In 2019 we created the Weber Shandwick Richard Ellis Scholarship as an important step on the path of shifting our industry towards a model that is diverse, equitable and inclusive. The scholarship provides a $1,000 grant 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 qualify, we asked students to demonstrate their passion for and understanding of the role diversity, equity and inclusion can play in improving our industry by outlining what they think we must do to get there. It’s a privilege to hear from the young minds that will soon be the future of our industry and get a fresh perspective to help inform our agency’s policies and practices. 

I’m excited to congratulate Maya Noel as the first winner of this scholarship. Maya has just completed her fourth year of the Bachelor of Public Relations program at Humber College, where she says faculty and the Humber community have been a great help in preparing her for the next phase of her life as a PR professional. Maya is a former winner of Miss India-Canada (2015) who is deeply engaged in community work here in the GTA and abroad, as well as an advocate for women’s rights and mental health. 

We will invite Maya to visit our staff on a virtual platform in the near future to hear her ideas firsthand and spur discussion about diversity and inclusion within the agency. Until then, I encourage you to hear from Maya in her own words and watch her wonderful acceptance speech here

The Weber Shandwick Richard Ellis Scholarship was created to recognize Richard Ellis for his pioneering role in advocating for diversity throughout his career in agency and corporate leadership roles. Richard built a strong career at our agency, rising to Canada CEO before he made the move to 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 not only champions diversity, but truly understands the importance of it in our work. He supported 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. His response to seeing Maya’s video is best captured in his own words: 

“It fills me with pride to hear my name associated with inspiring young talent that will soon lead this industry. Maya, seeing your passion for a diverse and inclusive industry gives me great hope for meaningful change within it in the future. I wish you all the best.” 

As I write this, we are navigating through the uncertainty of a global pandemic. It’s a timely reminder that we must not lose focus on always moving forward to create the world we want—and make our industry an effective advocate for it.  

I thank Maya for reinforcing the values that ground us as an agency in a time of extreme change. We recognize that it is one step on a path to a more diverse and inclusive industry, but now we are one step closer to our goal.