Public relations agencies have increasingly been under scrutiny for their lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity at senior management levels. Women of color grapple with these issues on a daily basis—highlighting the reality that all communications professionals must play a role in addressing this problem.
To better understand these dynamics, several members of the Ogilvy Washington Social Change team attended the 2016 ColorComm annual conference and retreat, July 20-22, 2016 in Key Biscayne, FL. ColorComm is the only organization for women of color in communications. Several Fortune 500 companies and communications agencies – both large and small – were represented at this year’s meeting. This year’s theme, “Leading the Way,” focused on matters of importance to women of color in the industry including the lack of women in the C-Suite of PR firms, the impact of social media as it relates to multicultural marketing, financial insights and tips, and intimate talks with some of the most influential women of color in the industry.
Attendees were challenged to: 1. Speak Up 2. Follow Up and 3. Step Up. As Lauren Wesley Wilson, Founder & President of ColorComm described this year’s theme, if you want something in your current role, speak up; follow up with the people you are trying to get in front of; and most importantly, step up, because opportunity does not knock on your timeframe and it may not come around again.
On the first day of the conference, Ogilvy sponsored a panel discussion entitled, “Tapping Into Your Creative Genius,” led by Jennifer Risi, Managing Director, Ogilvy Media Influence; Kathy Baird, Executive Vice President, Ogilvy Content + Social; Lily Eng, Vice President, Technology & Ogilvy Media Influence; and Stacey Ryan-Cornelius, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide Financial Controller. This discussion was a powerful moment to kick off the conference because it set the tone for an open and comfortable forum to discuss social issues.
Other distinguished panelists included motivational speaker Lisa Nichols who was featured in the movie, “The Secret,” which teaches the principles of abundance and attraction. Nichols’ session, “How to Live an Abundant Life,” was enlightening because it normalized our ubiquitous struggle with work-life balance.
In addition, I’m pleased to say that one of the major outcomes from this year’s conference is to create an inter-agency task force led by Lisa Ross, Managing Director at Apco Worldwide, focused on the barriers preventing women and people of color from leading in the C-suite of PR firms. The goal will be to create long-term, sustainable solutions that eliminate barriers and a call for application of those solutions industry wide.
Ogilvy colleagues left this year’s sold-out ColorComm conference inspired and fulfilled by the conversations of change and progress. We are pleased that Ogilvy has made a commitment to making diversity a priority within the company (see Ogilvy’s philosophy on Diversity & Inclusion) and look forward to seeing sustainable changes in the industry in the very near future.
I will close with a Facebook post by Stuart Smith, Global CEO, Ogilvy Public Relations, who commented, “Had great time with friends and colleagues at Colorcomm 2016. Diversity & Inclusion. Right for our people. Right for our clients. Right for our business. Right. Period.”
Please see related ColorComm posts from Ogilvy colleagues, Jen Risi, and Jean-Rene Zetrenne, Chief Talent Officer, Ogilvy & Mather: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-risi/colorcomm-2016-seize-this_b_11051422.html and http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jennifer-risi/qa-with-jene-rene-zetrenn_b_11133872.html.