VaynerX, Gary Vaynerchuk’s holding company housing companies including VaynerMedia, The Sasha Group and Gallery Media Group, has hired Vanessa Vining as its first chief diversity officer.
Vining joins VaynerX from Omnicom’s Hearts & Science, where she was senior director, cross-cultural strategy and head of diversity, equity and inclusion. She has more than 25 years of experience in diversity investment and training in the advertising industry.
Vining will report directly to Vaynerchuk and work closely with VaynerX chief heart officer, Claude Silver, to develop a global DE&I framework and revamp hiring, retention and training programs with diversity in mind. She will focus on supplier diversity programs as well.
The appointment comes months after Vaynerchuk publicly promised to make three diverse hires to his executive team by June 1. Vining is the third hire after Maya Brewster-Dorian, chief production officer at VaynerX, and Eric Jacobs, chief innovation officer.
While Vaynerchuk was “a hair late” on his self-imposed deadline, “at the end of the day, you want to make the right choices,” he said, adding that there was a stop and start with another potential candidate.
VaynerX needs a dedicated executive focused on diversity to commit the “amount of energy, structure, strategy required to be great at DE&I internally” as well as to “create the trickle down effect in the way we think about our work,” Vaynerchuk said.
“It’s incredibly important to me that everyone in my organization feels as though they are being represented,” he added. “Equally important [are] strategies to acquire and recruit talent, create retention and career path growth.”
Vining will double down on VaynerX’s community resource groups while developing the “connective tissue” to string DE&I initiatives across the organization together globally.
“There's a lot of diversity, I can see it there already,” she said. “So [I’ll be] looking at, across the global organization, how we continue to foster belonging and inclusion while creating a destination where everyone wants to work.”
Retention will be a key focus for Vining, especially in the advertising industry, where agencies have focused diversity efforts at the junior hiring level.
“Diversity shouldn’t just sit at the junior associate level, and that's where the majority of talent in advertising has sat,” Vining said. “It’s difficult to see yourself on that career path when you don’t see people who look like you on the C-suite.”
Vaynerchuk added that Vining will have “plenty of budget” to tackle these initiatives because the company is privately held and has more flexibility for investment. “It’s an incredibly flat organization,” he said.
“Just because we don’t have open slots doesn’t mean we can’t hire,” he said. “That’s unheard of at holding companies.”