Having A Seat Isn’t Enough: DE&I Efforts During BHM

From Member Vanessa McCullers, Director, Strategy; Branded Entertainment Network (BEN)

How is your organization/agency celebrating Black History Month? 

Though Branded Entertainment Network (BEN) recognizes that Black History is American History, we thought it important to pay homage to the contributions Black Americans have made to our culture by recognizing a Black History Day within this important month. Our employees were provided with paid time off on this day, with the hopes that it would be used for reflection by way of recommended readings and films. We also encouraged everyone to participate in buying from Black-owned businesses.

What advice would you give young diverse talent just starting out in the industry?

Having a seat at the table isn’t enough, we must be empowered to have a voice at that table and to lead the table if qualified. It’s important to encourage young diverse talent to do just that. But also to ensure that they lift as they climb, pulling other diverse talent with them. The best way to do this is to truly embrace other marginalized groups so that the voice of diversity is actually speaking in unity. What does this looks like? It’s joining or founding associations and organizations that empower diverse talent. It’s creating or participating in different forms of mentorship. It’s providing an opportunity for underserved communities to connect with associations and mentors that can help provide a path to success.

As we know, DE&I initiatives need to be a priority all year round, not just during Black History Month. That said, how do you plan to continue to incorporate your DE&I initiatives at your organization/agency throughout the year?

Historically BEN has had an always-on approach to DE&I as it relates to empowering diverse content creators by connecting their authentic stories with brands looking to reach a diverse audience. We have recognized and supported diversity in all its forms; from race to gender and the diversely-abled. This year, we’ve revitalized our approach to ensure that we are addressing DE&I internally and externally with the same intensity. From revamping our hiring practices to including those who don’t come from traditional backgrounds to supporting BIPOC- and women-owned business as vendors, BEN has increased our network substantially. To bolster our diversity hiring practices, we’ve connected with forums and associations like AfroTech and Diversity Hire to encourage a diverse candidate pool. Equally as important, we’ve created a safe space for our employees of color and opened the door for some deep and difficult conversations. Starting this month, we’ve encouraged our employees to share challenges they’ve faced in the workforce and in their personal lives as a person of color.  BEN has also created a speaker series that will bring in bold voices to further educate our co-workers and guide our company to integrate inclusion in every way and in every aspect of our business. We realize that all of this is work in progress for everyone and that we cannot undo in one year damage that is centuries old. But we’re committed to change. We’re committed to leading change both inside our company and for the industry as a whole.