In our most recent episode of All Jargon Aside, host Courtney Minich, Associate Director, Marketplace Development, Kinesso and New York Chapter Chair of the Impact Group sits down with longtime friends, Heide Gardner, Senior Vice President, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, IPG and Dana Wade, Vice President, Creative Strategy and Cultural Intelligence at Velocity, ViacomCBS for a discussion on anti-racism, Diversity, Equality & Inclusion. Tune in to the episode to hear Heide and Dana’s personal experiences as they have watched the industry evolve; their thoughts on Black Lives Matter; and how they believe data-driven advertising is shaping the conversation.
Get a sneak peek of the episode in this brief Q&A with Heide and Dana!
Dana, how did you and Heide meet?
Dana: “Heide and I first met each other when she was working for the American Advertising Federation trying to brand programs and look for sponsors to uplift minority students. We became fast friends and colleagues working on that together. I was really impressed with the fact that she was doing very important, valuable work when nobody was really listening.”
Heide, why did the advertising industry start to pay attention to this type of work?
Heide: “It was actually the government that got people listening. There were members of Congress, the White House, the Federal Trade Commission and the Communications Commission who were looking at the industry and threatening it with a host of regulations, including issues around discrimination against minority media outlets. That’s really how advertising started paying attention to our work back then.”
Dana, how did you decide whether or not to get involved in the anti-racism discussion?
D: “We are doing work at Velocity right now to fight racism in and outside of our communities including taking a look at how racism impacts marketing from the angle of consumer representation. But I have to tell you, I was hesitant to get involved at first because I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into only caring about and talking about diversity and inclusion. I had to do a self-check, really think about what I wanted to do, and decide how I could affect the most change. I ultimately decided to get involved in a pretty robust way. I made this choice because I have the ability to help make our work environment a more ‘friendly’ place for people of color and hopefully a place where they can bring their whole selves and be valued for that.”
Dana, can you share a bit about your work in youth trend analysis and what the young people of the world are talking about right now in regard to anti-racism and DEI?
D: “Right now, we’re watching a trend called “ending taboos” and what we’ve identified is that Gen-Z isn’t afraid to talk about anything. In fact, they thrive on having conversations that might have previously been seen as inappropriate and are open to having discussions that will lead to a new path for understanding themselves and the world. For example, there was a point when talking about race in a cultural setting was taboo. But the Gen-Z mindset is founded on confidence, political engagement, self-awareness and an active curiosity that really has them questioning everything. As a result, they have opened up a broader conversation for everyone around race, particularly in relation to this summer’s events and America’s racist history.”
Heide, can you share your perspective on the emotional tax that can come with speaking out against racism as a Black American?
H: “I think there was an exhaustion that came along with Black Lives Matter. As a Black American, there is a very real consequence to when you do and when you don’t speak up. There is a mental toll on processing that situation and trying to decide whether or not you should engage with the conversation.
At IPG, we had about 20 sessions over the summer dedicated to this topic and one thing I heard a lot of was that people, on the one hand, don’t want you to assume that what’s happening in the world isn’t impacting them, but they also don’t want you to assume that they want to talk about it or be a spokesperson. I think the best starting place is to ask people if they want to talk about what’s going on and pushing yourself to be curious enough to explore and research on your own. In doing so – even in changing what you search on Google – you change the type of information you receive, how your social feeds look and the types of conversations that happen in your life.”
Dana, how do you think the industry – and the business world as a whole – is doing in terms of diverse hiring, equality and inclusion?
D: “We have a long way to go. I still participate in so many conferences over Zoom where there are very few people of color present and I’m often the only one. I like to say there has been some progress, but there hasn’t been enough. If you look at the most senior ranks of media companies and client organizations, they’re dominated by White males. You’re starting to see more White females, but you don’t see many people of color or Black men and women in those teams. We are definitely starting to see more diversity at the professional and management level, but not enough in the senior ranks.”