Riding my road bike has been the source of many life lessons. For example, when my energy starts to fail climbing a steep hill, I know I won’t fail if I just keep my legs moving, consistently putting one leg in front of the other.
The same is true when making important cultural changes in a business. Pick your destination, then keep taking one step after another and keep moving forward. Stay focused and the drive from many consistent steps becomes irresistible.
I believe this is the right attitude to apply when building diverse talent and leadership in our agency.
A few weeks back I had the opportunity to meet with IPG CEO Michael Roth during his visit to our Detroit office. He was in an expansive mood having just returned from a triumphant week at the Cannes Festival of Creativity where IPG agencies outperformed the competition.
Roth spoke with pride about just hosting IPG’s ninth annual women’s breakfast at Cannes. In 2010, a couple dozen people attended the first breakfast. This year it was standing room only in a much larger room to hear from global brands like Adobe, Levi-Strauss, Microsoft, Mars and Unilever. The get together has become a global focal point for our industry to demonstrate the power it has to shine a spotlight on diversity as a creator of work that moves brands and changes our world.
Last year in Toronto, the Institute of Communications Agencies hosted the first ever I.D.E.A. Summit – three days talking about how inclusivity, diversity and equality in the advertising industry drives competitive advantage and better work for clients. Speakers included Cindy Gallop from IfWeRanTheWorld and Lisen Stromberg from The 3% Conference, plus a deep roster of Canadian leaders across the issues.
Like IPG’s first women’s breakfast, attendance by the industry should have been stronger. But the important outcome was a clear statement of intent and a commitment to lead change. I like to think of the I.D.E.A. Summit as the “Velvet Conference” in homage to the band that opened my mind to music. Music producer Brian Eno has the best quote about the power of innovative thinking once the idea has been hatched: “The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.”
That’s how we make progress. Articulate a vision. Demonstrate commitment. Keep moving forward. And that is how we will continue to build a more diverse agency and industry. One where everyone feels comfortable to be their whole and authentic selves at work; where we are better together because we make the effort to understand each other, include each other, and treat each other fairly and with equity.
Natasha Bowman, author of the book You Can’t Do That At Work said it best at a recent industry conference, “If diversity is being asked to the dance, inclusion is being asked to dance, and belonging is being asked what song you’d like to dance to.”
Making progress on diversity matters to me. I work at IPG and Weber Shandwick because diversity matters to our global leadership. I am very proud to work with so many clients who are also committed to live progressive values and foster change.
We recently celebrated the corporate retirement of Richard Ellis, a great friend of Weber Shandwick in Canada. Richard built a stellar career at our agency rising to Canada CEO before departing for an impressive tenure at McDonald’s where he had Canadian, North American and global leadership roles in the Corporate Relations group.
Richard has been a role model for the kind of leadership that makes a difference for diversity. He championed diversity initiatives in his roles at McDonald’s, was recognized as a Canadian Diversity Champion by Women of Influence magazine, and has acted as a mentor on this issue to many leaders in our profession.
Out of respect to everything Richard has meant to Weber Shandwick as both a leader and a client, we are proud to take another step forward on diversity with the establishment of the Weber Shandwick Richard Ellis Scholarship. The scholarship will provide a $1,000 scholarship to a fourth-year student in the Humber College Bachelor of Public Relations program – a school that regularly attracts the best and brightest to our industry.
To get the scholarship, the student must demonstrate a passion and understanding of the role diversity and inclusion can play in improving our industry, along with some practical advice on steps we should take to achieve progress. We will award our first recipient in the Fall 2019 school year, and we look forward to the many recommendations on how we continue to drive forward with diversity.
There is much to do as we continue on this journey. But, like that hill on the bike, we will continue to keep moving forward until we get there.