dawn, diversity and ‘taking control’ in review
As we finish the first week of 2018 the dawn team have reflected on the events series throughout last year. In 2017 dawn introduced an umbrella theme of ‘taking control’ in recognition of the volatile social and political context in which we started the year. The intention was to bring a series of varied event topics and speakers to the network, that were united by a common theme that provided guidance, discussion, debate and practical skills.
Thus, our events topics covered confidence, negotiation, finance and diversity; areas applicable for those looking to accelerate their careers within existing organisations, as well as those looking to make a career move or change. We’ve always prided ourselves that dawn offers a wider range of views, experiences and positions to provide a divergence of opinion to those who attend of events. In the year of ‘taking control’ we had our first series of male speakers at the confidence and diversity events, a genetic code designer, a digital floristry founder and industry leaders from Amplify, Unruly and News UK.
We finished our dawn event series on a stellar high this year with a thought provoking evening at Unruly discussing diversity. The topic was a riff on the much-discussed unconscious bias; ‘how diverse is your approach, attitude and mindset?’. To tackle this complex area our panel including Unruly Founder and CEO Sarah Woods, Daniele Fiandaca co-founder of Creative Social, Utopia and Token Man with the IAB’s Head of Diversity Leila Saddiqui and Steven Lacey strategy consultant and founder of SLS Agency.
In a year that saw Saachi’s Executive Chairman Kevin Roberts resign after saying that the advertising industry gender discussion and “debate is all over”, while women only make up 11% of Creative Directors despite making up 46% of the industry, the importance of mindful challenging of unconscious bias for women, BAME and LQBTQI continues to be a focus. Our panel brought their own personal and professional experience to the topic, with engaging debate from the audience.
Sarah Woods and Daniele Fiandaca had shared experience of running agencies and media owners at c-level, as such they both have varied experience of practical applications of encouraging diversity across all departments and with all external partners for a business. Both believed, and had experienced, that being different within the industry can be used to an individual advantage in either choosing the right team, hire or business partner. When looking for investment for Unruly in 2010 any reticence or challenge to Sarah as a female leader and co-founder was seen as a key indicator that these were not partners to work with. Sarah encouraged trusting that instinct about the culture of an organisation; with greater debate and awareness of unconscious bias organisations should have company policy, training or a personal position that they would be willing to discuss at any interview or career review stage. Daniele highlighted the importance to senior leaders of having a diverse recruitment team, especially at senior levels. When hiring a new head of department Daniele brought in a female colleague to give their opinion on the two final candidates, a male and a female. After the interviews Daniele and his colleague had wildly different views on who should get the job and why. Leading to much debate, and review of the qualities required for the role not the personality fit to the business, which they recognised had been significantly influenced by unconscious bias.
Steven Lacey was an incredibly inspiring speaker; eloquently discussed his own experience as a disabled man with a challenging background and believes that “the multi-dimensions of yourself and the struggles you’ve been through are what shapes you”. Steven now runs his own behaviour and cultural strategy consultancy SLS and is challenging the advertising industry to embrace greater difference of experience to catch up with their audience; “the consumer embraces diversity – they’re ahead of the clients, ahead of the agency”. It’s only in bridging this diversity gap and having a greater breath of social, cultural and ethnic experiences that agencies will continue to create relevant work, Steve sagely pointed out “the most successful ads are the ones that normalise and show universalism”.
Leila Saddiqui built upon Steve value in diversity of experience creating great work and Sarah’s that varied teams make better business decisions. As the IABs Head of Diversity Leila’s role is in supporting industry leaders wanting to drive change within their organisations with practical training and guidance, as well as being a voice within the industry who highlights evidence based case studies of the revenue potential from having a varied and diverse team. Leila’s biggest challenge is that in “diversity is always the first place to have budget cuts” despite the significant evidence to the contrary. Leila called on everyone within the industry to share their experiences, positive and negative, to continue the debate and awareness at every level of the media, creative and advertising industry.
The inspiring discussion was a fitting end to dawn’s eighth year of events, in which time we’ve held 33 events with a 140 motivating speakers. As we embrace 2018 and look forward to another exciting year running dawn, we want to thank everyone to attended and supported the network. We will be in announcing our plans for 2018 very soon.