Uncomfortable Conversations: Diversity — Race

We need to get better at having these types of conversations.

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TAKUMI launched an exclusive webinar series ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ bringing together voices in the marketing and advertising industry to discuss their own experiences and issues — both personal and professional.

Our first webinar was on Diversity — Race. The panellist shared stories andadvice, which inspired and most importantly provided insights for us to be aware of and to understand more about this important topic.

The fact is racism exists, racial conflict exists, and inequality still exists.

Our Panelists:

We’ve picked out some of the key takeaways from the ‘Uncomfortable Conversations: Diversity — Race’ webinar to help you become part of the conversation.

Recently we have seen lots of companies and brands become more aware of race and diversity because of the Black Lives Matter Movement. What would you want to see next from companies? How do you imagine the world in the future?

Cyndi: I would love to see a commitment to growing BIPOC talent and really developing them. We need to bring more voices to the table especially in marketing.

I feel as of right now, when I do see representation it seems to be really one-sided. I currently see representation in back-office roles and I would really want to see it at an executive level; front-facing at a consumer level. I would like to see from all brands, a commitment to mentorship and growing their BIPOC colleagues.

Shaadow: The structure of marketing and companies need to change. CEO’s and CFO’s need to represent the people they want to talk to.

Derek: At the heart of marketing is the people and that is where change needs to begin. Companies and brands need to open their eyes and listen. People want real people; they want to see reflections of themselves.

Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour should not all be fighting for three spots on a 50+ influencer campaign. How has tokenism taken place in marketing and why is it a huge problem?

Cyndi: I definitely think that tokenism is a big problem. I think ultimately it comes down to BIPOC people having more representation in those corporate structures making those decisions. People have blind spots and a lot of people lean into what they think is the best representation or ‘ticks off a box.’

I am going to give a quote from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which sums up the problem perfectly: “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

The damage of tokenism is that you are creating only one representation of an African or black man or creating one view of a black woman or Latino or Latinas and people now have to work against that representation.

Times have changed. But Pre-COVID did you feel this conversation was happening and that you had support from companies and brands around Race — Diversity? Did it exist?

Shaadow: No it did not. And I know I should be really optimistic that tremendous change is going to happen but I am a bit more realistic.

We are still discussing things that were discussed in 1940. They are the same conversations, the same wording, and we are asking for the same things and it is 80 years later. I am 29 years old and I was born in an era where slavery did not exist but I am still dealing with the aftermath of it in a very developed world.

I am just sitting to see how long the world keeps that push toward diversity and if there are any actual decisions or actionable things that happen.

I want to see if and how things will change.

What advice would you give friends of BIPOC — i.e. white people who want to help change the status quo and make a difference at work? How would you like to hear white people talk about white privilege?

Kathy: When everything was at the height of the conversation when companies, brands and the music industry started reacting I got a lot of calls for colleagues and former colleagues with people checking in which I appreciated.

It is important that we all work together to make sure that change is happening, that it is not just happening behind the scenes and in your own home but that you are taking it to the workplace with you as well.

It is important to be compassionate for your colleagues but also take action.

I ask everyone that when you go on a zoom meeting take a look at the screen and if all you see is white faces ask yourself, why?

The most important thing is to be a true ally and make sure you stay educated on the issues and make sure you understand that not everyone is in the same headspace as you. Allow some flexibility in the workplace knowing that we are all up against a lot right now.

At TAKUMI we want to develop, educate, and create lasting actions to drive systematic change.

To do this we all need to continue to tackle the issue of racial equity both professionally and personally by creating purposeful dialogue, to help us to be better informed and more equipped in fighting injustices.

This is just the start of a longer conversation. We will be hosting more ‘Uncomfortable Conversations’ in the future as part of an ongoing webinar series.

We look forward to hosting more opportunities that allow us to learn and to grow into a more inclusive industry and world.

Let’s be better, together.