Are we there yet? VMLY&R on importance of 3%

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.

Harsh Kapadia

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

I went to an industry event where they were discussing women and the problems faced by women in a workplace and there were only three men there. Seriously?

A lot of companies today treat this issue as a check box or charity. STOP. If that is why you are doing it, you are better off not doing it. Not only are you going to be disappointed with your hire but will also be destroying someone else’s career by putting them in a token position.

We rely on real insights. Our lives are what differentiates us in a creative industry. We always says it’s "about the people" that work in an agency. But people continue to hire the same type of people. Are we too sensitive to hear other opinions? Do we just want people with the same thinking so they agree with us?

Equality, diversity and inclusion is a broad spectrum. So why do we have more excuses for the above? Are we looking hard enough? Can we become more aware of our subconscious -- or conscious in some cases -- bias?

How about something that proves we’re making progress?

We are definitely making progress. But where the real change is coming from is the clients. They are asking for it. And rightly so. It’s not charity. It adds value to their business.

At VMLY&R we don’t treat diversity and inclusion as a check box. It’s part of the culture. We were one of the first 3% accredited agencies. It comes back to how we can bring the most interesting and provocative ideas to our clients by having very different mindsets with one ambition.

What else needs to be done to get there?

Diversity and inclusion needs to start at the base, but more importantly MUST be nurtured at the mid-levels. That is where most people get lost.

Having had the privilege of living in four countries while this subject has been a hot topic, it is also interesting to see different definitions of diversity and inclusion and how different cultures are trying to keep up with it. It absolutely varies from colour of skin, gender, socio-economic background, sexual preferences and many more factors.

Rather than trying to do something "good," step back and ask what’s in it for me to hire this person. We work in an industry of insights and ideas. The more different people’s backgrounds are, the more we would succeed as an industry. The reason I say don’t ask what’s in it for them but instead what’s in it for me is it will reduce subconscious bias and let you hire people with a different background on their merit.

It’s not always the problem of the person with the power to hire but also the problem of every employee who has the power to recommend. 

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