Are we there yet? Ashley Richardson-George on the industry's lack of progress

Every week, we ask industry insiders across all job levels and titles to share personal stories about equality, diversity and inclusion in adland. We know we're not there yet, but we want to document the highs and lows as the industry slowly transforms for the better.

Ashley Richardson-George
Content strategy director
Circus Maximus

Tell us about one thing that’s happened recently that leads you to believe there’s still a problem.

When people meet me, they tell me I’m the only senior-level woman of color they’ve met before, which is wild. And sad.  People keep saying they can’t find diverse candidates because they don’t exist, but they DO exist, they’re just being overlooked for management level positions, so they’re starting their own companies. These women are leaving the agency world because they were overlooked and not mentored, and now they’re elsewhere, making their own way. 

How about something that proves we are making progress?

Honestly, I am not sure we are making any.  Conversation is a good starting point, but it is not action, so while a lot of companies are talking about diversity right now, they’re not hiring senior leadership so what’s the point?  Companies may be recruiting people of color, but they are typically more junior, which means they are not in a position to create true change.  It’s not because there’s no diversity.

What we ARE seeing is individuals and industry organizations standing up for change.  If companies aren’t willing to do it, people are going to push.  Whether that is the Ad Club of NY or social media forums, people are asking for transformation and making viable suggestions for how we can make a difference.

But while social media allows us to connect and share experiences and give advice, we now need to take it one step further to truly allow change to happen. That is going to require new hiring practices, elevating people of diversity into senior positions, mentorship efforts and more. 

What else needs to be done to get there?

Time.  With the right mentorship efforts, things will likely be different in five years. The next generation of diverse leaders should feel empowered to speak up and ask for what they need to move ahead. It will happen but we can’t give up.

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