly voiced, skillset and merit will always win out in business and we should not hire based on diversity quotas. If we do so then the talents of individuals are already diminished. As Alice Pfeiffer stated in the case of fashion, “diversity is not showing lots of races, that is just exotifying diversity”, to truly address the issue of diversity we must provide opportunity and act with depth, not just a superficial façade – would you hire someone over 50, do you pay your intern expenses and a wage, what else can you do to ensure the diverse minority are afforded the same opportunity to succeed as the majority?
OMD UK, as part of Omnicom, takes great pride in the fact that Omnicom UK’s senior leadership team is 48% female, 20% higher than the IPA target for every agency. Internally one recent initiative to improve access has been the launch of a mentoring app which connects senior female leaders with junior female staff. Of course gender diversity is only one aspect of diversity, and at its broadest diversity is about breadth of experience. Similarly, panellist Vanessa Kingori defined diversity as “much more than race and gender… what is important is that people are well referenced”. OMD UK’s ambition is to help clients earn a greater share of people’s lives so naturally an understanding of people’s lives is vital to ensure we are incredibly well referenced. To that end, another agency initiative is the provision of an annual learning bursary which gives employees funds to learn a new, unrelated skills to ultimately facilitate diverse experiences.
In the words of the Ad Week slogan, “Great minds think unalike” but, as an industry, are we doing all we can to access and harness those minds?