Note: This article was originally published in the September/October edition of Philly Ad News. 

At Brownstein Group (BG), we are interested in the long game when it comes to our diversity and inclusion efforts.

What this means is that we’re not trying to meet a particular goal or conduct one single “initiative” before calling it quits; instead, we realize that achieving a truly diverse and inclusive workplace will take time – and that we certainly don’t have all the answers. But we’re hopeful that the steps we are currently taking will help BG establish a strong foundation that in turn will help not only the agency flourish, but also the wider regional communications industry.

While many are rightly concerned about increasing the amount of diversity among current marketing professionals, young people often aren’t aware that it is even a potential career path. So what’s happening is that instead of cultivating their creativity, these young professionals are pursuing occupations based on profitability – and are ultimately missing out on opportunities that could lead to a fulfilling career within our industry.

At BG, we’re working to change that by getting in at the ground level via partnerships with local high schools as well as historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). At the high school level, we’re offering students in the area the opportunity to shadow BG employees, and for college students, we’re hosting “intern open houses” where they can check out what agency life is like and learn more about the different career paths available. This year, we’re hosting two intern open houses – one in the spring and another in the fall – in partnership with eight HBCUs.

We’re also making a concerted effort to engage with local community and professional organizations in order to cultivate relationships with historically diverse groups of people at all levels. Whether someone is looking to make a career change or is interested in networking opportunities within the industry, we want to make sure that we’re connecting with individuals who may not be coming through the “usual” employment pipelines.

All of this outreach is helping us make progress toward BG20 x 2020, a program and pledge to have 20% of staff comprised of talent from underrepresented backgrounds by the year 2020. However, it’s important to stress that BG20 x 2020 is far from a one-off initiative, but rather a way for BG to hold itself accountable and ensure that we as an agency are setting ourselves up for future success.

While we of course have specific plans and desires to diversify our team further, our long-term goal is very much rooted in having an impact that goes far beyond our walls. The important work of increasing diversity cannot happen in a vacuum, and we feel compelled to be inclusive in our efforts. That means candidate sharing, having discussions with other agencies about what they’re doing (even if they are competitors) and collectively working to address the issue. That’s the only way the landscape changes. At the end of the day, if we’re able to educate people of color on the value, promise and professional pathway their creative skills warrant, we’ll consider it a success.

In addition to the work we’re doing to make our workplace more diverse, we’ve also introduced measures to open up a dialogue around inclusion. We realize that making BG more diverse is only half the battle, as employees from varied backgrounds will only thrive if they feel welcomed and see opportunities for advancement. We’re becoming more thoughtful in how we engage our employees, via everything from cultural events to programming centered on unconscious bias training. Earlier this year, BG hosted a mandatory unconscious bias seminar for all staff that was led by a well-respected Cultural Strategist and Inclusion Leader. This internal education helps our employees rethink how they interact with and treat one another, and it’s helping us start conversations that aren’t always easy to have, but are necessary and will only help us grow.

Like I’ve said before, BG’s diversity and inclusion efforts are admittedly still in their nascent stages, and we know there’s more work to do. But we hope that we’re laying the groundwork for a path that will help us, as well as the industry, create futures where there were none. BG has been a part of this city for 55 years, and we firmly believe that it is incumbent upon us to cultivate an environment where diverse, visionary professionals can succeed for generations to come.