Diana Marszalek 14 May 2021 // 12:16AM GMT
NEW YORK — For all the organizations supporting the comms industry, there has never been a group addressing the needs of Black marketing executives — who, despite reaching the highest rungs of the company ladder, still deal with discomforts that come with being minority members of the C-suite.
“There are times it’s lonely at the top and challenging at the top,” said BCW North America president Chris Foster.
Foster is one of 26 Black marketing leaders representing big-name brands, from Amazon Prime to Unilever, who have banded together to address that problem as founding members of the Black Executive CMO Alliance, or BECA — an organization predicated on providing members an arena where they are free to collaborate, at times commiserate, and address inequities while helping build the next generation of Black marketing executives.
“We were all doing this journey independently and we needed to collectively come together to do more, and have more impact, than we were doing on our own,” said BECA founder Jerri DeVard, whose career has included top marketing roles at Office Depot, ADT and Nokia.
DeVard noted that the lack of Black leaders is both a perpetual and glaring problem. The ANA’s 2020 diversity report found just 3% of 870 member companies had Black CMOs.
The urgency in driving change, however, has become increasingly apparent over the last year, as companies stepped up their searches for Black talent — only to find a very small pool to choose from, she said. “We all kept calling the same people,” DeVard said.
BECA is getting off to a strong start. Its founding members include CEO, COO and CMOs from some of the country’s most high-profile companies — 3M, Logitech, Mars Wrigley, Netflix, Peloton, Prudential, and UPS among them.
As part of their commitment, the members pledge to be catalysts for change by addressing inequities, while developing and executing action plans to better prepare, support and cultivate Black marketing talent. Mentorships, executive coaching, charting careers and identifying opportunities are among the initiatives that may be included.
“This is not a trade association umbrella that we are working under. This is very much a grassroots movement,” Foster said. “And we will leverage our voices and, with respect to our organizations, try to influence and drive change, support the next generation of talent and support one another."