How marketers can play their part to create a more equal world

Marketing is at the forefront of any business. It is the mechanism for showing people your front door, your shop window and how potential customers form their first perception of you. It’s not always about trying to sell your products – sometimes (almost always) you need to focus on your brand perception and the contribution you make to society.

Due to recent events, though unfortunately a long overdue conversation, the focus has been on how we can create a more equal world and reduce systemic racism. Unfortunately the business world is not exempt from the racial biases that are a product of our past. The upside is businesses are in a strong position to help undo this.

How?

Well. Businesses, of all sizes, have a huge influence over society and have the ability to create opportunities and provide representation to drive more aspiration. Whilst directors and HR teams are responsible for ensuring equal hiring opportunities and an inclusive workforce culture, marketing teams/people can take responsibility for creating representation, not presenting biases and ensuring that you use inclusive language at every turn. This is true for businesses of any size – even if your marketing is low budget, it’s important that you still consider your impact, especially on your owned social channels.

To help businesses out, I’ve created a quick list of items that you can go through to ensure you, as a marketer, are playing your role in reducing systemic racism. Though these points are developed with racial biases particularly in mind, they can also be used to assess biases and inclusivity for any minority group.

  1. Work with your internal HR (or diversity specialist) to educate yourself and your teams on correct language to use and how to establish existing biases in your own behaviours/choices. If you don’t have one internally it is worth investing in an external consultant to kick start your efforts. Further to this, there are a lot of resources freely available designed to educate on this specifically.
  2. Audit your current marketing efforts. One of the most important things you can do is to recognise your own weaknesses and areas for improvement. Check yourself on the people used in your images, check for racial stereotypes and cultural appropriation.
  3. Have a diverse focus group you can check any new content with.
  4. Do not participate in events that are not racially diverse.
  5. Do not spend with publishers or platforms that aren’t playing their part.

Finally, always be open for feedback and always look to seek improvement. We can only change the world if we all do our bit – businesses included.


Listen. Learn. Act.

This has been hard to write and I apologise if my language is clumsy. This comes from a place of acknowledging my own privilege and making a commitment to listen, learn and challenge those around me.

The events of the past few weeks have shocked me to the core. I’ve struggled with what to say and how to articulate my anger – both towards the systemic racism that still exists and my own ignorance thinking it isn’t as prevalent in today’s society.

As a person with white privilege I acknowledge that I will never fully understand what it is like to be subject to discriminative actions because of the colour of my skin. I acknowledge that I should have done more to challenge these opinions and that these conversations should have happened sooner.

I stand fearlessly for inclusivity. Feminism and equality are core values I hold myself to with so much passion and emotion. I talk a lot about the need to over-rotate towards females in the workplace due to the inherent biases that exist. I haven’t done enough to over-rotate towards inclusiveness of black people and other ethnic groups.

The reality is that whilst there is a lack of representation of women in leadership positions, it’s more than likely that those women who are represented look like me. The majority of the time they will be white women.

I’ve previously used this example: an organisation with 7 leaders, 1 is a woman, 6 are men. There are 70 other employees.

Ideal world: 10% success rate of becoming 1 of the 7 leaders. In an equal workforce.

Perception: women are competing against each other for 1 role (2.8% chance). Men are competing for 1 of 6 roles (17.1% chance).

Add in racial factors to this and it is even more disproportionate. 

So what can we do?

There isn’t an instant fix to undoing years of racism, but there are small steps we can all take to move in the right direction. Continue to educate ourselves, continue to challenge other people and seek out ways to be actively anti-racist.

Personally and professionally, I’m committing to paying attention to who I pay attention to. Making sure that all the beliefs and behaviours I hold as a feminist transfer regardless of skin colour. This means paying particular attention to industry events that I attend and making sure that they include racially diverse speakers. This means making sure I’m highlighting black women as role models. This means recommending books by black authors, podcasts by black speakers, films/video by black producers and businesses run by black people.

We have to all take responsibility for holding the world accountable and elevate black people so that we provide equal representation. We need to make damn sure that black men and women feel as though have as much chance of achieving leadership positions in the business world as white men and women. We all need to work to make that happen and provide opportunities.

As a feminist, a woman and a human who experienced discrimination/prejudice because of my gender, it would wrong and hypocritical not to be proactively driving change to reduce and eliminate systemic racism. Don’t turn a blind eye thinking this isn’t your problem. Listen. Learn. Act.