Despite its roots in liberal San Francisco, Uber lacks equality. Uber’s diversity report revealed minorities are underrepresented, especially at higher positions. Blacks and Hispanics fill only a small percentage of company roles, and other Silicon Valley giants have similar demographics. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau discovered Silicon Valley’s workforce is 2.2% black and 4.7% Hispanic, which are minute compared to other tech hubs’ workforces, like Houston (11.9% black and 12.6% Hispanic) and New York (7.3% black and 9.6% Hispanic).
These companies have received poor PR for their homogenous workforces, but it’s important to identify why diversity is so important in the first place. Pepsi was criticized earlier this year for its commercial that unintentionally belittled the Black Lives Matter movement, and the marketing team behind it was, in part, to blame. A recent poll found 42% of marketers feel the brands they work for don’t reflect a racially diverse or contemporary society in their marketing efforts. Clearly, there’s room to improve here.
Still, it’s never a good idea to hire minorities for diversity’s sake. Diversity brings value to a company through its connections to a broader range of customers and clients. Especially for advertising agencies, customer connection is the name of the game. Who wouldn’t want more?
Unfortunately, agencies aren’t known for being the most diverse workplaces either. These days, clients can catch agencies off guard with questions and conversations about diversity. Mad Men painted the advertising industry as overwhelmingly white, male and heterosexual; many clients want to know whether that’s still the case. Agencies need to be on their toes and explain how they’re representing other genders, ethnicities and sexual orientations.
It’s No Longer Just A Man’s World
Researchers who study diversity break it down into two kinds, inherent and acquired, which collectively are called two-dimensional diversity. As the name suggests, inherent diversity refers to the diversity of characteristics that people have upon birth, like sex and race. Acquired diversity is a diversity of experiences and opinions someone has been exposed to. It’s important to have both.
Real diversity comes not only in the range of skin colors but also in the spectrum of perspectives. Agencies have always brainstormed by pulling different people into the room: an art person, a media person, a finance person. Each person brings a unique perspective.
Similarly, companies should hire people of different races, genders, ages and sexual orientations not only because it “looks good” but also to encourage a wide range of perspectives. With today’s ever-changing workplace landscape, that diversity of perspective is crucial for succeeding and staying ahead.
By now, you’ve recognized how diversity could benefit your agency, and you’re ready to find candidates who will bring in fresh perspectives. Here’s how to find and hire them:
1. Identify how diversity will help your clients.
Ask yourself how diversity will benefit your company and its clients. The microcosm of diversity within your agency should reflect the real world you’re interacting with. If your clients do business with Asian markets and all your employees were born and raised in America, your agency will have a large gap to bridge to meet your client’s needs.
2. Search for people you need, not just for diversity’s sake.
Never hire for diversity alone. Be crystal clear about what kind of talents and attitudes you want in your new employees. An objective checklist will help you choose the best candidate for the position.
3. Broaden your search.
Sometimes a company hires a white guy because only white guys applied. Employers don’t often set out to hire a homogenized workforce, but that’s what they create inadvertently by only placing job ads and recruit in the same places.
Luckily, job boards and hire sites like DiversityWorking.com and Minority Jobs make the hunt for diverse talent much easier. Both sites boast a far-reaching, diverse working community with talent waiting to be discovered.
4. Consider interview questions carefully.
5. Create a welcoming company culture.
How do you handle religious holidays? Is Christmas the only one on your company calendar? What about Jewish or Muslim holidays? Does everyone feel comfortable doing “Secret Santa?” Company culture builds itself very subtly — and often unconsciously.
Agencies can address and possibly change their cultures by encouraging all employees to contribute. New employees can do presentations to teach their co-workers more about themselves and their backgrounds. A company policy can spell out the company’s mission to celebrate diversity and guide employees to resources for reporting any disrespect, such as racism or homophobia. When bigotry does happen, agencies can make a big statement in their reactions to it.
Open Doors To Diversity And Success
I’ve worked with my creative director for about 14 years, during which time I’ve gotten to know her very well. One day, she called me asking for a few days off. In doing so, she came out to me as a lesbian: She was taking time off because her partner had left her. That she needed to declare her sexuality just to take time off showed me the importance of understanding personal struggles of each employee. She’s been one of our most talented employees and contributed her unique perspective to our agency for a decade and a half. And that’s the real benefit of diversity.
This article first appeared on Forbes.