Are we there yet? DNA's president urges agencies to invest more in mentorship

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.

Chris Witherspoon
President and chief growth officer

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

The lack of senior women creative leaders in our industry is definitely still a problem. I know this first hand, because we spent a year trying to hire a senior female creative director and in the end we did not succeed. One full year.

We did get close, but we were stymied by the call of freelance and the allure of Seattle’s hot tech companies.

While we have been successful in recruiting mid-level female creative talent that we believe represents the next generation of leaders, these young women need to be able to look around the room and see role models that they can relate to.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

My daughter was in the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) this year and was given an inside look at an industry in the midst of change. She was given agency tours at many of the industry’s biggest agencies and also at some independents. She particularly loved one independent agency in Chicago because they talked about controlling their own destiny and to her that had a lot more appeal than the larger agencies.

She also discovered that her background and experience was a real door opener to her next opportunity. She is in the unique position of being able to decide where she wants to go next. I think that’s great news for women of color and people of color.

What else needs to be done to get there?

Though the agencies are doing a solid job of attracting diversity at junior levels, we still are not seeing enough women and people of color getting promoted into senior roles. This is important because if we want to have a more diverse industry, diverse groups will need to see there are opportunities for career growth.

To get there, companies will need to invest more resources in training and mentoring. However, having leaders who they can relate to – people who share similar experiences – is going to be really important. This is a real industry-wide challenge.

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