Kai Lawson

#myopinion | Let's Call Diversity & Inclusion a Spade

Kai Lawson
#myopinion | Let's Call Diversity & Inclusion a Spade

To anyone, who truly believes that somehow transitioning the conversation about diversity and inclusion, in advertising, from the fight to employ and retain people of color and women, in this industry, to something more palatable like “Diversity of Experience” or “Diversity of Thought”, allow me to be the brave soul to politely tell you to go and have yourself several seats. Please.

It seems that we can all agree we have a problem, but when it comes to addressing the fix, the lines blur and mirrors get smokey. You would think it would be an easy process; to hire qualified people that don’t look like you. But let’s face it. I’ve been wrong before... Like that time there was that election in November 2016… I digress.

I can not tell you how many times I’ve made the crusty crab spin face, when someone says out loud, they do not know where to source people of color or women, for available positions in the industry. It’s usually at that moment, I double check my Facebook and Linkedin to confirm there hasn’t been a mass kidnapping of just about everyone within my personal and professional networks. Luckily they’re all still alive and well. Unluckily, too many of them are still trying to figure out why they can’t get their start in the industry or why they can’t break through their respected glass ceilings toward leadership.

If this industry truly wanted to solve the issue of diversity and inclusion on Madison Avenue, they could. We’re talking about the most creative minds in the world. People who build creative execution plans for the world’s largest brands, and governments, and succeed! Through research, creativity and collective thought, they’ve solved bigger problems, in less time, with even less resistance.  

Instead, these creative minds sit down and produce panel discussions and think pieces, that dissect the idea of Diversity and Inclusion, so deeply, they forget experience and thought diversity are both affected by one’s personal journey in this life, and that journey will vary (greatly) based on RACE, GENDER & SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS. But let’s face it. Talking about race makes people feel uncomfortable. Talking about gender makes people feel uncomfortable. Talking about a lack of money, makes people feel uncomfortable. For the people who have not had the opportunity to live an uncomfortable life, these real conversations are just that… too uncomfortable.

I find it hard to listen to people say things like: true diversity is cognitive, or diversity of experience is more important than race or gender. It’s as if somehow those physical characteristics do not provide varied experiences, of their own. It’s frustrating to listen to panels of men speak about how they identify with women because they have daughters whom they love, or to listen to a group of people provide their two cents about the latino experience, when they are only speaking about the one friend they have or the one vacation they experienced. Wouldn’t it make more sense to directly ask for the input of  the people who’ve lived the stories we want to tell?

With every year, I choose to remain in advertising, I become more passionate about equal representation in the industry. I want people to know that I am no unicorn. Am I special? Perhaps, but not the least bit of a unicorn. There are more special and talented people just like me, where I come from. There are even more talented and more diverse people, from places I’ve never seen. The people needed to authenticate our messages within the industry, really do exist and it is our job to find them, train them and retain them. The world’s perception of culture, depends on it.