Here were some key diversity themes we discussed at Ignite USA

With so many different speaker sessions, Ignite USA touched upon many important topics, one of which was diversity. Here are some of the key diversity themes at Ignite USA that we need to continue talking about.

Being an ally in B2B

Being an ally in the workplace goes beyond the bare minimum, especially in B2B. Podcaster and author Shanita Akintonde started the conversation about being an ally in the workplace by explaining why it’s essential to care in the first place. She outlined some rules for marketers to use:

  1. Determine your attributes: create the perception of what you want people to take away from your company.
  2. Identify your target audience and audience needs: you can track analytical data about your customers, so bring that to the DEI space.
  3. Create and enhance your DEI platform: use steeped research to generate insights and a foundation for your DEI efforts.

Creating a template can be incredibly helpful, especially for those that might be hesitant or even fearful of making or saying the wrong thing. Another concept marketers need to embrace is to aspire to greatness without fear. Talking about diversity can be scary, but, to be blunt, you need to overcome that fear, otherwise, you’ll never grow and be an advocate or ally.

Shanita said: “What I want you to think about is what is the culture of your organisation? If I walked in, what would I feel like? What would I feel like when I walked into your space when I look around and see anybody that looked like me? Would I feel that people could relate to me? Probably not, because I'm a bit of an outlier.”

These sets of questions establish why having allies is so important, as minorities and underrepresented groups are just that: the minority. Joseph Taiano, CMO of Accenture, continued the discussion on diversity as he shared his experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. When he first joined Accenture, he joined an affinity group which brought together marginalised groups around a cause. At the time, Joe said he didn’t have many gay friends so he joined an LGBTQ+ employee resource group.

He said: “I think the misconception sometimes around employee resource groups is that they're just for the marginalised group, and it's actually just as much for allies as it is for a marginalised group, so I may be a member of our LGBTQ+ employee resource group at Accenture, but I'm also a mental health ally, I'm an ally for gender equality and our Women's Network and many others. And so that has really helped me understand the causes of others.”

Joe encouraged marketers to create an employee resource group as it can allow employees to connect on all levels throughout the company. If your company doesn’t have a resource group, there are many external organisations and charities where employees can network and learn.

He continued: “It also gives you an opportunity to showcase your skills, so, with many of these employee resource groups, you can try out a new skill or you can leverage your skills to help them with a new internal communications they need. Some have client relationships in terms of what we can do with other client’s employee resource groups, so it's just a wonderful way to share your skills for a greater good.”

DEI messaging

In a roundtable discussion hosted by author of Woke-Washed, Katie Martell, Katie spoke with Kaye Media Partners' Karen McFarlane, LinkedIn’s Tyrona Heath and CDW’s Lauren McCadney Williams about messaging in 2020, as leaders were reluctant to make statements about the events surrounding George Floyd. Lauren reiterated: “This isn’t about politics; it’s about humanity.”

However, in 2020, the women said that most marketers understood the need for DEI, but weren’t sure how to put it in practice according to their job title.

Tyrona said: “There's a passive majority of marketers that understand the importance of DEI, but perhaps aren’t connected to what actions they can take to invest. And I think that's the opportunity. You’re not going to move everyone, but there's a majority of people that recognise that something needs to be done and that's where we can start to shine a light and pave the way.”

It might seem harder to align a B2B brand with diversity. Oftentimes, in B2C, they can make that direct emotional connection with a consumer product. However, in 2020, we saw a shift on the importance of mental health and employee engagement in the B2B space. With the increased efforts to prioritise employee well-being, marketers can use this momentum to start addressing these issues.

Tokenism and appropriation

If your company is looking to bring more diversity into the workplace, it’s important not to submit to tokenism, which is the practice of recruiting members of minority groups in order to appear inclusive in the workplace.

While the efforts might be well-intended, it is so essential to hire based on skill set and a person’s offering, not just having diversity for the sake of having diversity. One of the biggest missteps that Lauren sees is all around tokenism when it needs to be about insight-based.

Lauren explained: “When I first started in advertising, I was working on the Army National Guard account, and I got this frantic phone call, we need the black ad, we need the black ad. And I'm like, what black ad? And they were said: ‘The one where there's a black kid sitting in a dorm room.’

It was a general market ad that had multiple people in the picture, there was nothing that spoke to this brown person's experience, but he was in the picture. So tokenism is taking a general market ad and if there happens to be a brown face, then saying we’re being inclusive.”

Appropriation (specifically, cultural appropriation) is the adoption of an element of a culture by members of a different one. In many cases, appropriation can be offensive because it’s being used in an inappropriate or mocking way. When done in marketing, it can be done intentionally to speak upon a trend or slang, but in actuality ends up being offensive.

Lauren said: “Just being mindful of appropriation to appreciate the culture, do you respect the culture, and are you using it in the right way? So overall, I think companies are doing a fantastic job for the most part but it is another misstep I see.”

Diverse teams and leaders

At B2B Marketing, we’ve done lots of content around psychological safety and diverse teams. We’ve heard it many times: diverse teams perform better, but Joe was able to counter that statement with an add on.

Joe said: “You may have heard the term that diverse teams outperform homogeneous teams. And that is true, but there's a caveat. And the caveat to that is diverse teams only outperform homogenous teams, when there is an inclusive leader at the helm.”

Joe explained just how important it is to be aware of your bias (because everyone has a bias) and overcome it. If you’re looking to be a leader among your colleagues, you need to know that change doesn’t happen overnight, but you need to start somewhere. One key to this?

Vulnerability. As with any leader, you’re going to have missteps, but accepting you’re going to make mistakes along the way is setting an excellent example for those under your wing. They’ll be able to bring ideas and contribute to conversations more comfortably if they know it’s okay to make mistakes. You just have to remind them that if they are honest with their mistakes, they need to own them, and most importantly, learn from them.

At B2B Marketing, we know we’re not perfect, and we need to keep these things in mind as much as anyone else. If you have any ideas for content to keep this discussion at the fore of our industry, please feel free to drop us a line at:

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