The Brand Lab, Fearless Conversation Series

I attended The Brand Lab Fearless Conversation Series on Wednesday, April 20. It happened to also be my birthday. Nothing like a little light discussion on race and retention in the workplace to say, wow, you're old!

In all seriousness, this is a topic we have not tackled directly at MPLS MadWomen. So far, we've primarily focused on open and honest conversations about gender and retention methods and will get to this head on at “The Man Event” on May 12.

As a woman of color in advertising, it's something I could talk about all day. There were so many great takeaways from this event, but the biggest questions to answer were: why people leave and how do we keep them? VP of Diversity & Inclusion Caroline Wanga responded with what managers need to do in the onboarding process for ALL people.

Facilitate the reception of the person

We hire people because they bring unique perspectives and come from diverse backgrounds, yet we tend to require those same people to adapt to our existing work cultures. Managers should recognize the cultural differences that could enhance a team and facilitate environments that welcome, not scorch, those perspectives.

Make sure there is a collective responsibility from the team

Often times candidates from diverse backgrounds start jobs where no one even realized they were coming. As managers, we need to make sure our team members are open and available to get to know new employees on a personal level, so they understand their similarities and strengths clearly.

Deliver on aspirations for the candidate

Managers should facilitate a conversation on a two-way expectation street. What does the organization need from this person, but also what does the person need from the organization? Once those goals are set, develop a real plan for new hires to reach them, and set them up for success by connecting them with the right people in the organization. It's very common for people of color to be left out of sponsorship and mentorship conversations because sponsors and mentors tend to select people who are more "like" them. If leaders start to recognize these implicit biases, they can consciously overcome them and start supporting rising stars who may be different than them.

Starting the conversation is the way to start change. With only 6% of people of color in the advertising industry, we're failing the consumers we speak to on a daily basis. We're leaving out entire segments of the population, and it's everyone's responsibility to adapt our organizations.

About BrandLab: The BrandLab is an organization that strives to bring more diversity to the marketing industry to better reflect the general population. The BrandLab provides opportunities to students from diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds for careers in marketing and advertising, and they offer workshops for organizations to build a more accurately representative and productive workplace.

/ written by Alex Steinman