Creating structural change: why I'm joining M&C Saatchi as head of culture and inclusion

Internal diversity and inclusion roles are fundamental to driving meaningful change, writes the founder of All Here.

The Creative Hackathon, which launched last week in partnership with The Mill, aims to promote diversity and inclusion in the creative industries by bringing young people who would never have considered a career in advertising the opportunity to work on a live brief. 

At our first Hackathon we were all blown away by the standard of work produced. Though here underlies the problematic truth about our industry: that the positions that we are in are just as much about access to opportunity as they are about talent; our industry is one where nepotism is rife. My experience underlined my belief that diverse teams produce better work.

Diversity drives creativity

The gratitude of all involved, and in particular the Creative Hackers for being given a chance to have access inside a company that holds such prestige and where they were at the very centre of the creative process - left us all deeply moved and inspired to do more. The participants not only got to see what they could be, but they got to enact their dreams of being senior creatives for those nine hours. A tangibility that provided them with a real taste of studio life, one that gave us the opportunity to see what happens when we bring a diverse group of individuals together to work on a brief; and also, what we create by having the direct input of the demographic that a campaign is targeted.

One of our objectives is to prove that diverse teams produce better work, as it's a rare thing within our industry; we’re all too familiar with predominately male creative teams creating campaigns for women’s bodies. It is an objective I will be taking with me to a new role.

Effecting Change

Next month I will be joining M&C Saatchi Group as head of culture and inclusion. I will be working very closely with Victoria Fox, chief executive of Lida and group sponsor of diversity and inclusion at M&C Saatchi Group. The group has recognised that to accelerate change they need to invest in an expert whose entire role is focussed on driving cultural change. Someone who can take the belief in "diversity of thought" and help it live inside the organisation.

Obviously, I'll be taking an operational backseat from All Here, and I feel that it's crucial that I share with you my reasons why. Why internal D&I roles like these are fundamental to driving and effecting real change. 

What has become apparent to me while working with agencies and studios is that unless you have someone within a company who is actively advocating for organisational change as well as nurturing the relationships built with organisations such as All Here, then the progress that we will see is nothing but temporary. 

The work needs to be done from the inside, as well as out, cultivating an environment that can facilitate difference/change. It’s a big job, and depending on the size of a company, it's not one that can be added to the already mammoth workload of an HR director or head of talent. This is why companies such as The Mill are as progressive as they are and pique the interest of different demographics: as they've invested in having someone champion diversity, inclusion and accessibility from the inside.

I am excited about the change I can help affect inside M&C Saatchi. I hope that others in the industry follow suit to make this commitment. That to create structural, organisational change that has diversity, inclusion and accessibility sitting at its very heart, then we need to have someone (or a team) committed to championing it from the inside while working in tandem with external organisations such as mine.

Sereena Abbassi is the founder of All Here, an organisation that seeks to help agencies and brands think more critically about the world and the work that they create.

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