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How Agencies Must Step Up for Change on Racial Injustice



R/GA's Carl Desir and the 4A's Simon Fenwick discuss what the creative industry can do now to address injustices and move towards racial equity

How Agencies Must Step Up for Change on Racial Injustice

As part of not only a US-wide but a global reckoning around racial injustice, the creative and tech industries are being called upon to be more transparent and proactive about addressing racial inequities in their workplaces and work. R/GA is no different.

In the wake of more than 600 advertising professionals of colour signing a petition calling on the ad industry to commit to concrete steps to reverse racism in their workplaces and promote anti-racism in their creative work, our latest podcast breaks down how the industry must respond with actions, not statements of support, or pledges.

In a no-holds-barred conversation, Carl Desir, global executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion and director, Talent Experience at R/GA, spoke with Simon Fenwick, executive vice president of talent, engagement and inclusion at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, about the changes needed across the industry, from agencies big and small, to move beyond talk to action, and from awareness to progress.

How can businesses step up and do the hard work of redressing inequities, bias and discrimination in their companies through decisive actions and creating a culture built around diversity, equity and inclusion? 

“This isn't going to be solved in three months. It's going to be five, 10, 15 years down the line as we slowly dismantle the systems that oppressed people throughout this country.“ said Carl Desir

  • Don’t assume everyone gets it. “The conversations I've been having have really opened my eyes to the fact that even diversity, equity and inclusion is, for a large part of this country, still relatively new and something that they really don't understand,“ Simon commented.   
  • Set concrete actions, goals and deadlines. Whether around hiring and promoting Black employees into leadership positions, vetting vendors or reviewing your language and policies–be clear on your tactics and objectives, with measurable outcomes and accountability, for addressing racial inequity.
  • Model the change you want to see–and don’t put the burden on who’s paying the bills. “It's not about what your client wants,” Carl said. ”It's about how you lead your clients.” 
  • Make yourself accountable. “The problem doesn't lie with our Black colleagues and friends,” Simon said. “The problem lies with us. If we're going to change it, we need to step up and we need to come up with those solutions... I think for too long, every industry has looked to their DE&I leaders or their people of colour to tell them what to do.”

* Ask tough questions every step of the way–including to yourself. As Simon noted, ask yourself, "When was the last time I stood up? When I saw racism, bias, unconscious or conscious, when was the last time I called somebody else out for their biased, racist behaviour?"

  • Don’t expect change overnight. “This isn't going to be solved in three months,“ Carl said. “It's going to be five, 10, 15 years down the line as we slowly dismantle the systems that oppressed people throughout this country.“

They also discussed the 12 steps outlined in ‘A call for change,’ the mic drop of a letter and petition challenging the advertising industry, as led by Nathan Young, a strategy director in Minneapolis, and Bennett D. Bennett, a strategist and consultant based in New York.

Find out more about the tough conversations and concrete actions needed to reverse racism across your business in our latest podcast. You can listen to more FutureVision Conversations on Apple, Spotify, SoundCloud, Google Play and Stitcher as well as right here on

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Categories: Streaming Services, Media and Entertainment

R/GA New York, Thu, 25 Jun 2020 14:41:13 GMT