As 2020 comes to a close, we wanted to share with you our third update on the progress we’re making towards becoming an inclusive, diverse and representative agency. As you know, we set out to make important changes to the business back in May in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. Having released our first statement back in July where we outlined our shortcomings, our Inclusion, Diversity and Representation board has since grown and the changes we vowed to make have started to take shape.
At the end of September we had National Inclusion Week; the theme this year was “Each One Reach One”, the idea being that we should all take a moment to spark a conversation with someone to help them understand the importance of inclusion. We saw this as a great opportunity to speak to our clients, suppliers and individual networks on what they’re doing to be inclusive, as well as update them on the work we’ve been doing as an agency.
At the start of October, we introduced the option for the wider team to include pronouns in their email signature. This signifies how the individual would like to be referred to, while also signalling to the recipient that they will respect their gender identity and choice of pronouns. Ultimately, it’s an effective way of normalising discussions about gender with the goal of creating an inclusive work environment at Born for transgender and non-binary people.
At the tail-end of October, we also extended our partnership with Spill, an all-in-one Slack integrated service, that offers therapy by video or phone (or even text). We upgraded to their newest service which offers our team members a one-off therapy session or a course of therapy. They also offer access to tools, exercises, books, or videos to watch to develop your emotional intelligence. You can even ask a therapist any question and get a response the next working day!
Alongside access to Spill, we teamed up with MHFA England to train 5 Mental Health First Aiders, 1 for every 10 team members. Their role is to spot signs of poor mental health, help identify any trends within the business and offer advice on where to get professional help. A summary of the other work we’re doing to promote wellbeing within the agency can be found here.
In November we introduced the “Work Style Profile”, implemented to better support neurodiversity and remote working. This is a survey built to get to know how each person at Born likes to work and how to provide the best working environment for that individual. This was implemented to better support neurodiversity within the agency, by providing a process that will enable us to tailor and make adjustments to onboarding plans/ways of working to suit an individual's needs. We’ve already integrated these various working styles into our annual Year In Review; the event took place across a whole week, incorporating a whole host of formats, including text, video, live presentations and interactive team huddles.
In December, we established a Microaggression reporting process with a step-by-step guide outlining the actions a team member should take if they have been affected by a microaggression from within the team, and also how to respond if you are made aware that you have committed a microaggression. The encouraged strategy for eliminating microaggression at Born is education, rather than discipline, as this is a better way to develop the knowledge needed in a team for it to be inclusive.
We’re proud of the work we’ve achieved this year, but we know that the work never stops. As we look forward to 2021, the I,D&R team have worked together to establish clear, feasible goals for us to achieve as an agency in the coming year. As usual, we’ll be updating you on our goals as and when we achieve them.
We promised an update when, in July, we vowed to make the changes needed at Born. We were adamant that we wouldn’t share our plans until they were in motion, so here’s what we’ve done so far in our journey to become more inclusive, diverse and representative as an agency. We know this work never stops, but by sharing our actions regularly in this blog we can hold ourselves accountable to making progress.
Our stance is simple; we want to drive equity, promotion and representation forward in our business. By this, we mean we want to break up the dominance of one culture and do what is needed to create space for those previously under-represented, celebrate diversity in our business and represent more audiences through our work, using research and focus groups to ensure we are speaking with our audiences as well as to.
How do we plan on doing this? In July, we signed the Creative Equals #AdLandCommits open letter to the industry and have been using their framework of increasing knowledge, growing empathy and taking action to focus on efforts and build our strategy.
In July, we conducted our first demographic survey to find our ‘starting point’; we needed to know the makeup of our agency, to make the necessary changes to improve representation moving forward. The survey, which was anonymous, covered gender, sexuality, ethnicity, age, education, socioeconomics and neurodiversity. We’re using this data to set targets against industry benchmarks and track our progress by reporting monthly, quarterly and annually to our team.
We then had our annual ‘Year So Far’ company meeting, where we took the opportunity to discuss our strategy and goals with the wider team, explore the survey results and encourage conversations around race and privilege.
Knowing there is so much great anti-racism content out there, that it can be hard to know where to start, our I,D&R team pulled together a curated learning list for the company, with content to watch, books to read and influential black voices to follow. Of course the learning is optional, but we’ve actively encouraged it and increased our teams Learning & Development budgets to cover any costs. We think it will be a fantastic leveller to know we’ve all consumed the information and have a shared understanding.
In August, we had the brilliant Heeral Gudka host her ‘Privilege is not a dirty word’ workshop, which explored privilege, how it impacts decision-making and why people are reluctant to acknowledge it. This was an opportunity for the team to learn more about their privilege and how they can use it for good in various situations. You can find more about Heeral and her work here.
In August, we became members of The Diversity Standards Collective, a creative and research consultancy who connects businesses with diverse audiences to help produce more inclusive, representative and effective strategy and content. Our team was given an introduction to The DSC by the wonderful CEO, Rich Miles, who talked us through the lack of diversity and representation within the advertising industry and what our membership can do for us and for our clients.
As our hiring ramped up, we decided to take immediate action to improve our diversity and representation by setting a representation target in our candidate pipeline. We know that quotas can feel uncomfortable because they can (and have) been used in a limiting way but with a genuine motivation to find and bring diversity into our business, this is the type of action we knew we needed to take to drive change.
And with the new challenge of remote onboarding, we got thinking about ways to improve the network of our new starters and make them feel as included as possible, so we decided to revamp our buddy system, extending it to give each new starter not just one, but four buddies from a range of teams and seniority levels to offer more support and allyship in their first few months.
Finally we have completed the September #AdLandCommits progress survey, sharing our data, our areas of progress and what’s still left to do. This information will form part of a report on our industry progress to be shared with the Minister of Business and Industry, Nadhim Zahawi, on October 6.
As an agency, we stand with the Black Lives Matter movement and have spent the last few weeks learning, unlearning and discussing the steps we need to take in order to be actively anti-racist, both as a business and as individuals.
We do not want this post to be a worthy show of support. We understand this is a real and continuous fight. A fight that demands actions to overcome prejudice and discrimination. We understand this is our responsibility to learn, to educate, to face up to the challenges we have, not just within Born but within the advertising industry as a whole. There is a lot of work to be done.
Rather than cling to the small actions we have taken as an agency to instill anti-racist and inclusive behaviour, we’ve decided that we must first lean into the uncomfortable truth of how we're still falling short when it comes to diversity and inclusion here at Born.
- We have an all white leadership team.
- We haven’t tracked the data that would show us the homogeneity of our team.
- We haven’t specifically discussed race or anti-racism with our team or clients.
- We haven’t distinguished the important difference between supporting equality and equity.
- We haven’t got a formal partnership with any government or industry schemes to support black talent, nor do we have one of our own.
- We haven’t always proactively prioritised diversifying our team when hiring.
- We haven’t used our platform and privilege to champion black talent in our whitepapers, blogs or events.
- We haven’t made a specific, measurable and public commitment to improve representation at all levels.
- We haven’t been conscious enough of all of the above.
It’s a lot to face up to, but it’s the truth.
We encourage other agencies to reflect on their shortcomings too, so we can all make the changes that our industry is crying out for. Hopefully we could all say plenty about the ways we already encourage diversity, but when such inequality remains this is not where the focus is best placed. What haven’t we done? What MORE can we do?
Thank you to all the people and resources that have helped us over the last few weeks, especially from the black community whose problem it isn’t.
We take a lot of pride in our values as an agency, one of them being ‘Do What You Say’. So before we say anymore, we're going to concentrate on doing.
We want to be held accountable, so this blog will be updated with our progress towards becoming not only better allies to the black community but also more heterogeneous and inclusive as an agency.