Earlier this month, MM+M hosted its Racial Equity Summit. Prompted by recent incidents of white privilege and police brutality against BIPOC individuals, the Summit hosted four panel discussions to help answer questions such as “What is the role of business in leading change?” and “How can active listening within organizations turn talk into meaningful action?”
During the panel titled “The Agency Diversity Conundrum,” W2O’s Head of DE&I, Marcia Windross had the opportunity to give her perspective on what actions healthcare marketing firms are taking to achieve genuine diversity across their ranks. During the discussion, she was joined by Tayla Mahmud, Associate Managing Director at Havas Health & You, and Walter T. Geer III, Executive Creative Director of Experience Design at VMLY&R. Following are some key takeaways of the discussion:
U.S. Diversity Numbers Do Not Match Healthcare Industry Diversity Numbers
The discussion kicked off with the panelists giving their perspective on today’s DE&I trends in the healthcare industry. Marcia broke down the percentages of diverse communities in the United States and compared them to the percentages in the healthcare industry. Unfortunately, these numbers do not align. Like most industries, the healthcare sector must continue to ensure that their offices mirror the diversity in society at large. Tayla said she believes it takes a combination of “focus, commitment and follow through” from leadership of healthcare companies to build a diverse and inclusive employee base.
We Need More Than a Seat at the Table
The second part of the panel started a conversation centered around the importance of putting diverse perspectives at the decision-making table and how that simply is no longer enough. Marcia explained that sometimes people of diverse backgrounds are given a seat at the table, but their voices are not heard. She explained that companies should ensure that they are cultivating a safe and open space so diverse communities feel empowered to share their perspectives. Walter brought up the infamous Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial that went viral in 2017. He said that advertisements like these happen and will continue to happen if employees from diverse backgrounds do not have a seat and a valued voice at the table. He drove home the point that hiring diverse candidates simply is not enough. We must work to ensure that employees from diverse backgrounds feel included and heard within their company.
Equity is the “Secret Sauce”
As diversity roles continue to evolve, the title of Diversity & Inclusion has moved toward Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. The addition of the word equity is no mistake. Within DE&I roles, diversity is the process of hiring those from diverse backgrounds (ethnic, racial, religion, gender, etc.), while inclusion means ensuring that those from diverse backgrounds feel included and heard. Equity comes in to create opportunity, fairness and advancement for all groups of people. According to Marcia, equity is the “secret sauce” to building a truly diverse, inclusive and equitable environment. She said we must understand that all employees come from various circumstances and that companies must put in place certain opportunities to catapult each employee to their highest potential.
Overall, the discussion was fantastic and extremely informative! In my new role as Manager, DE&I, I will continue to take the time to listen to DE&I professionals who have paved the way.