Teneshia Jackson Warner is the founder and CEO of Egami Group, which helps companies such as P&G, Target and Eli Lilly connect with multicultural consumers. Egami Group also partners with other agencies to bolster their multicultural offerings. Warner's latest book, The Big Stretch: 90 Days to Expand Your Dreams, Crush Your Goals and Create Your Own Success, is a guide that draws on Warner's experiencing of quitting a corporate job to starting her own business. In 2019, she was one of the headline speakers at our PRovoke Global Summit, where she discussed the challenges facing multicultural marketing

Is this the communications industry’s moment of reckoning when it comes to diversity & inclusion?

I believe that the world, all industries, are reckoning right now on racism in a way we haven’t  seen in generations. So I do believe it’s our industry’s moment and really the world’s moment.

Why did it take events of such magnitude to really push agencies into taking action?

I think we are at this place right now that there is no longer going to be a path for ignoring the impact of racial injustice and inequality of Black people in America — especially in the face of global protests and Covid-19. I feel that what we are witnessing is a convergence of two deadly pandemics – one being Covid-19 and one being racism. And our world is really being faced with an opportunity to look at the mirror and see a very ugly truth. And that ugly truth is that racism, justice inequality, and disparities among communities of color are real.

If you turn on the news, from protests to the pandemic and seeing the impact on Black lives I don’t think you can watch this as a leader and not start to examining yourself. There has been a series of catastrophic events — Covid-19 and how that is disproportionally impacted Black communities in America, combined with the Ahmaud Arbery, the Breonna Taylor the George Floyd cases, even the Amy Cooper incident. We have within the past eight weeks witnessed back-to-back injustices against Blacks in our nation.

Given the PR industry has prioritized D&I for years, why are we not further ahead on diversity?

We are scrambling, but I also think many industries are scrambling right now. And the reason is inaction, and that past efforts have not produced industries or organizations that are truly inclusive and diverse. I am not sure why behind the why. The obvious why is inaction, and it hasn’t been a priority. The why behind that I’m not sure of.

Is Egami a response to the lack of diversity in communications?

Egami Group was founded on the principles that we understood that minorities in America were on track to become the majority. We wanted to create programs to serve those audience and communities. We also felt there was a void in major corporations understanding the nuances of reaching those audiences in authentic and meaningful ways. So the company was started with me being true to my purpose.

How do you envision a truly diverse PR industry?

My hope of what would come out of this for integrated communications and marketing is there would be representation, ensuring that our workforce is inclusive of Blacks at every level. From a culture standpoint, (my hope is) for our industry to create cultures within our organizations where minority employees really feel there is an environment for them, to bring their authentic selves. I would like for us to have organizations where conversations and dialogue are welcome, even if that means others (people who are not Black) being uncomfortable. I also would love it to see that our industry is delivering best in class work that is also reflective of black culture.

(I also hope for) more openness and collaboration, so that we could be working experts in diversity to move initiatives forward, partnering and collaborating with Black-owned businesses, creative consultants. Also an atmosphere that places a priority on listening, having dialogue with your Black employees to seek understanding. I would like (the industry) to be proactive so that diversity and bias training is at all levels. And ensuring there are equal pay wages for people of color and creating opportunity for people of color in career tracks. That career growth track for employees would help with retention and making sure that our recruiting efforts are building a pipeline where we are ensuring that leaders of tomorrow are also inclusive of Black talent.

If those things were to become true, I think that would be a reflection of what an inclusive industry should look like.

Do you think achieving that is possible?  

I do. Here’s the thing that I absolutely love about our profession. As creators, as marketers we are in a very powerful position to create big ideas that drive our world forward and drive our brands forward. So as an industry filled with creators, big idea people, if there were any industry that can imagine a future that is inclusive and start creating that future today that would be marketers, communicators and advertisers. I absolutely think it’s attainable. I think it's attainable by us being intentional by creating the world we want to see through our actions.

You can read earlier interviews in the series here:
Suresh Raj: 'Just Hiring People Of Color Isn't Going To Do It'
Cheryl Overton: 'We Can't Wait For Everyone To Grow Up In The Business To Make Changes'
Amber Micala Arnold: 'Accountability Is One Of The Industry's Biggest Problems'