Addressing Diversity in Advertising/Marketing

The problem is this – advertising/marketing agencies do not employ enough people of color.

According to the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics Population Survey, of the nearly 560,000 people employed in advertising, public relations and related industries, only 8.9 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino, 7.4 percent as Asian and 5.8 percent as Black or African American. It should be noted that while the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) collects demographic information annually from each company about its workforce (including data on race and gender), companies are not required to publicly disclose those filings. So while exact numbers may be hard to come by, it is safe to say that the underrepresentation of certain groups is both a fact and a very real feeling.

This is an obvious problem, compounded by the notion that advertisers/marketers are in the business of creating content that should be meaningful to large swaths of society, and yet the very people creating the content are not wholly representative of that society.

Brownstein Group is not immune. While our agency has significant representation among women and the LGBTQ community, we need to go further towards accelerating the inclusion and involvement of communities of color. As the longest-running independent marketing communications agency in Philadelphia, we must take a more active role. So, we are.

On February 15, we announced the launch of “BG20x2020” – a program and pledge to have 20% of the agency staff comprised of talent from underrepresented backgrounds by the year 2020.

“Philadelphia thrives on its multigenerational, multiracial and multicultural communities and it’s time all parties were better represented within companies who help tell their stories,” said Marc Brownstein, President and CEO of Brownstein Group. “Our job is to create work that resonates among myriad audiences and, by increasing the diversity of experiences within our own walls, our work will ultimately be more genuine, empathetic and impactful.”

In order to source a more diversified candidate pool, Brownstein Group plans to expand our recruitment from schools or universities with historically higher percentages of people of color. The agency will also increase its involvement with racially diverse professional groups, as well as promote agency internships that will allow opportunities to get involved in a variety of departments.

“Brownstein Group has been a part of this city for more than half a century, and it is incumbent upon us to continue the cultivation of diverse, visionary professionals that will drive our creative economy through future generations,” said Erin Allsman, Managing Director. “We must ensure that Philadelphia takes its place as a destination city for progressive work and talent, and we have the commitment, passion and determination to make it happen.”

Diversity is a sensitive issue, mixed with a lot of strong feelings and historical awfulness. It’s often uncomfortable to talk about race, and simply recognizing/calling out that your company needs to do a better job including more people of color is a good start. Here are some other things to consider when you’re tackling the issue of diversity and inclusion:

  • Have a conversation with your HR Manager first. Times have changed, and so has the language used when referencing people of color. Don’t torpedo good intentions before you get started.
  • When you speak with your HR Manager, make sure you have accurate data on your current employees, past hiring trends, etc. Often times, you might not even be getting job applications from people of color. Discuss methods you can do to change that and find ways to engage new communities.
  • Hold your company accountable. By setting realistic milestones and starting a conversation among employees, you’re creating momentum.
  • Along the same lines of holding your company accountable, be sure to set some times to check-in and refresh the mission. Has the make-up of your employees changed/evolved? Are there certain people who may now be underrepresented who were not beforehand? Keep the conversation current.

Finally, remember this – we have to start somewhere. This issue will not change overnight, but for those advertising/marketing companies who wish to produce relevant work and for the creative economy in Philadelphia to flourish, it must change soon.

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