Friday, May 09, 2008

5451: Hill On Diversity, Talent And Inclusion.

In recent essays, MultiCultClassics has discussed the new initiative from the 4As and Howard University that was unveiled at the 4As Leadership Conference. In addition to trying to figure out the specifics of the program, MultiCultClassics has wondered about 4As President-CEO Nancy Hill’s true position on the diversity issue. MultiCultClassics reached out and Hill graciously responded by forwarding the complete statements she made on the topic during the conference…

Diversity, Talent & Inclusion:

Like many of you, I’ve thought a lot about diversity and the ad industry, and I’ve come to realize that part of the problem is the word itself. For many of you in this room—and the corporate world in general—the word diversity has unfortunately become a loaded term. That’s because the way that businesses frequently view diversity is often—if not always—a mathematical equation to be solved with numbers alone.

Yes, increasing the number of ethnically and racially diverse employees in agencies—particularly African-Americans in the senior ranks—is a critical business imperative for us all. The solution, however, isn’t simply tapping into the same pool of like-minded, like-experienced, like-educated talent, who happen to be ethnically and racially different from the (generally) white establishment.

I believe that in order for us to get past considering only the mathematical equation of diversity, we need to add to the definition of the word to include talent and inclusion.

Diversity of gender, race and ethnicity—the ad industry needs to put these at the top of the list, of course, but we must also embrace diversity of experience, point-of-view, and knowledge. I’d like to go one step further: True, genuine diversity recognizes the business value of respecting, celebrating and rewarding all of the differences that unique individuals bring to their work, because of and regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or life experience.

When—and only when—we have truly embraced these ideals can we ensure that our industry is one that leads in diversity, and not merely follows. Tomorrow I will announce a major AAAA initiative that will specifically address the dearth of African-American executives in our ranks, and how the AAAA will back our talk with funds to support this initiative.


By casting a wider, more inclusive net for talent, we’ll tackle two of the greatest challenges our industry faces today—attracting talent and building awareness among the next generation about the rewards and opportunities in advertising.

The students that we should attract to the business are those who—on one end of the spectrum—are considering positions at the McKinseys of the world, and—on the other end—those who are taking jobs at Google, Microsoft and Yahoo!

Just twenty years ago, images of advertising careers played a greater role in the American zeitgeist, and tech and consulting career options weren’t as readily available as they are today.

I’ve heard several agency leaders, some of you in this audience, say they would discourage young people from joining our ranks, and that makes me very sad. Yes, the business has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. And yes, the skill sets that are required are different than they were in the past. But that’s what I think is so exciting about the business today. For those of you running agencies, it’s your job to make advertising the career path of choice for the brightest and most talented people out there.

We are the standard bearers, the main cheerleaders for our great business. And not only because advertising is simply fun or about “ideas,” which of course it is, but because advertising and marketing communications is at the core of all business, because it makes a fundamental impact on the quality of our lives and our economy. And because smart, creative, ambitious people are those who will thrive in this industry.

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