One of the most promising themes coming out of 2020 was a renewed commitment toward progressing diversity, equity and inclusion. The people have spoken, and companies are taking notice.
While it may come as a relief that change is coming, make no mistake: We’ve got a long journey ahead of us. People of color, and women of color in particular, are still drastically underrepresented in leadership ranks — in 2020 there were only four Black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and none of them are women.
The same is true for adtech. According to a McKinsey study, diversity is clearly correlated with profitability. Companies that have higher degrees of racially and ethnically diverse executive teams have a 33% performance advantage over companies relying on a “culture fit” that tends to trend white and monocultural.
So what are we waiting for?
For an industry that lives, breathes and dies by data, the proof is in the numbers. If we put in the work, push for inclusive environments and leadership teams, and hold ourselves accountable, we all benefit. Here are my recommendations on how to advance inclusion from the inside:
Reflect to make room for growth
Among the things that 2020 taught us is how to have hard conversations. Communities, leaders, and individuals heeded the call for more open communication and took the time to reflect on their own biases and actions. adtech leadership teams and companies need to participate in the same reflection exercise, regardless of how challenging those results might be.
Diverse backgrounds, cultures and experiences are the building blocks for creativity and innovation. Tap into your most valuable resource — your people. Start by offering varied, frequent and confidential ways for your teams to provide feedback on their employee experience, how they feel the company values diversity, inclusivity and equity and where they feel there are flaws and room for improvement. This will help you set a baseline across the company for areas of strength and weakness.
Empower internal advocates
In my experience, results are the most powerful when you combine collective thinking from a group of very talented, passionate individuals who are on a mission to innovate and do new things — not just check the box. Identify employees who are committed to elevating the company’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and want to take an active role in ideating and creating new processes.
Develop a committee of internal stakeholders to break down the silos that exist and build upon the areas that need work. The more people feel included, the more they speak up, go the extra mile and collaborate — which ultimately enhances the performance of the overall team, and the company at large.
Focus on progress over perfection
The swell of conversation around these issues is turning to action, but it’s critical that companies value progress over perfection. As we’ve all done for our clients, products and campaigns, testing and trying new tactics without all the answers in hand can result in small breakthroughs. And those small breakthroughs multiplied can create a wave of change for good.
Start by offering training to educate your teams on how to avoid implicit bias and look outwards to partner with industry organizations on a combination of education, mentorship and programming for your teams. Cultivate an environment that provides your underrepresented employees equal access to career development and leadership opportunities by providing transparent performance expectations that are free of bias and educate leaders on how to provide actionable feedback.
Also, audit compensation on a regular basis to ensure fair and equitable pay for all employees and take steps through recruiting and internal advancement to ensure a diverse leadership team to establish equitable representation.
Seek accountability to drive impact
There’s an expression, “what gets measured gets done” which really rings true if we want the current increased focus around diversity, equity and inclusion to have lasting industrywide impact. The establishment of benchmarks — and more importantly goals — will help drive action.
Challenge yourself and your teams to define benchmarks, set goals, measure performance and implement actions to reduce, and ultimately remove, the impact of conscious or unconscious bias. Set clear and transparent “metrics-oriented” performance expectations to remove bias from employee evaluations — creating space for minority employees to rise through the leadership ranks.
Establish metrics to ensure the talent coming into your organization is reflective of the environment in which we all live in such as making sure a certain percentage of candidate pipelines include people of color or of marginalized identities.
What gives me hope is that this is a conversation that can no longer be ignored. Every company — regardless of industry and whether they’ve had focused efforts or plans around diversity, equity and inclusion — is now creating or updating their commitments and plans to create inclusive environments.
That dedication to innovation and improvement is something the adtech industry does better than most and that means a brighter, more equitable future for all of us.
Stephanie Geno is chief marketing officer at Innovid. An advocate for promoting women and the next generation of marketers, she is the co-lead for the Denver chapter of mBolden, an organization championing women in leadership in the mobile, digital and tech industries. Stephanie has also served as a board member, event chair and mentor for Chicago HOPE, a nonprofit providing four-year financial scholarships and mentoring to low-income students with the dream to graduate college.