Why Do CMOs Care About Diversity and Inclusion?

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

In Cannes this year, we convened a dynamic group of leading CMOs to discuss two critical topics shaping the future of marketing: diversity & inclusion and the changing marketing ecosystem. On this hot and humid day on the French Riviera, thirty of us escaped the heat on the outside to crank up the heat on the inside, with bright minds churning and sleeves rolled up.

The first topic, diversity and inclusion, was indeed a passion-filled discussion. We almost didn’t get to the second topic because we just couldn’t stop talking about the possibilities.

Why do CMOs care about this topic so much? Because it is all about people and how we not only see them, but include them. It’s the heart of marketing and fuel for growth and innovation. In a colorful world made up of unique individuals, how can brands authentically connect with and inspire people on the outside and on the inside?

Just as we tackled tough topics in the January Symposium, we collectively weighed in on what’s working, what’s not and what’s possible. Here is an overview from that pivotal day in Cannes, which subsequently has fueled today’s announcement of the new Adweek Diversity and Inclusion Council:

What’s Working?

  • We’ve made a lot of progress in raising awareness around the importance of diversity and inclusion in the past few years, albeit progress is slower than hoped.
  • The emergence of specialized efforts in representing the under-represented like diversity talent provider Jopwell, organizations like The Female Quotient and ADCOLOR and industry call-to-actions like #SeeHer, co-chaired by Fiona Carter, Chief Brand Officer of AT&T and Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer of P&G.
  • Transparent conversations around equal pay with brands stepping up to help advance the conversation or bridge the gap, as we saw recently with the actions from Procter and Gamble, to subsidize the pay gap of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team.
  • Brands publicly declaring their purpose and values that are grounded in diversity and inclusion like Nike’s Impact Report.
  • Brands leading industry coalitions to create new opportunities for under-privileged individuals to come into the advertising and marketing industries, like Verizon’s adfellows program which includes their agency partners, American Express, Anheuser-Busch and more brands enrolling to fuel their talent pipelines.
  • Leaders stepping up to reach back and pull forward diverse talent through mentorship, sponsorship and advocacy, as celebrated in this year’s Adweek and ADCOLOR Champions

What’s Not?

  • Today’s world is all about erasing pre-defined lines around gender, age, ethnicity or lifestyle preferences. Stereotypes that were formed decades ago still exist and continue to drive advertising cohorts like “Latina” or “Seniors” or “Gen Z.” Gen Z, by the way, is probably the best representation of no lines. It’s a generation that does not like to be defined, especially around gender.
  • Rise to mediocracy. Instead of truly digging deep to understand individuality, it seems the world is moving towards vanilla to avoid conflict. This is driven by the lack of tools and personal drive today in how to understand the differences and tap into true empathy, a leadership skill that is inconsistent and not well developed across the marketer community. As one executive stated during the Symposium, “People don’t dig deeper until they are forced to.”
  • Approaching diversity as a “check the box” requirement vs. fully embracing the benefits. Equally challenging is putting too much pressure on diverse groups to be the sole heroes in driving growth vs. acknowledging that diversity is part of the solution.
  • Using language that sends the wrong message, like “cultural fit” vs “cultural add.” Why would you want to bring people in who are just like you? That’s the fastest way not to grow.
  • Lack of ownership and clarity across organizations between CMO, CHRO, CEO, CFO, etc. Which then drives lack of action and a bigger problem, retention. According to a recent Verizon inclusivity study conducted in partnership with the Center for Talent Innovation, women and people of color are much more likely to leave their roles and the industry due to microaggressions within their organizations.

“A lot of people just think about diversity in the context of increasing the pipeline of talent. You might hire all the diverse people that you want, but if they come to an environment where they’re not going to feel included, then it’s just a waste of time.” -Diego Scotti, CMO of Verizon 

nadine.dietz@adweek.com Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.