Sara Porritt, Wellness Lead, Integrated Media Planning and US Diversity and Inclusion Lead, OMD

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?

OMD’s D&I initiatives actively evolve alongside the needs of our people, our culture and our industry.  Our current pillars are focused on a 360 approach that addresses the full employee lifecycle from educating them on unconscious bias, all the way to creating D&I advocates embedded into all levels and disciplines.  Some of the tactical elements within our approach include efforts around recruitment and retention, learning and education, talks and workshops, as well as growing our collective cultural IQ.

The efforts that we’re most proud of are the heartfelt grassroots events seeded and run by our employees.  Whether it’s a cooking demo with grandma for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, or a drink and sip book club gathering featuring works by prominent female authors, it’s really incredible what blossoms from our community when they know that we, as an agency, embrace and celebrate their unique talents and passions.

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?

A large part of how the industry is able to make progress from a diversity standpoint is in ensuring that D&I plays a prominent role in the hiring and promotion decision making process.  Now that there’s less job and internship opportunities available in the media landscape, D&I practitioners need to pivot towards, and innovate against available levers so that we can maintain the momentum that we’ve been building on in these past few years. 

Not only does this decrease in new employee placement capacity have an impact on the industry’s ability to bring in fresh talent, this also has implications on the livelihood of the available talent in the marketplace, as well as the viability of some of the wonderful non-profit and for-profit programs whose key functions are to cultivate our next generation of diverse leaders. 

It’s critical for agencies and D&I leads to take into account the full picture of all the parties impacted by the challenges that we’re currently facing, so that collectively, we are able support them in the ways that we can.  It’s also equally critical to view these challenging times as an opportunity to elevate and educate prospective hires, address their needs, and build a strong pipeline for when the hiring flood gates do open up again.

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

Where I’m seeing a lot of progress is how much the industry and select leaders are actively championing their people and the existing talent pool in spite of the challenges we’re facing.  For instance, OMD’s agency wide D&I and culture focused efforts have kicked into high gear.  These efforts are at the heart of what’s kept our community intact and connected as human beings.  Additionally, OMD and OMG at large are continuing our proud support of programs such as MAIP, T. Howard and IRTS so that we can keep doing our part to nurture the next generation of diverse leaders. 

Some examples of thoughtful pivots across Omnicom include weekly Asians for ADCOLOR open dialogues around topics such as xenophobia and mental health.  Doug Melville of TBWA hosts a virtual Daily Diversity News broadcast on LinkedIn Live digitalizing, humanizing and extending the reach of this incredible content, and Soon Mee Kim of Porter Novelli is currently hosting intimate #MentorMonday Zoom sessions connecting future leaders in our space. 

These pockets of community building and collective innovation can and should take on a central role in a time of crisis, and speaks to the value we can all provide if we’re truly dedicated to our greater purpose as D&I advocates.

What are some tips/advice to encourage D&I efforts at agencies?

It’s common knowledge that diverse teams are much better at driving innovation and rapid adaptation.  What our clients love about our D&I program is how intently we listen to the needs of our employees, and how willing we are to fully integrate D&I within the fabric of our company culture.  It’s not enough to just have the right minds at the table.  It’s equally critical that our employees feel engaged, energized and invested in sharing their diverse perspectives so that they’re encouraged to speak their mind, and challenge the status quo. 

One fantastic way to celebrate our diverse employee body and empower them to contribute directly to our agency culture and mindset is through our grassroots employee run Culture Club.  This is an example of a rich platform that encourages each employees to action on the change that they want to see within the agency, and provide an opportunity for the rest of our agency to rally around those efforts.  We’ve had Culture Club members raise their hands to do everything from launch an employee giving back program, to teaching yoga and Pilates, to building out a mental health platform for the agency, and even to volunteer to host discussions around various cultural tentpoles.  OMD very much welcomes and loves this deep level of personal and collective engagement so that we are not just an agency that’s built from the top down, but also from the bottom up.

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

As the growing minority becomes the new majority, it’s even more critical that our employees reflect the consumers that we’re trying to understand and serve.  Empathy is a term that gets tossed around quite a bit in this industry.  To truly empathize with an audience goes beyond making smart assumptions based on solid data.  It takes having strong teams comprised of diverse thinkers who have varying types of emotional IQ, who have a full breadth of cultural understanding, and who have life experiences that are different from the person they’re sitting next to.  It’s this level of dynamic diversity and radical collaboration that’s going to allow us, as marketers, to truly step into the shoes of our consumers so that we can evolve alongside their changing needs.