Agencies rally support for Asian-American employees

Agencies show solidarity with AAPI employees as anti-Asian hate crimes rise.

Hate crimes toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have skyrocketed over the last year, as xenophobic rhetoric from people including Donald Trump, who has referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” increased.  

In major cities, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 150% in the past year, mostly targeting people over the age of 60. This horrifying trend hit a boiling point last Wednesday when a series of Spa shootings in Atlanta left eight people, including six Asian women, dead.  

As they did during the Black Lives Matter Protests last summer, brands and agencies are stepping up to show support for the AAPI community during this difficult time.  

GoFundMe, for instance, recently launched #StopAsianHate, a campaign that encourages people to donate to a central fund that it will distribute as grants to organizations advocating for the AAPI community. And on Friday, Verizon pledged $15 million in donations and ad inventory to organizations supporting the AAPI community, AdAge reported

Following increased calls for action and support, agency executives have reached out to employees, shown support on social media and shared resources for allyship.  

Here are a few examples. 

Wunderman Thompson 

The agency’s North America offices are hosting “safe room conversations” to discuss how to support Asian American employees and connect with leaders of the South Asian Professionals Networking Association, an employee resource group, to lend their support.  

“We still have a way to go in creating a more just, safe and equal world,” Ezinne Okoro, global chief inclusion, equity, and diversity officer at Wunderman Thompson, said in an email. “I hope that our colleagues are taking time to seek support as needed.”  

Publicis Groupe 

At Publicis Groupe, leadership at the holding company and individual agency levels have sent messages of support and pointed employees to organizations where they can donate or take action, including Fight the Virus, Fight the Bias; stopasianhate.info; and the AAPI Community Fund on GoFundMe. 

Publicis will also hold “Brave Space conversations” focused on the AAPI experience for all U.S. employees on March 25, and is using Marcel, its internal AI platform, to connect employees to mental health content centered around and written by Asian Americans.

Publicis agencies have also held events hosted by AAPI employee resource groups.

“Violence, discrimination, and prejudice have no home at Publicis Groupe,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “We openly denounce violence and acts of hate of any kind, by anyone.” 

Ogilvy  

At Ogilvy, James Kinney, global chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and chief people officer in North America, has sent several notes to staff and shared statements addressing hate anti-Asian hate crimes over the past few weeks. The notes detail initiatives with organizations, including to Stop AAPI Hate. He also called on employees to volunteer with AAPI nonprofits such as CAAAV.  

“Violence against anyone cannot be tolerated, and it’s especially egregious when it’s towards a group of people based on race, gender, sexual orientation or identity, religion, and more,” he wrote in one email. “Now is the time, no matter your background or how you choose to identify, to stand with and support our AAPI community at Ogilvy — and to take action in your local community as well.”  

Ogilvy has also shared resources compiled by its AAPI professional network, RedLotus, including instructions on how to report a hate crime and bystander intervention materials. Resources also direct people to parent WPP’s employee assistance program. On Wednesday, Ogilvy held a “safe room” forum for North America employees following the Atlanta shootings.

Omnicom 

Omnicom’s OPEN Leadership Team, its internal diversity and inclusion organization, spearheaded a #StopAsianHate social media campaign that led over 100 agencies, corporations and industry groups to voice support and raise money for community groups.

Omnicom agencies held listening sessions, town halls and other forums following Wednesday’s shootings to address AAPI employees’ concerns. Omicom’s PR agencies have also been guiding clients on how to address the violence internally, such as by matching employee donations to APPI funds and organizations and offering ally training.

Omnicom’s Asian Leaders Circle hosted a mental health check-in and encouraged employees to share stories. Omnicom is also sharing resources to learn about anti-Asian hate and outlining actionable steps to support the AAPI community. Leadership have also made public and internal statements about allyship.  

Essence

At Essence, leadership sent an internal memo, shared resources and encouraged employees to show support for AAPI colleagues in the wake of Wednesday’s shootings. 

The agency has also hosted professionally moderated “safe room” discussions, coordinated by parent companies GroupM and WPP.

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