Thought leadership

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Do you want to create an inclusive culture – get ready for National Inclusion Week

Connect for inclusion

We know that ethnically diverse organisations can be as much as 35% more profitable than their competitors who are not. Research from Lloyds Banking Group Plc found that 65% of respondents would feel more favourable about a brand that tries to represent different parts of society. It is not only crucial for the advertising sector to ensure that they develop inclusive practices, but that they also reach out to diverse talents and ensure they feel valued and included so they can share their input.

IPA 2017 survey from 131 agencies this year has highlighted that there is a growing proportion of women in senior roles in agencies, but there is still work to do in this area. The 2016 IPA surveys has highlighted that 86.9% of employees in agencies were from White backgrounds and that Black and Minority Ethnic staff were concentrated in the lower ranks of organisation. This shows that there is still a lot to do for agencies to reach diverse talents and ensure they progress throughout the agency.

Whether you are at the start of the journey or you have implemented many actions, a way of demonstrating your commitment is to take part in National Inclusion Week (NIW), which takes place between 25th of September and 1st October 2017.

The theme of NIW this year is Connect for Inclusion, because meeting people from different teams, other parts of our organisations, regions, countries, backgrounds and heritages enriches our thinking and our understanding of how we can be at our best for our organisations.

For National Inclusion Week 2017, we are asking everyone to step out of their familiar daily networks and meet other people; people who may say or do things in ways that are different to the way we say or do things, people who have had experiences unlike our own.

If we connect with other people, we’ll have an opportunity to gain new perspectives and ideas that may help us grow stronger and reshape how inclusive our organisations can be.

We will provide a number of free resources to support you in creating an inclusive culture in your organisation and bring about change so you can reap the benefits of a diverse, engaged and included workforce.

You can sign up (it’s free) here:

Last year, we were very pleased that The Mill took part in NIW and put together an existing week of event to start the conversation on diversity and inclusion.
Simon Devereux, Group Head of L&D shared his thoughts on last year’s NIW:

“At The Mill, we are truly creative business, we live and die by innovation and aim to push things forward, invest in new tech and come up with great new ideas all the time. And you can’t do that without different perspectives. For NIW we curated a week of events on different topics such as women leadership, disability, LGBTI, BAME and transgender. We wanted a companywide inclusion conversation.

We now continue to drive our inclusion agenda from the position that diversity of thought, perspective and background drives creative excellence and commercial success.
As employers, you’ve got to be bold and make sure that everyone is involved in the conversation. It’s all about inspiring careers and creating an environment where talent can thrive, and everyone can come in and feel they are represented.”
Think differently and do things differently, take part in NIW to Connect for Inclusion.

Bertille Calinaud
Senior Inclusion and Diversity Consultant – Inclusive Employers


MEC unveils the 'Face of Advertising' at Ad Week Europe

The Face of Advertising is a young white male, according to a creative data visualisation conducted by MEC at Ad Week Europe 2017.

Face of AdvertisingMEC created the average face by merging photos of delegates that attended Advertising Week Europe on the first day of the conference. It provided a visual representation of the lack of diversity in the industry and highlighted how much work needs to be done to hit Campaign and the IPA’s 2020 targets of 15% of people in leadership positions from a non-white background and 25% per cent of new joiners from BAME backgrounds.

The visualisation updated in real time throughout the day. It encouraged people to be aware of the lack of diversity in the industry and how it does not reflect wider society. MEC also challenged delegates to brave their bias by taking the Harvard University Implicit Association Test (IATs), which are designed to help bring our unconscious biases to the surface. The tests measure hidden attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to admit to - or even aware of.

Attendees were invited to take up to six tests. Each one was anonymous and covered attitudes towards gender, disability, sexuality, weight, age and skin-tone. The focus was not on any individual’s results, as everybody has them. Instead, it was to help them acknowledge on the presence and breadth of their biases and so they could be aware of them.

Diversity Consultant Sasha Scott from The Inclusive Group was on hand to offer coaching and tips for those looking for tailored advice on how to address their bias.
The aim of MEC’s Brave Your Bias test, which took place in the foyer of Picturehouse Central on day one of Ad Week Europe, was to encourage delegates to help drive change and challenge the face of advertising by confronting their own biases and pledging to work on them.


A Tribal take on diversity.

So here we are, 150 of us the heart of Paddington, 150 and 24 nationalities in fact. I don’t know how we got here. It wasn’t deliberate it’s just the way it happened. It’s just about the best person for the role, regardless of their origin or background.

They just have to be a Tribal person and our motto is and always has been in this building, you have to be talented and you have to be nice, so thank you Bill Bernbach for that.

So we try not to make too much of a fuss, being respectful is the most important thing and it seems to come quite naturally here. I have learnt that in fact drawing attention to our diversity all the time is actually not what people want. As an example, during certain religious periods when people need to fast we have found that people want to get on with it in their own way, what they don’t want is an email from the agency announcing it and stipulating certain do’s and don’ts of behaviour. It just needs to be quietly observed and respected and that is how it is.

There are some things that you should think about though, being mindful that many of our people don’t drink alcohol for example and making sure that company events don’t always revolve around excessive alcohol consumption. Adding more vegetarian and vegan food options to company events is also important. You may think these are small things but they really matter and help people to feel included.

In addition I’m proud that we have a multi-faith prayer room in the building, all thanks to the wonderful people in our office services department who saw some of our staff trying to pray in the cleaning store and car park.  It’s a quiet space for everyone to share. Again no big fuss an easy fix that made people very, very happy.

Over the last year many people have joined Tribal, coming directly to London and not having any previous experience of working in the UK. This has presented a number of new challenges that I’ve enjoyed helping to solve. Imagine arriving in a strange city, often alone away from family and friends. It can have an impact on even the most worldly individual’s wellbeing.

Finding somewhere to live, setting up a bank account even knowing where to buy food can be a problem. The impact of the weather here is not to be under estimated either. Last year, one of our team returned to their country of origin because of the lack of sunshine. There is also the challenge of different ways of working and styles of communication. I have had to think a bit more about additional support during the on-boarding process. It could be as much about giving people just a bit more of your time to help them adjust. Language lessons are now a line item in my annual training budget.

So what more can I say? I am afraid I don’t have any radical new ideas. Only that, and this comes from a very personal viewpoint; I am really very lucky to work with so many talented people from different backgrounds and with different life experiences. It makes our work environment stronger and our work better.

Sally Boulton
Head of Talent for Tribal Worldwide


Diversity and the illusion of validity.

As a mixed race man working in advertising, I find myself dragged often into conversations about diversity. And it usually goes something like this: “yes, we really do have a diversity issue in our industry. Not enough women at board level despite a majority at entry level, not enough ethnic diversity, total lack of social mobility. Shocking.” And so on. Usually rapidly followed up with “but we don’t have that problem at our place. At XYZ agency, we’re a true meritocracy. We hire and promote talent purely on merit.”

Fair enough so far. I agree that the vast majority of people in our industry do not knowingly reject talent on the basis of gender, geography, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. Merit is a fair and reasonable filter for talent decision.

But why then do the numbers show that we, the advertising industry, continue to have a diversity problem? How so, when our recruitment decisions are based purely on merit?

Here’s the reason (and thankfully it isn’t that we are all monsters): we are terrible at evaluating individuals objectively on merit.

Everyone likes to think they are fair and open minded, but beliefs and values gained from culture, colleagues and over a lifetime of experiences in the industry heavily influence how we view and evaluate both others and ourselves. These biases are useful – they allow us to process information and make decisions quickly. However, they can be costly to business, causing us to make decisions that are not objective. Ultimately we may miss opportunities and overlook talent, maintaining the status quo and continuing the diversity problem.

Daniel Kahneman tells the story of the ‘illusion of validity’, the first cognitive bias he became aware of. At 21 years old, while serving in the Israeli army as a psychologist, he was a part of a team that conducted a test of leadership potential, the leaderless group challenge. This was a drill where 8 candidates who didn't know each other, with all insignia of rank removed, were instructed to carry themselves and a long log over a six-foot wall without touching the wall. The test required ingenuity and teamwork (getting the eighth man across typically involved him jumping at the log held at an angle by the seven men on the other side) and often resulted in failure. In the process, the test was supposed to reveal who was a good leader.

Kahneman and his peers observed the test and, after forming coherent and clear impressions of the soldiers and writing down formal predictions based on their judgment, submitted notes to their superiors. While the observers consistently failed in predicting a candidate's performance in officer training school, the team incongruously remained optimistic in their ability to correctly predict future outcomes. Kahneman writes:

"The statistical evidence of our failure should have shaken our confidence in our judgments of particular candidates, but it did not. It should also have caused us to moderate our predictions, but it did not. We knew as a general fact that our predictions were little better than random guesses, but we continued to feel and act as if each particular prediction was valid." Daniel Kahneman

We consistently overestimate our ability to interpret and predict accurately the outcome when analysing a set of data. Our ability to pick “a star” candidate or employee. Overconfidence arises because people are often blind to their own blindness.

If we are to truly be a force for good – for business and the economy, good for consumers and society, good for the people making a living from it – then we need to be better at hiring and promotion decisions. We need to be more progressive, to champion fairness, opportunity and enjoy diversity rather than struggling to accommodate and negotiate it.

Looking to the longer term, we know that an industry that encourages diversity in its make up will enjoy divergent thinking, diversity in ideas and attitudes. New, novel approaches. Varied, exploratory thoughts and actions. In a world of parity products and services we remain a point of difference industry, so this can only be good for our creative output and our clients’ growth.

So what to do? When faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, without realising it. We make up a story from the little we know but have no way to allow for what we do not know. As members of the advertising profession, it is beholden upon each of us to push a little further. Our existing approaches to recruitment and retention are largely bringing us more of the same people and similar outcomes.

The IPA has created a toolkit to empower agencies to take action. We must address our biases head on and take steps to tackle the diversity problem. We must interrogate our beliefs and learn new ones. Let’s move beyond the illusion to create a new reality.

Julian Douglas
Vice Chairman, VCCP

Last updated 22/08/2017

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