Are we there yet? Frank Collective CEO: 'We need more seats at table, not a new table'

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.

Jiffy Iuen
Co-founder and CEO
Frank Collective

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

I think we still have a long way to go. I’ll call out one thing I still deal with that I think other female leaders can relate to. Unless people have seen a picture of me, everyone assumes I’m a man.

I consistently walk into meetings where the potential client thinks I’m in any position other than the CEO. Most men over a certain age still assume the leader is going to be a man. And in some instances you can see that reset that happens in their eyes when they realize that’s not the case.

I’m still proving I can hold this role everyday in most interactions. The good news is it’s working and I can create in-roads for normalizing female leadership.

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

Casting. Representation is finally showing up to the party. Advertisers and agencies are making a conscious effort to show a mix of diversity in race, sexual orientation, age, gender, disabled people. I think this is beyond important. It’s necessary. Representation is inclusion. It’s a small way of showing value in everyone’s experience. It also breaks stereotypes. Many clients we deal with are amenable to showing diverse casting.

However, few expect or ask for it. It’s our job and everyone’s job to make sure we are pushing for this representation. Some people are just used to the stereotypes and don’t think to break them until they are presented with a different option.

What else needs to be done to get there?

Leadership needs a big makeover. There is a lack of diverse leadership across our industry. When the industry points to the handful of examples that break with that, it’s great.

However, there’s more to be done. We’ll be truly successful when segregation stops. I’d like to stop seeing lists of "The top 10 female leaders" or the "Best Women in Creative" and start seeing women represented more in "The Top Leaders" or "The Best in Creative."

There doesn’t need to be a special delineation between female and male, black and white, gay or straight. We need more seats at the table, not a new table. I want to be recognized for being an excellent CEO not a successful female CEO. When those qualifiers go away, we’ll know real change is here.

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