NEW YORK: Agencies must take active steps to counter biases and prejudice in the industry, according to Keesha Jean-Baptiste, the SVP/Talent Engagement and Inclusion at the 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies).

“I would say prejudice, and stereotypes, as well as a variety of ‘isms’ – whether that’s sexism, racism or ageism – exist in this industry in the same way that they largely exist in society,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Agencies and the diversity imperative: Insights from the 4A’s.)

While the industry has “made strides” when it comes to diversifying the workforce, there is always more that can be done. “The work in this particular space is ever-present and is always, constantly, moving,” added Jean-Baptiste.

In forwarding this agenda, the 4A’s has developed the “Enlightened Workplace Certification” program, which will offer tools and training for members and non-members that are eager to benchmark and improve performance levels in this area.

When looking at the goals that the agency sector needs to achieve, Jean-Baptiste suggested that establishing benchmarks and standards was a vital task.

“I think that transparency in numbers – and having a benchmark – is the only way that we’re going make progress, because there’s always something that can get missed if you don’t have a process in place to review and audit where you stand,” she said.

“And I don’t mean that [we should] look at it from a quota perspective. I really mean looking at in terms of all the demographics that exist within the company, and being clear where you are progressing, being clear where there are gaps, and looking at it from an intersectional perspective.”

Driving heightened diversity should be a company-wide undertaking, but agency leadership needs to be fully committed, and institute strategies that do not fall by the wayside if personnel changes occur.

“I do believe that we’re going to have a new breed of leaders that come out, well-shaped and well-positioned to lead the workforce in this industry,” Jean-Baptiste said.

When problems do arise, the response must follow a protocol, too. “The organization – and leadership, specifically – have to create an environment where there is safety where there are protocols in place when safety has been compromised,” she asserted.

Sourced from WARC