by Carla Eboli, CMO
Gender inequality and diversity are now part of a global conversation. A quick look at Google trends shows a significant increase in searches for the specific term “gender inequality” in the last five years.
But the issue is far from seeing the light of a solution. For example: According to a recent analysis done by the non-profit organization Catalyst regarding gender diversity among S&P 500 companies, women currently hold only 4.6%
Gender Diversity in Advertising
The problem is not different in the communications and advertising industries. Note that all of the CEOs at the six largest communications/advertising holding companies are men, and the issue continues down to creative department levels where only 11.5% of creative directors within agencies are women.
“If there aren’t more people with diverse backgrounds and experiences in creative spaces and media as a whole, there will never be reflectivity— media that truly represents its audience,” says Publishing pioneer and entrepreneur Tai Beauchamp, during the opening of the 10th annual AdColor Conference & Awards in Boca Raton, FL, last Tuesday.
The conference theme this year was #Challengenow. “Challenge ourselves to recognize and overcome our own social bias. Challenge others to move away from legacy thinking. And challenge the status quo by taking action,” states the conference website.
Social “Unconscious” Bias
My question to the AdColor presenters was: If we all know about the issue of gender inequality and what needs to be done to fix it, why is it so hard to solve? One of the most interesting conversations I had was with Julie Ann Crommett, Entertainment Industry Educator-in-Chief at Google, and Lauren Thomas Ewing, Global Unbiasing Program Manager at Google. The topic of our discussion focused on unconscious bias.
The University of Warwick in Coventry, England defines unconscious bias as “a bias that happens automatically, triggered by our brain, making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences.”
Julie Ann explains that making quick assessments of people and situations can be useful when you are making decisions with limited time or information, but it can be harmful in the workplace. “They can cause managers to overlook great ideas, directors to undermine individual potential and stop executives from finding the best talent no matter what the background,” she says.
The solution starts with awareness, suggests Lauren. “Educating whole corporations and people about the matter has proven to reduce and eventually reverse biased outcomes, creating a workplace that encourages diverse perspectives,” says the executive.
Google offers several tools that can help you, your team and your company to educate individuals about “unconscious bias.”
The Price We All Pay
Lack of diversity at companies, marketing departments and communication agencies can lead to a lack in understanding of ethnic and minority groups’ behaviors and attitudes, and to a poor representation of the new face of America in communication pieces.
Speaking at the conference, Terry Young, founder and CEO of Sparks & Honey, pointed to the need for marketers to understand the new configuration of “The Modern Family” in order to properly represent it in marketing. Interracial marriage, same-sex marriage and transgender couples are changing the concept of family, as we know it. Therefore, marketers will need to learn the new gender language and become “culturally literate” in order to build a solid communication with their audience.
The Benefits of Gender Diversity
Gender Diversity is not a matter of political correctness. Data analyses have proven the benefits, including financial, of having a more diverse workforce. Morgan Stanley recently released research in which it proves that “investing in gender diversity at the workplace is profitable for both companies and investors.”
“Women are still significantly underrepresented in the workplace. Yet a company’s percentage of female employees is positively correlated with its return on equity,” says Eva Zlotnicka, lead analyst on Morgan Stanley’s Sustainable + Responsible Investment (SRI) report, “A Framework for Gender Diversity in the Workplace.”
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