Defining Diversity in the Workplace

October 9, 2019

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, African American, Asian, and Hispanic people make up an estimated 37.3% of the US population, and it’s only increasing. In the advertising and communication industry, however, only 23.5% of professionals are people of color. Why doesn’t the industry accurately reflect society? As an industry that exists to communicate with consumers of all backgrounds, wouldn’t we benefit from a more inclusive environment? 

Diversity seems to be a dispassionate word that everyone uses to describe things that are different from them, but nobody actually stops to think about what diversity in the workplace actually looks and feels like for minorities. Diversity is not hiring people from marginalized communities to avoid looking prejudiced; hiring one woman, a person of color, or an LGBTQ individual to meet a quota isn’t enough to solve the problem. Overall, the most important part of any inclusion initiative is equity. What I want is for agencies and corporations to make an intentional effort to correct imbalances and create an accessible and fair workplace. Diversity is about ensuring that your employees who identify as minorities are not being talked down to or ignored during meetings and instead feel valued for their perspective. An inclusive culture must be present in every area of the workplace—from top to bottom. In this aspect, minorities should also have a shot at taking on leadership roles without feeling like they have to jump over thousands of hurdles while the white man has a straight path to the finish line. 

In general, it feels as if diversity in advertising only becomes a hot topic whenever a controversial event occurs, but advertisements can only become truly inclusive when they’re created and sold by diverse groups of people who can accurately represent marginalized communities. The biggest lesson I’ve learned in advertising is that people resonate with human truths, and these truths can only be told by people who actually understand what it is to live in these people’s shoes. 

Embracing diversity in the workplace forces companies and agencies out of their comfort zones, so, of course, it’s not going to happen overnight. But I am a believer in the idea that there is no growth in the comfort zone and no comfort in the growth zone. Our society is heading toward inclusivity, so including those who can speak to the experiences of those an advertisement or message is attempting to represent is crucial.

Many talented folks don’t believe there is space for them in this industry because of its current lack of diversity—including myself. As an advertising student who identifies as a first-generation Vietnamese-American immigrant, I am truly hoping to see the day when this industry advocates for diversity and inclusion.