I’ve learned about several things recently that I wasn’t taught about in high school: the Tulsa Massacre in 1921, the discriminatory practices of the GI bill, the racial wealth gap, and how the highway system contributed to segregation.
If you subscribe to the maxim “history is written by the victors,” these exclusions shouldn’t come as a surprise. While we teach our children about the end of slavery and point to the advances created through the civil rights movement, America as a whole has been able to keep our country’s predisposition for systemic economic racism out of the history books.
The events of last year brought into focus the stark reality that these systems need to be acknowledged and changed. We—the white business owners, municipal planners, and community leaders—have an obligation to step up and speak out both as allies to Black businesses and as advocates for changing the course of history.
Last June, we made a pledge to become a truly antiracist and inclusive company. Through our own action plan and as a member of the Indy Racial Equity Pledge coalition, Well Done made a commitment to take meaningful action and hold ourselves accountable. One way we plan to do that is to periodically report publicly on how we’re doing.
So how are we doing?
Goal #1: Well Done will foster a culture of diversity and equity through our recruitment, hiring, retention, and promotion practices.
With the help of Performance 3, our leadership team is building its diversity awareness, including how to identify and confront our own implicit biases. In the next month, we will focus on the emotional and cultural IQ needed to create a safe and equitable space for everyone.
On the recruitment front, we went into 2021 with plans to hire four new positions. In the past, we’ve relied on referrals as well as job postings to find qualified candidates. This year, we began to foster relationships with groups like the Indy Black Chamber, Diverse Creatives, Indy Rainbow Chamber, Indy Black Millennials, and the Hispanic Business Council to widen our recruitment net. We also mandated that hiring managers must interview a diverse set of candidates before having their final candidate approved for hire. (We have a couple open positions if you are interested in applying.)
Additionally, we have updated our job descriptions to ensure we are using racially neutral language and created our first-ever measurable promotion standards for each department. We will begin implementing the use of these standards in advance of our regular end-of-year goal setting. I’m looking forward to helping our team create attainable paths for those who count a promotion as part of their professional goals.
Goal #2: Well Done will partner with and outsource more work to Black- and minority-owned businesses, especially those located in Central Indiana.
We have more to do, but this is one area in which we can confidently say we have made progress. We’ve actively collaborated with RLR Associates and DuneBuggy, both certified Minority Business Enterprises, and have built some of the most diverse videography crews for our clients’ commercial shoots in our history.
We know we’ve only just scratched the surface when it comes to networking with and hiring Black designers, photographers, videographers, illustrators, web developers, and other artists and strategists. But we also don’t want to just “add them to our list.” We will continue to make time to get to know these professionals, learn what they are good at and want to do more of, and discuss how we can work together.
Besides, we can’t expect people to jump at the chance to work with us if they don’t know anything about us either.
Goal #3: Well Done will diversify its list of operational suppliers and vendors.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that our supplier and vendor pool was already made up of 15% minority-, woman-, or veteran-owned businesses. As we regularly review our vendor contracts, we’ll have more opportunity to deliberately work with and learn more about the ways we can support Black businesses in particular. If you are or know of a BIPOC-, women- and LGBTQ-owned business, let us know.
Goal #4: Well Done will intentionally develop, participate in, and facilitate changes in the marketing industry and the community to address racism, diversity, and equity.
I have been part of an informal group of agency leaders for a couple of years now who gather on a regular basis to discuss how we can learn from each other and influence best practices in the areas of diversity, inclusion, and equity. Covid-19 also changed our conversations considerably, but I’m hopeful that we can revisit our initial ideas around working collectively on outreach, internships, and recruitment in the near future.
Candidly, I’m not as involved in our industry associations as other agency leaders who are directly influencing policy on the local and national level through PRSA, AAF, and the American Marketing Association. Indianapolis is fortunate to have a marketing community that cares about addressing racism at all levels—and shares best practices so everyone in our industry can be and do better.
As a culture, we may not be able to undo the events of the past, but we can acknowledge how the ugly, largely unwritten chapters of our country have contributed to the racial injustices and inequities that continue to play out before us. You, as an individual or a company, may be tempted to say you can’t change the world. But you can change how you interact and elevate those within your world.
Real, lasting change takes commitment. This isn’t the last you’ll hear from us on our progress. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to seek out diverse perspectives and listen to those who have been redlined, marginalized, or excluded. Get mad enough about the systemic inequity to make your own pledge for change. I truly believe we can rewrite the history we are currently living in if we are willing to try.