What can juniors do to help drive diversity in marketing?
It’s no news that our industry is a white, middle class, southern one. Case in point: there was a brief period where I was the most northern person at Media Bounty. And I grew up in Hertfordshire (our most southern is from just down the road in Argentina – so we get around).
Agencies everywhere are taking strides to try and improve the lack of diversity. At ours, we started with measuring it – across 15 different metrics. We use the data to set new targets every year. We’ve also changed the way we hire, with more diverse recruitment avenues like Brixton Finishing School (more on them later) and looking at the language we use in job adverts to make them more inclusive. We pay the London Living Wage as minimum, and offer all staff unconscious bias training though UNLRN.
It’s natural to think that big problems can only be solved by big actions. But that’s not true.
Because it’s not just the people at the top who can help. They’re the ones that will be making the flashy decisions we see in press releases. But people at all levels have the power to connect with diverse talent on an individual and tangible way, through volunteering.
You don’t have to post lies about waking up at 5AM on LinkedIn to be an advertising expert. If you’ve only been doing your job for a short period of time, you might not feel like you can be a mentor. But be arrogant enough to think you can.
Your relative lack of experience gives you a perspective that the people at the top don’t have. Don’t actually ask your boss how long ago they applied for their first job. But we can safely assume it was quite a while back.
But it wasn’t that long ago that you were applying to jobs from scratch. You’re much more in-tune with what it takes to get your first role than anyone old enough to be near the top of the agency ladder.
Of course, there are always going to be challenges you won’t be able to relate to. But the lessons you learned are fresh and much more relevant than the ones from the people usually giving advice online.
There are heaps of organisations out there that you can go to and give a virtual helping hand. Through Media Bounty’s volunteering scheme, I’ve worked on CV and cover letter writing at Making the Leap and People Like Us. There are other places like Brixton Finishing School, Taylor Bennet Foundation and Creative Mentor Network doing equally sterling work, too.
All these groups are set up to help get more diverse faces and voices into the comms industries. Whether that’s people from underrepresented races, genders, sexualities, socio-economic backgrounds or locations, people that didn’t go to university, or those that are neurodiverse or have disabilities.
And if you don’t have the time to volunteer, you can join the People Like Us LinkedIn group and share any jobs your agency is hiring for.
Giving places like these a few hours of your time can make a real difference to a person’s life. It can help spark a career doing something they love.
It won’t be an overnight fix. But juniors helping juniors is important. We’ve seen ourselves from hiring at more senior levels that the talent pool at the top is much narrower. We need to put the work in today to widen it tomorrow.
And when we get a wider range of people in our offices, we get a wider range of perspectives on the work we’re doing. What we’re creating connects with more parts of society. And more importantly, we’ll all be better off outside of work for knowing people that aren’t the same as us.
Even if they call a roll a barm cake.