Over the past several years, and even more glaringly in the past few months, brands and agencies have been shaken up to reveal some ugly truths. Today, a strong stance on racial and social justice will seal the fate of businesses, campaigns and careers.
And let’s just acknowledge: it’s about time. This evolution is long overdue, not for the sake of optics or political correctness, but for doing what is right, humane and inclusive.
Industry leaders have fallen on their words and actions when they’ve failed to embrace a more equitable culture. Campaigns across verticals are shifting to keep up with a more socially conscious consumer, many of whom are just starting to grapple with the inequity that has always existed in media.
This work is bound to get uncomfortable. After all, bias is far more than uncomfortable. The industry has a lot to learn as it moves through this transition.
But all of us have work to do, including the 4A’s. It’s our responsibility to support and guide agencies and ensure they bake accountability in their plans.
We provide resources that help agencies move beyond words to action. We recently launched the 4A’s Equity & Inclusion Congress, where members discussed barriers to equity and created industry goals, actions and metrics. We also launched Vanguard, a program to identify and develop leaders and organizations committed to helping Black talent achieve sustainable success. And we offer a Workplace Enlightenment Certification program to elevate agency employees of all levels toward the highest standards of equity and inclusion.
Here are three of my biggest takeaways as I reflect on the past several months, and look to where this movement will take us in the future:
1. Stay the course
Shaping a more inclusive culture will not happen overnight.
This shift is nothing short of an evolution for the better, and every conversation and learning experience is a step closer to where we need to be. So stick with it.
2. Build a better business
If making change was more convenient, perhaps we wouldn't be where we are today.
Change is often slow, yet expectations are quick. Businesses should engage in the many resources available to not only help build a better workplace, but to boost growth more meaningfully and guide them through what is sure to be a lengthy and disruptive process.
3. Do what matters
DE&I is no longer a segment of the business. It must become integrated into every conversation, staffing plan and decision, from the top down.
But even as it becomes an expectation, it will always be a choice – and choosing to act inclusively is quickly becoming what matters most.
This work will never be simple, because the problems in play are difficult and multi-layered. But embracing change in our actions now will pay dividends in the future.
Marla Kaplowitz is CEO of the 4As