This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing through the amplification of Black and racially diverse authors. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.
This post is authored by Jada Harland, CEO + Talent Marketer.
From a consumer and recruiting perspective, diversity did not become important; it always has and will continue to be important to the structure of any long-term success of any business.
According to HR Digest, a McKinsey study acknowledges that “Ethnically diverse companies are 35% more likely to have financial returns above national industry medians and gender diverse companies are 15% more likely to do the same.” Trillions of dollars and hundreds of millions of potential customers support a variety of industries with their cash.
But another currency that has become more and more valuable is engagement. Inclusivity in talent leads to new perspectives, accountability in better decision-making, and endless ideas for content. So, I pose the question, why shouldn’t the talent supporting the internal structure of a business reflect their customers?
Recruitment is a bittersweet necessity for all companies, big or small. The recruiting teams keep the wheels of stellar talent turning as businesses expand, roles change, and new opportunities emerge, giving the recruiter extraordinary power to shift the narrative of their respective company’s diversity agenda. Therefore, a good recruiter is to hire the best candidate for the role, regardless of what one’s name looks or sounds like on their resume, any assumptions of personal preferences, or skin color.
My take on talent is a little different as my role as a Talent Marketer has incorporated, if not focused, on diversity quite a bit. This job title has gained traction in recent years as more workplaces realize recruitment is more than just cold calls and looking over hundreds of resumes. A lot of the time, we are assigned unicorns that we must attract, entertain, and persuade to join our clients’ organizations or our own companies.
Hence the marketing aspect of recruitment is strategic in achieving the goal of encouraging the increase in engagement from a diverse and capable talent pool. And to top it off, I primarily focused on hiring marketing talent.
I should also mention that my role in Talent Marketing was even more unique as I am also a Black woman in Corporate America, where there are only a few others who look like me in most companies. For example, as a Talent Marketer, supporting recruiting efforts often puts me on a team that has only 1 or 2 black recruiters out of 30+ recruiters.
Leaning on my experience hiring project managers, copywriters, consultants, contractors, and even executives, you hear and see a lot on the backend of the hiring recruitment process that makes me hopeful about workplace diversity for our future. Some rhetoric makes me proud of the progress made in Corporate America with a genuine demand for great talent that will change the outlook of the office, while other times I find myself cringing at displaced and disgraceful commentary surrounding the conversation around diversity or inclusivity.
It’s general knowledge that after President Truman’s Executive Order 9981 in 1948 diversity in the armed forces would bring about change, but the corporate initiative has been painfully slow until recent years since the 1960s.
Marketing teams lead the way
As a Talent Marketer, I have had the pleasure of focusing on marketing professionals who I consider to be the gateway for change. Marketing and Advertising teams are hired to manage half the business. Their half of the business is primarily focused on demand and ongoing engagement. The content produced by the marketing team guides the conversation around a brand and the interactions of the customer.
This past year, the Black Lives Matter Movement exposed uncomfortable issues in our private lives, but also in the workplace. Many companies scrambled to make the conscious decision to identify who their customers were and to address how they were being affected. This led to new campaigns being produced, companies rushing to hire more diverse talent so as to not be part of the problem, and even displaying their political views on social platforms.
These efforts were driven by marketing teams that suddenly had to face the struggles of their peers as well as consumers. In light of the BLM Movement, the lack of empathy from Corporate America became impossible to ignore and many companies acted swiftly, leading to the understanding that representation matters in and out of the office. That’s one reason why creating diverse marketing teams and marketing leadership is important. Witnessing the impacts of marketing on the social constructs of our world means the more people who look and think like us all, the more change we will see.
But while diverse marketing teams make big strides toward change, marketing teams that lack diversity can make big mistakes. We all saw the epic fail of H&M and their campaign around a new line of clothing with black kids wearing monkey shirts. This led to an uproar and H&M struggled to recover. The same goes for Dove under Unilever with their campaign with a black woman removing her brown shirt to be replaced by a white woman in a white shirt or skincare brand Nivea, and even Pepsi. All could have been avoided and saved millions of dollars on horrid content if they had a more diverse team to speak on these issues.
Diverse talent is abundant
In my role, I deal with talent 70% of the time. I have been on the agency and client side. Unfortunately, the conversation about diversity is complex when dealing with hiring clients for several reasons.
First and foremost, the lack of access leads to lack of diversity. As a recruiter and as a marketer that attracts talent, the data shows that the talent is out there, but there are changes that must be made. Job descriptions should be descriptive of the role but leave room for individual experience.
For example, if a role requires a candidate to have experience with “creative assignments” and they have all the required tools to get the job done, who is to say that their experience working on other material outside of “White America” would not be helpful to broaden the scope of projects for your company? We are aware that there are what’s considered “Black brands” vs “pop culture.”
This divide exists because most brands exclude people of color. If I have a talented graphic designer who has primarily worked with “black brands” and their work reflects the hair textures or ideologies of black culture, their work should be valued just as much as their white counterparts.
Unfortunately, talent like this often gets overlooked and categorized as “too urban” or “not a cultural fit.” We recycle the same content instead of mirroring the reality of society. We all have a story, and we have the right to share it authentically. Placing value on one’s life experience over another is damaging.
But that’s not the only way that Corporate America is moving so slowly when it comes to creating more diverse teams. In the process of finding talent for a job posting, we do an intake call, starting off with one idea of “revolutionary talent,” but ultimately the search changes as the company goes back to seeking candidates that they’ve always had, white and male with the same perspectives.
Another point to make is that the wage gap still exists, and it is discouraging to speak to a talented marketer who is hired at a lower salary and takes a much longer time than their peers to reach a certain salary threshold. If we are moving forward to a more equitable future, companies must go back to the drawing board. The two previous problems prove that the search for more diverse candidates was an idea, not a plan of action for diversity or inclusivity.
As a black professional and as a recruiter, I have learned that doing your job well is not just based on your results, but equally on the vision of the client or hiring party. Internal conflicts around diversity and inclusion need to be addressed from the top down much like legislation.
We lead by example. Because the ideology behind talent marketing is to identify, create, and encourage top-tier talent to gravitate to the roles for the company, we have to set the tone. The resources we use in recruitment change depending on our search and in this case, we also need to change our perspective. The diversity we seek is not hidden. Choice is change. This responsibility leaves us all with a question, Corporate America, what are we working on, and are we really serious about it?
Jada Harland is a trailblazer. She has worked in Talent Marketing for 5 years working with Fortune 500 companies to hire the best marketing professionals from Specialists to CMOs.
Her experience in Recruitment has opened doors to work on diversity in some of the biggest brands. She now owns her own online clothing store Nastasia.co and works alongside her husband with their other business ventures. She continues to utilize her skills in social media, copywriting, website building and recruitment on a contractual basis. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her growing family, traveling, and learning about history and astronomy.
CM Group is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, CM Group offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, CM Group has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.