D and I initiatives with Lisa Utzschneider, Chief Executive Officer, Integral Ad Science (IAS)
Does your company/agency have any D&I initiatives? If so, what are they? What D&I initiatives are you most proud of that your company supports?
IAS is proud to make diversity and inclusion a priority. Focusing on D&I isn’t just the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do from a business perspective. According to a study from DDI, The Conference Board, and EY, companies that have greater diversity and equality overall outperform less diverse counterparts in key leadership and business outcomes. Since joining in January 2019, I’ve made inclusion and diversity a top strategic priority for IAS. We want and need every employee to bring their authentic selves to work and to feel a strong sense of belonging. When our team brings a diversity of opinions, ideas, and experience to the table, we’re able to innovate and build better products for advertisers and publishers around the world.
I’m most proud of our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). These are employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned to our corporate mission, values, and goals. We have 7 ERGS representing employees who identify as women, black, Asian, LGBTQ, working parents, introverts, Hispanic or Latinx, and their allies. These resource groups have hosted events in our offices and sparked valuable conversations in dedicated Slack channels open to all, and while socially distancing due to the coronavirus pandemic, have been a major support to each other by providing a sense of community, even when we’re apart. “We Are One Team” is one of our key company values. We recognize that our diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and life experience all align together to create our unique team with a varied and equal voice.
Can you share something that happened recently that indicates we may be losing ground in diversifying our workforce? Tell us about something that has happened recently that demonstrates there’s still a diversity and inclusion problem in the industry?
When it comes to diversity and inclusion in the ad industry, I’ve seen positive momentum and very encouraging progress – but there is still more work to be done. The ANA recently released survey findings on this topic. They surveyed over 13k of their members and found that only 25% identified as an ethnicity other than white. 9% of the ANA members identified as Asian, 8% as Hispanic/Latino, and 6% as African-American/Black, and 2% as other ethnicities. Compared with another recent study from Adobe, which showed that 66% of African-Americans and 53% of Latino/Hispanic Americans said they feel their ethnic identity is often portrayed stereotypically in advertising, it’s clear that representation needs to be a bigger part of the ad industry. Diversity in the ad industry workforce is a crucial first step in ensuring that the ads themselves are representative of the people they are targeting.
Can you share an example that highlights that the advertising industry is making progress?
IAS has made diversity a top priority in our hiring process, as well as in our merit process. During the hiring stage, IAS uses an aptitude test to evaluate all candidates. This is a really powerful equalizing factor since it doesn’t matter what school you went to or what kind of background you come from – every hire (even for an executive role) has to pass the test. Of course, it’s essential to bring a diverse array of candidates in the door as a first step towards building a diverse and inclusive workplace. We’re proud to have been making great strides in diversifying our team at every level, especially in management and above.
We’re seeing similar steps taken in the industry, where agencies are looking to have teams that are representative of broader society, this is already resulting in significantly more diverse advertisements. In the last few years alone, the ad industry has produced ads representing gay couples, interracial families, people of all sizes, and children of all abilities. We’re not there yet, but progress is essential to achieving parity in the future.
What are some tips/advice to encourage D&I efforts at agencies?
Data from Adobe shows that most Americans (61%) find diversity in advertising important. And it is important. So my advice is to just do it. Put conscious efforts into diversity and inclusion and everyone wins. Everything about how you operate as an organization will improve and your results are very likely to improve. 38% of consumers said they are more likely to trust brands that show more diversity in their ads. Diversity matters to more than just the populations being represented; a new study Procter & Gamble and GLAAD found that 68% of non-LGBTQ U.S. consumers feel better about buying products from companies that include LGBTQ people in their ads. And Kantar data shows that inclusive ads that are free from stereotypes create stronger brand impact and improve purchase intent. It’s an easy choice – diverse teams are a smart business decision. The hard part is making it happen.
How important is it to hire diverse talent in our industry? Why?
It is incredibly important to hire diverse talent in our industry. Being the CEO of a global company has taught me that a team of people from diverse backgrounds and experiences brings new ideas and skill sets to the table — all of which improve performance. When you introduce people into your teams with different social, geographical, and cultural backgrounds, you instantly get a broader knowledge base. Great ideas can come from anywhere – any role, any function.
At IAS, we seek curious and motivated people who are willing to roll up their sleeves, focus on the customer and contribute to the culture. I tell our employees to bring their best ideas to the table. We’re ten years in, and so we’re trying to hold onto that scrappy startup spirit even as we grow and scale, which means finding leaders who can do both the high and the low of their jobs. When it comes down to it, we want people at IAS who can do the work and make our company and our industry a better place.
According to research from Glassdoor, 67% of active job seekers said a diverse workforce is important when considering job offers and 57% of employees think their companies should be more diverse. Companies need to think about their recruitment process and how they are opening themselves up to different communities. Hiring through staff referrals and networks can make recruitment go much faster, but often results in more employees who look and sound like the people who are already there. It’s important to ensure that you are recruiting from a wide variety of sources, such as disability networks, or LGBTQIA networks, or considering people who aren’t from the classically trained route. Unique voices bring in a completely different point of view to the table and influence the creative output – making the work that much more impactful.
Step one should always be about ensuring that we’re intentional in building diverse candidate pools, but this shouldn’t be the end of the line. As women and people of color move up the ladder and take on more senior roles, it’s essential to create opportunities for them to shine, to be recognized, to showcase their ability, so that we’re consistently able to identify high potential talent and ensure that our go-to pool of talent is diverse and truly representative of the company as a whole.