Reflecting on a Year of DEI Progress – and Work Still To Be Done

By: Aleya Jennings, AVP, Group Account Director & Melissa Mader, PR Account Supervisor
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June signifies many historical events, Juneteenth celebrating the emancipation of enslaved African American people, Pride and the Stonewall riots, and the list continues with both monumental and small moments that forever define the course of history.

To Gatesman, June marks an awakening, where we reignited our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Caucus in 2020. Now, a year later, we turn inward again to reflect on the progress we've made within our own walls. We hope in doing so, we allow other agencies to glean something from our learnings, as well as encourage a conversation about what we – and others – can be doing better.

Building the Foundation

We established a Diversity and Inclusion Employee Resource Group (ERG) in 2016; however, in 2020, motivated by the confluence of unrest, the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn (both of which disproportionately impacted Black and Brown people), plus the growing political divide – it was time we re-evaluated our past and took a stand for the present and future. 

The first step was to change our ERG name to the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Caucus, building equity into the group’s purpose and foundation. This was an important move to represent unique individual and group experiences, values, beliefs, and characteristics, and to ensure access and the right to achievement is given to employees to achieve successful outcomes. With this addition, we continued fostering a culture of employee belonging and inclusion of abilities, disabilities, disadvantages, or health care needs.

With a new name to bring our group together, we sought to contribute to racial and social change by identifying three pillars of renewed focus:

  1. Education: We know employees are coming into the DEI space with varying degrees of knowledge. So, we set out to get smarter about the historical and current climate surrounding racial and social issues.
  2. Action: We committed to doing more as an agency and as individuals, rolling up our sleeves to revisit hiring and creative processes under an inclusive lens, as well as volunteering time and dollars to worthy causes.
  3. Amplification: Internally and externally, we aimed to bring awareness to the DEI efforts led by our own teams, as well as promote the organizations, public figures and even brands who drive transformational change and offer informed perspectives. We also viewed this as a way to use our resources for good – and hold ourselves publicly accountable.

Points of Progression Along Our Journey

Over the past year, we created subcommittees to address these initiatives and began a journey of progress that continues to be a focus for our teams. Subcommittees include:

  • Education Committee – providing continuous education for the agency on issues related to DEI through events as well as monthly newsletters
  • Rock the Vote Committee – advocating for increased voter awareness and participation in elections big and small
  • DEI Creative Review Committee – a collaboration space to discuss client work and to ensure it has thoughtful and diverse representation

 Under these committees, we accomplished the following and more, acknowledging that there is still much more to be done in the months and years to come.

  • Developed a DEI pledge, defining what we stand for as an agency and driving our decisions
  • Hosted 14+ dedicated DEI agency-wide gatherings, including Morning Coffee & Chats and Educational Happy Hours, both offering safe spaces for shared discussion surrounding topics including:
    • Bystander intervention
    • Observances such as Black History Month, Pride and Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month
    • Navigating difficult discussions with family, friends and colleagues, complete with a role-playing exercise for employees
    • Cancel culture vs. accountability
    • Different degrees of privilege, visualized by a virtual “privilege walk” exercise
    • Unconscious bias and how it impacts personal and professional lives
    • Navigating discussions about politics in the workplace
    • Racism and discrimination as explored through movies, TV, podcasts and more
  • Distributed 12+ educational newsletters internally, offering recommended resources in time with monthly DEI-related observances
  • Created a shared, living educational resources guide for internal inspiration, now with more than 70 employee-backed recommendations
  • Donated to multiple organizations driving the Black Lives Matter movement and supporting underrepresented groups, such as Color of Change, Campaign Zero and The Bail Project
  • Completed a 21-day Racial Equity Habit-building Challenge created by diversity expert Eddie Moore, Jr.
  • Expanded our paid holiday calendar to include Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth, encouraging employees to engage in service and education during the days off
  • Consulted with clients on diverse representation in advertising and the best ways to reach diverse segments

What’s Next for Gatesman’s DEI Caucus?

As strategists, creators, artists and advertisers, we understand the importance of using our collective voices for change. Not only do we have a responsibility to the communities we serve, but also to the clients we lead to ensure thoughtful, representative work. We can only do that if we do the work ourselves, which is why we've invested our time, resources, and talent into education, action, and amplification.  

While we are pleased about what we have accomplished together, we acknowledge that there is so much more work to be done. Our promise is to continue advancing our internal efforts so DEI is integrated into the fabric of our culture and business. We also want to challenge the advertising agencies in the region to share their contributions to making our industry and work representative of diverse perspectives, and equitable and inclusive for our employees, clients and partners.

 

Keep up with #TeamGatesman and join in on the conversation on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.​