The world’s reaction to George Floyd’s death and the subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have been a moment of awakening for many, including me. As a white British female, with a role within the management team of an independent creative agency, I had not before realised the part I had to play in eradicating racism. My to do list just got ripped up and started again.
At Mr. President we have always considered ourselves to be an open and accepting workplace where our employees can bring their true selves to work. People always say we’re ‘nice people’. This may be true. But we’ve realised that being ‘nice’ is not anywhere near enough. It’s passive. And to be ‘inclusive’, we need to be active.
I wanted to write this piece to share our action plan, what we can and will be doing to change the course of the future. We may be small, but if we all start small, together we can make a big change, and if we write it down and share it, it makes us all the more accountable.
First things first, here are our stats: our team is 48% female, 52% male, 12% BAME and 88% white. Our leadership team are 50:50 female male split and 100% white. We’re 26 people in total, so even a small adjustment can noticeably affect the data. We’ve clearly got some work to do.
So, here’s the game plan.
Like most agencies we have signed our names to the Creative Equals open letter to the industry. This commitment is a good start, CE are a wonderful guiding light, but we recognise that we need to make our own plan for change.
For the first time ever Inclusion and Diversity had its own item on the board meeting agenda. Not tagged on to the end, but at the beginning, just after the numbers bit. This is where it will stay. Forever.
We are getting some proper data. Instead of assuming our team all feel included and accepted we’re going to ask them what they really feel, to give them the opportunity to respond anonymously. This will expose our weaknesses (and hopefully some strengths too) to help us form a better action plan and set some KPIs.
I want my existing team to feel empowered. I want to ensure they know how to speak up. To recognise what is and isn’t acceptable. To recognise their own biases and privileges. To know what to say if they encounter racism, how to stand up for those around them, how to be an ally, how to challenge a colleague or client. I’m investigating options for coaching, training and development. This will be a long game, but we will continue to work at it.
A recruitment overhaul. This one is hard. Since Covid19 our focus has been on getting our full team back from furlough rather than looking for new recruits. In the past we’ve had two recruitment processes; hiring into junior roles through schemes like Commercial Break. Or hiring under pressure into midweight or senior roles through recruitment agents. The former will continue, the latter needs to change. We’re looking at who we work with, the rules of engagement, and how open we appear through our own channels. We’re also asking the question, if we can’t hire, what can we do to help – internships, mentoring, using our time, energy and creativity.
Lastly, and this one is important, we will be keeping this conversation going. This action plan will evolve over time, we are listening more than we have listened before and will continue to do so. We’ll also be reporting back on our progress here on this blog.
I think that’s enough words for now. Time for some action.
Written by Mizzy Lees, People Director at Mr. President.