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Diversity and Inclusion in Marketing – Part 1

Diversity in marketing is an incredibly important issue. We’ve come a long way in the marketing and advertising industry, but there is still a long road ahead. In my classes, I talk about diverse perspectives, how to make customers feel represented, and understanding your audience well enough to be able to market to your entire audience, not just the most represented. A college classroom is a great place to foster this type of discussion, as these students come from a wide range of backgrounds, and in my class, in particular, a broad range of countries and socio-economic backgrounds.

The U.N. has a group called the Unstereotype Alliance that conducted a global study on inclusion. In their survey (14,700 men and women aged 16-64 in 28 countries). They found that:

  • 76% of consumers believe that “advertising has a lot of power to shape how people perceive each other”
  • 72% feel that “most advertising does not reflect the world around me”
  • 63% claim that “I don’t see myself represented in most advertising”
  • 60% say “I don’t see my community of friends, family, and acquaintances represented accurately in most advertising”

Clearly, we still have a long way to go. When we start talking about diversity in the marketing industry, it comes in two main paths – “behind the scenes” and “in front of the camera.” Basically, a diverse team creating the marketing and advertising products yields a more representative and diverse message that resonates with audiences more readily. However, you still need both sides to truly embrace diversity. First, we’ll address the inclusion within the marketing team and then, inclusion as it faces outward.

Understanding Types of Diversity

Oftentimes, when we talk about diversity and inclusion, our immediate thought goes to racial diversity. While this is an important aspect of diversity, there are actually several different types of diversity that are important in understanding how to be truly inclusive.

  • Demographic Diversity > Identity – this is related to a person’s social-physical categories like race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, physical ability. Exploring this type of diversity includes:
    • Racial and ethnic diversity – without focusing on stereotypes
    • Size diversity -not everyone is a size 0, so why are all models?)
    • Ability diversity – wheelchairs, physical handicaps, and impediments
    • Gender and sexual identity, which has become more fluid and less binary as we understand it over the last several years
  • Value Diversity > this is related to a person’s belief systems, value preferences, understanding of right and wrong, and organization of the world.
    • What we believe
  • Cognitive or Informational Diversity – this is related to what you know and how you know it, including learning styles, intelligence, differences in mental perception, judgment, and more.
  • Behavioral Diversity – personality styles, action orientation, how we interact with others

Now that we have looked at and understand the types of diversity, let’s explore some of the ways we can ensure a more diverse and inclusive marketing team.

Hire a Diverse Team

This seems obvious, but there are several steps that teams can take to help ensure they’re reaching a broad pool of applicants.

  • First, consider broadening your recruiting sources, so that you are meeting the talent where they already exist. Don’t rely on the same funnels every time and you can tap into new resources.
  • Create your job descriptions in such a way that they avoid gendered pronouns (i.e. using “She” on an executive assistant description or “he” on a manager description).  Focus on the results those job roles should create, as opposed to characteristics of the candidate.
  • Beware of excluding a candidate for a lack of “culture fit.” I would say that I have definitely been guilty of this in the past. Obviously, it seems like culture fit is an important characteristic, but if everyone is the same fit, you close doors to people that bring in new perspectives.
  • Make sure your interview process has a structure to it. By having set structures to your interviews, it reduces bias and those initial “gut-feeling” assessments.
  • Inclusion Should Be Visible at All Levels.  Entry level representation is roughly 50% female. In the C-suite, it’s closer to 19%; in the technology C-Suite, it’s even smaller, more like 12%. In marketing, women often hold a large proportion of the workforce at the low levels but a much smaller proportion in the higher levels.

Educate Yourself and Be an Ally

  • Focus on getting your team past inherent (or inherited biases) through education, training, and awareness.
  • Use personality profiles (like Myers Briggs) or work style profiles (like the DISC profile) to learn more about communication. Different people communicate with each other, with supervisors, both inside and outside of work, in unique ways. Understanding what people need to feel validated, heard, and understood is an incredibly important mechanism that drives companies forward. A team that communicates effectively is effective.
  • Celebrate holidays and cultural events that matter to the team. In my own work life, I’ve experienced times we had to be sensitive to people fasting during Ramadan, providing days off (or flex time) for cultural or spiritual holidays, providing space to comfortably pray or worship, and more. Use these as opportunities to teach people more about the unique cultures represented by your team. Whether it’s a Jewish holiday, Chinese New Year, or Bastille Day, all teams need a fun reason to celebrate every now and then!
  • Be an ally to other groups. It’s very important to understand and acknowledge your privilege and use our vantage point as advertisers to encourage society to be better.

In the next part of our diversity series, we will dig into the process of outward-facing diversity and how to approach diversity in marketing you put out.