Why Diversity in the Workforce is Nothing Without Inclusion

“I wish I could write the obituary for the term diversity” – Shante Bacon.

This was the most impactful quote from the panel session titled “The Industry Sucks at Diversity – What Will You Do About It?” at Ad Age’s Small Agency Conference last month. On a panel of CEOs, Head Strategists and a Senior VP Inclusion Officer from the NBA, the discussion was thought-provoking to say the least. The main conclusion drawn by the panelists was the need for a paradigm shift in the industry to make empowerment and inclusion the goal, not diversity.

First, we should differentiate between the two terms. Vernã Myers, a nationally recognized expert on diversity and inclusion says, “Diversity is being invited to the party; Inclusion is being asked to dance.” To simplify it further, she states, “Diversity is about quantity. Inclusion is about quality.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2014), of the 582,000 Americans employed in advertising and communications, less than half are women, 10.5% are Hispanic, 6.6% are African American, 5.7% are Asian. This represents an industry that is neither diverse nor inclusive.  For an industry that exists to communicate with consumers across all backgrounds, it could only benefit from an inclusive environment.

Creating diversity by hiring individuals of different race and ethnicity would benefit the industry, without question.  However, it shouldn’t be hiring for the sake of hiring. The far greater benefit comes when you incorporate inclusion into the process and fully embrace the concept. With each employee bringing their own experience, insights and perspective to their work, you create an environment that disrupts the monotony of everyday thinking, pushes past the “this is how we’ve always done it” mindset and breathes a fresh perspective into any project.

As a woman and an employee of a woman-owned business, it was exciting to learn about the different initiatives that agencies are implementing in order to maintain their commitment to diversity and inclusion. I am fortunate enough to work in a company that has inclusion as a core value and believes that bringing unique individuals together allows us to collectively and more effectively address issues and make advancements.

As industry professionals, we have the unique opportunity to propel teams towards inclusion and conferences like Ad Age can support this motion by continuing to drive education and discussion. Thanks Ad Age for shining light on this important topic. Now, what will you do to drive inclusion on your team?

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