Diversity and inclusion in ad tech: Why it’s important and how to make it work?

FFrom corporate member Ivan Guzenko, CEO, SmartyAds

Does your company/agency have any D&I initiatives? If so, what are they? What D&I initiatives are you most proud your company supports?

It is important to understand that workplace diversity is about understanding, accepting and valuing differences among people; it doesn’t only come down to age, gender or ethnicity – it includes every area where we can pinpoint potential differences: religion, disabilities, sexual orientation, education, personalities, skill sets, experiences and knowledge bases. At SmartyAds, we feel committed to the principles of diversity and inclusion in our offices, and that’s why we hire people from different backgrounds. Over the past few years, the growth rate of female employee representation was most notable in senior management and our tech team. By hiring and developing talents hailing from different countries and of different ages, we also managed to achieve greater operational results and embed openness and transparency to our corporate culture.

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?

As a part of the technological industry, ad tech is tightly associated with progress, and with that part of human activity to which racial, gender, and social prejudice issues are strangers. Of these contrasting backgrounds, statistics and research results, which make up the reality in ad workplaces, look rather unsettling. Only 23.5% of employees involved in advertising are African American, Asian, or Hispanic. Even though in 2020 the number of employed women has risen to 46.8% in comparison to the past decade, it is still much lower in tech (around 25%). Additionally, 41% of tech workers encounter age discrimination (compared to a 27% rate for other sectors). Everything related to gender, age, and race equality seems to be on society’s radars these days. Still, as practice shows, we often fail to recognize discrimination in our own workspaces; that’s why it’s imperative that we start to openly talk about these things to find strengths instead of barriers in our differences.

Can you share an example that highlights that the advertising industry is making progress?

The advertising industry obviously progresses towards the realization of the problem as companies more actively transform their hire and HR politics towards equality. We stand on the threshold of big changes when the majority of ad tech companies agree with the fundamental principles of diversity and inclusion since they actively broadcast these values to society. Yet, at the scale of each taken company, the importance of it is often underestimated. It is a universal rule — if you are really determined to make something better, you don’t simply care, you care enough to do something about it. It is not just thinking, it’s practicing; it’s not just praying, but moving your feet towards a destination. If we want to make progress now, we should hire and support under-represented groups, because only this leads to an innovative, diverse and prosperous advertising industry.

What are some tips/advice to encourage D&I efforts at an ad tech company?

Perceiving this as an opportunity for business growth, every company should develop a working and consistent mechanism to act on these values instead of just declaring them:

●  Unbiased hiring. Level the playing field for candidates, focusing on the professional qualities and abilities instead of demographic characteristics. Incorporate blind recruitment and you’ll increase the likelihood of choosing the most suitable candidates.

●  Transparent and structured interviews. Structured interviews, where all candidates are asked the same questions, can streamline the process and reduce the level of biases. Evaluate answers to each question on a predetermined scale to add objectivity to your assessment.

●  Equal pay. Make sure you aren’t creating a ‘pay gap’ between women and men who occupy the same position and feature the same skillset and experience. Offering salary based on past employees’ earnings is also not the best practice; instead, monitor the market and align compensation to the appropriate level.

●  D&I as a purpose. There are many studies proving that demographic diversity can only benefit businesses in terms of revenues, innovation and corporate culture. If your staff is already diverse, and you want to leverage this power for the greater good, put diversity and equality at the forefront of your operations. Regularly inspect exactly what you have achieved and how it impacted your business outcomes.

How important is it to hire diverse talent in our industry? Why?

Even though ad tech has been around for a long time, in many aspects it is still at the stage of infancy, especially when it comes to transparency and accountability. While the majority of ad businesses have shifted their gaze to improving user experiences and labor conditions, many still rely only on KPIs, which hiders realization on the big picture. The business doesn’t grow by itself – it’s the people who stand behind it.

When your team finds a solution to a difficult problem, it means it works effectively together despite differences — age, gender, nationality, etc. Ad tech systems are full of moving parts — from ad operations to administrative tasks and client communication. Every task may have different solutions, and the difference in approaches and visions of your employees may be the key to productivity and innovation.