Cincinnati agency Empower has promoted Connie Ross to the position of vice president and chair of diversity, equity and inclusion. The agency also launched a dedicated DEI webpage designed as a destination to track the agency’s progress, accountability and future commitments.
Ross has been with Empower for nearly a decade and has risen from associate director of search marketing to her current position. In the last year, Ross has headed up and implemented transparent listening sessions, as well as an agency-wide implicit bias training, and has facilitated a plan for media-supplier diversification, along with launching a DEI speaker series and an Empower the Vote initiative. In addition, she helped the agency support minority owned businesses, including a push to celebrate Pride with scannable window art.
Ross’s elevation rose after the murder of George Floyd last year and the subsequent Black Lives Matter rallies, when Empower CEO Jim Price made an action plan for DEI efforts.
“We have a race problem that is front and center for all the world to see. And as a country and community we have to own it,” he said in a statement at the time, and mapped out a three-step plan while appointing Ross as DEI chair.
“Connie Ross takes a media-focused approach to DEI efforts as much as she does the cultural and talent piece. This allows us to effect change inside the agency, but also the industry as a whole. While we know there is still a lot of work to be done and always room for improvements no matter how many strides we make, I am very proud of the wave of efforts Ross has made in a tumultuous year,” said Price in a statement.
After her appointment, Ross formed a DEI advisory board and sub-committee.
“The DEI Board serves as the moral and social compass of the agency beyond executive leadership,” Ross said in a statement. “DEI-focused solutions are not only meant to impact the makeup and culture of Empower but serve as an agency model for the industry as a whole.”
The dedication of Ross in her position is paying off, as 30% of 2021 new hires at Empower are racially and ethnically diverse, up from 18% in 2019.
Ross was inspired by her parents, both of whom served in the Ohio legislature. Her father was an Ohio state representative, and when he passed away, Ross’s mother sought to continue her husband’s initiative, becoming the first African American woman to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives.
“My parents were both politicians thrust into it because they saw the community in which we lived under-represented,” said Ross.