Social inclusion is everyone’s job

While it is important to make some big symbolic moves when it comes to social inclusion, just as important is having humility to learn from others.

diversityThis year’s International Women’s Day seemed like the biggest yet in celebrating women’s achievements and highlighting issues surrounding gender equality and women’s rights. At the same time, the UN’s recently published ‘Gender social norms index’ showed that 90% of men and women across 75 countries hold some kind of bias against women.

Though it’s great to see change in our business and industry starting to happen, we all need to hold the tension during the other 364 days of the year, recognising the scale of the challenge.

I’ve written before about how Diageo is approaching change in our own brand communications work. Our approach to gender in marketing is part of an organisation-wide effort to create a more inclusive business and, ultimately, it is making our work better. There are more and more new examples in which gender is being portrayed more progressively, like recent work on Smirnoff, J&B, Baileys, Johnnie Walker, and Guinness.

This seems to be more broadly the case with UK advertising following the introduction of stricter ASA regulations. But we do all need to keep pushing, especially ensuring inclusion in advertising goes beyond representation and shows rounded characters who are there for reasons which go beyond their gender, ethnicity, sexuality or disability.

Beyond communications, what we are learning as we change our business from the inside and rally for change across the industry? Firstly, it starts with us.

The impact of our executive team and senior marketers being more gender-balanced has been to normalise this in our culture. Women now make up around 40% of our executive team, which is drawn from six different nationalities speaking multiple languages, and our senior marketers across the world are 50% women. I feel now more than ever we have more empathy for each other, have more honest conversations and work faster together.

Changing your organisation and its culture matters to marketing because it profoundly and subtly improves how you serve your whole customer base – it helps you grow.

Statistics from across the industry show that the pace of change is too slow: only 6% of FTSE 100 CEOs are women; women still hold less than a third (32.4%) of FTSE 100 board positions; and The World Economic Forum has predicted women and men will have equal pay in 257 years. We need to see equality as a business issue. And we need to continue to learn from the many organisations and individuals doing great work in this space.

It is, however, heartening to see some shining examples of progress. Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable that Jess Brammar would be promoted to editor-in-chief of an always-on media company – the Huffington Post – at seven months pregnant.

Ultimately, it takes all of us to achieve progress. Having events around things such as International Women’s day and our own annual Inc Week, focused on inclusion and diversity, creates a groundswell from individual employees and groups. In late 2019 we held our third Inc week – providing a platform for employees to share their own stories during over 20 hours of panel discussions, broadcast to all employees and numerous celebrations in our offices around the world.

It’s almost a year now since we introduced our equivalised family leave policy, offering six months’ fully paid parental leave for both men and women. The first men to benefit from this have returned to work and it’s created surprising conversations.

Why brands in pursuit of gender equality are prioritising parental leave

People have increased empathy around the experience of a career break looking after children, and a broader view of what integrating work and life means. It’s removing barriers to career progression and helping us attract and nurture talent.

Changing your organisation and its culture matters to marketing because it profoundly and subtly improves how you serve your whole customer base – it helps you grow.

Beyond the changes we’ve made to our business and brands, we know that we’ll make a much bigger impact if we put this at the heart of how we work with our partners – fuelled by the belief that diverse teams create more effective work.

A couple of years ago, our outgoing CMO, Syl Saller, sent a letter to our entire agency network asking how they were supporting diversity and inclusion. The letter asked them to share the percentage of women in leadership teams, the percentage of women in creative leadership and their gender pay gap, among other things.

We recently surveyed our agencies again and, while we see an improvement in female leadership, there is still a big opportunity in the space of creative leadership.

As a result, we extended our partnership with Creative Equals to help bring women back into the workplace after career breaks in London, New York, and Mumbai. Diageo works with the team to provides briefs, which helps returners create fresh work making them attractive to employing agencies. Last year’s project saw 41 women return to work across London agencies.

Meanwhile, less than 7% of ad directors are women, and only around 16% of creative directors at ad agencies are women. So Free the Work is an initiative that’s pushing for women directors to have an equal opportunity to bid on commercial jobs in the advertising world, and we’re asking our agencies to always put forward at least one woman director for every triple bid.

And the Unstereotype Alliance, led by UN Women, continues to be an amazing force in coordinating change across different types of organisations, globally and through local chapters.

It’s important to take a stand and make some big symbolic moves. But enrolling your whole organisation, constructively challenging your partners, and having the humility to learn from others can make the impact so much bigger.



    Leave a comment