Agencies and brands need to go from allies to activists for a more inclusive and diverse future

Ed Hallam, associate creative director at Rehab Agency, issues a call for creative and tech agencies to have actionable and long-term commitments to inclusivity.

a gay pride event

COVID-19 didn’t cancel 2020’s Pride, but the focus changed. In light of recent much-needed demands for equity for black lives, this year has offered us the opportunity to understand the role for corporations in global movements in support of Black Lives Matter and Pride alike.

It’s come to light through research by Gay Times and Karmarama that performative allyship is a massive issue, with brands taking part in the celebration of Pride or showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter, without looking internally at how they themselves can do better and not just profit from allyship of the causes.

“Just 32% of marketers engage with the LGBTQ+ community independently of Pride, despite 84% of LGBTQ+ consumers calling for it” – Karmarma & Gay Times.

The fact is performative allyship isn’t going to cut it anymore – and since we’re in the business of inventing the future, we have to see what responsibility the creative tech industry holds when it comes to the civil rights movements. We want to investigate how changing our approach to new products and experiences could help move the dial on entrenched bias’ for race, gender and orientation.

“93% of Gen Zers say that if a company makes a commitment it should put programs and policies in place to realize that pledge.” – 2019 Gen Z Purpose Study.”

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we should recognise we need to stop assuming we have the answers and to unlearn our assumptions that could be damaging to progress. That’s why we’ve decided to work with the Gay Times to help us create a manifesto and commitment to change our ways of working.

At the heart of it, we need something to check ourselves, creating a formal process for practices we all just ‘know to be right’, to avoid the risk that they could ever be forgotten. Essentially, we’re committing to questioning bias at every step of a project.

Our hope is that these actionable steps, based around unlearning and re-educating, can be easily adopted by other agencies in their practices.

Diversity of thought:

  • Bring forward more voices and representation within the teams we work with.
  • Address issues with access to the industry from the ground up with initiatives that open the door to talent from diverse backgrounds.

Question everything:

  • Integrate a series of questions into every brief that comes into the agency – ensuring learnt assumptions aren’t hindering progress in representation:
  • 1. Inclusivity: Could any aspect of the experience that we’re designing isolate anyone and what could be done to better serve a more diverse audience?
  • 2. Bias: Is the experience playing to any bias or assumed roles in gender, race, orientation?
  • 3. Access: Does the product or experience offer a level of access to everyone from all socio-economic backgrounds?

Inclusivity scope and assessment:

  • Communicate to clients following an assessment on diversity and inclusion if and when we feel we’re undeserving and underrepresenting on the project itself.

Learn and unlearn:

  • Commit to understanding that we don’t know all the answers to some of these questions, but our goal is to level up our knowledge to share with our industry in the future.

Pride should be a milestone to celebrate a year’s work striving for inclusivity and to check in with our goals and ambitions for the year ahead, it shouldn’t be seen as another box to tick for a branded moment.

We want to make next year’s Pride our progress milestone and want other agencies to do the same – a time for taking stock of what we’ve achieved this year, and questioning the areas we can continue to do better in. We need to stop being afraid of being transparent about our stance and our future plans to continue growing as activists and striving to ingrain this ethos in all areas of our work.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.