You rarely hear someone say that they don’t value diversity as a concept. And if you did, you probably wouldn’t want to work with or for them! Diversity shouldn’t be a buzzword that the performance marketing industry uses to showcase itself as progressive and innovative. But we risk it being so if we don’t define what it is and what the goals and benefits are.
What is Diversity?
Let’s start out with a definition.
“Diversity is varying characteristics that can differentiate a person or group from another.”
When we talk about diversity, it is usually a positive recognition and desire to celebrate individuality. People have different characteristics, backgrounds and experience, and those aspects should be respected and valued by others.
In any industry, diversity is about the variety of people that work and contribute to its development. For performance marketing, this wonderfully spans a wide range of players - from global brands to start-up e-commerce sites, hobbyist affiliates to global publishing houses, technologists to creatives. However, it’s the individuals that make up those groups that we are talking about here, and how diverse and well-represented the varying characteristics are.
Okay, so what is Inclusion?
A while ago, I walked past a poster in the lobby of an office I was visiting. It invited people to contribute by asking "What does inclusion mean to you?" These were some of the most voted-for definitions that had been scribbled onto the wall:
- Equal opportunities for all, with active help to seize them
- Not using the word ‘minority’
- Seeing people like me in senior positions
- That I'm not seen, treated or made to feel differently as a worker, consumer, patient, learner, neighbour and global citizen
- For my genitals to have nothing to do with my ability or opportunity in the workplace
We all define Inclusion as something different because we tend to base it on our own experience of feeling included or excluded.
If we were to produce a more clinical definition we could say that “Inclusion is the act or a conscious effort to accept and treat people with varied characteristics, backgrounds and experience equally.”
Create more Inclusion and you’ll get more Diversity
Diversity and Inclusion are often interchangeably used to convey the same thing in our working lives; the development of what is acceptable in how we treat people.
After launching the industry-wide diversity initiative, Turn the Talk earlier this year, I’ve seen individuals and companies actively changing to make people feel more included. And I’ve spoken to individuals who are already recognising that acts of Inclusion are leading to more diversity in their companies. Whether it’s adjusting the hiring criteria so applicants don’t require a university degree, or supporting people with less experience to represent their company and talk at events. These inclusion techniques are producing more diverse opinions, suggestions and candidates.
By actively creating inclusion practices in teams, workplaces, groups or industry it leads to diversity because of the creation of a more valuable, interesting and fair existence in the workplace.
Why are we suddenly all talking about this?
I’d love to say the industry is suddenly recognising the value of outwardly discussing diversity because of Turn the Talk, but that’s not true! The initiative was launched because people were already talking about diversity. Turn the Talk is simply serving as one of the conduits to support change.
Perhaps more awareness has sprung from the likes of the Women in Tech movement, the apprenticeships levy, Gen Z in the workplace and remote working, which, to name a few, have all influenced the general psyche of appreciating that difference is ever more present and needs to be respected in order to achieve results.
Why does it matter for the performance marketing industry?
I see two major benefits that make diversity much more than an avant-garde gimmick.
The first is the industry output. We are all working with one aim, be it directly or indirectly. To help consumers buy products and services online. With 90% of the UK using the internet today online marketing strategies must be diverse to reflect those users and customers it seeks to engage with. As an example, the GDS launched their Empathy Lab last year as a way to help internal departments, and external companies comprehend the challenges of accessibility in digital. Creating diversity initiatives that can tap into new customers by recognising different points of view, techniques, platforms and ways of marketing to users may help identify new customers and revenue streams.
The second benefit is talent. Constant progression to build an inclusive industry (and shouting about it) will attract more diverse entry-level and experienced talent. This diversity opens up new possibilities, points of view, ways to solve problems and encourages innovation. Thinking back to that inclusion poster in the lobby, perhaps one of the most poignant ways to describe what Inclusion means for nurturing talent in the industry is summed by “Seeing people like me in senior positions.”
As an industry are we diverse? Yes? No? It probably depends on who you ask. Can we improve? Certainly. And that’s why so many people and companies are talking about this topic right now.
Collectively, we should have a goal to increase the diversity of people in the industry, not just to be able to reel off inclusivity stats when asked but to make the industry an incredible place for people to work, who can actively represent and contribute to the direction of performance marketing.
This involves a myriad of changes; encouraging employers to consider inclusive benefits and adjustable roles in time and location, making it easier for people to work. For events organisers to find creative ways to bring new voices to the stage. And for those privileged to be in influential positions to keep encouraging open conversation on this topic.
We don’t need to have experienced feelings of personal exclusion to believe in the benefits of creating a diverse industry.