Karen Kahn 18 Nov 2020 // 4:14PM GMT
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that progress is not a destination. It’s a movement. And the movement towards racial justice and equality is one that demands not only a concerted front, but concerted action. One voice isn’t enough. One action isn’t enough.
This is a potentially profound opportunity for our industry. As dedicated communicators and storytellers, we have the voices, the platforms and the ability to communicate ideas that inspire action. We can be the voice for many. And we can inspire the many actions necessary to drive systemic change.
But first, we need to get our own houses in order. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the makeup of the communications industry in the United States is predominantly white (83.6 percent), with only 9.9 percent African Americans, 5.8 percent Asian Americans and 13.6 percent Hispanic Americans. This is in stark contrast to the one in three Americans projected to be a race other than white by 2060 based on the U.S. Census Bureau.
The LAGRANT Foundation (TLF), the nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase the number of ethnic minorities in the fields of advertising, marketing and public relations, has been challenging our industry’s complacency for years. Kim Hunter, the foundation’s chairman & CEO, has led the charge. As a changemaker and an industry disruptor, Kim knows that it is our responsibility to be an advocate for the next generation of storytellers and communications professionals. He also knows that to do this, we need to take immediate action. What we’ve been doing is not enough. We need to galvanize our organizations, our industry and the country to do more.
Consider the gauntlet thrown.
For us, immediate action has taken shape via our TLF partnership and collective goal of increasing opportunities for early-career diverse talent in the communications industry. Launching in 2021, the HP & TLF Technology + Social Innovation Program will allow participants to learn about the intersection of business and society, with a focus on how priorities such as sustainability, education, equality and human rights influence reputation and ultimately drive business success. Participants will also have access to a global network of mentors and learn practical skillsets centered on areas including corporate reputation, brand journalism, product positioning and content and digital marketing. HP is also inviting its agencies to join the program to help more diverse talent kick-start careers in communications.
Of course, steps like the one we are taking are only part of the equation. In addition to hiring diverse rising professionals and building talent pipelines, we must also provide our employees with the resources needed to thrive in an environment where individuals of varying backgrounds may not feel truly represented or valued. In other words, one action will never be enough for any of us.
It would be tempting in such challenging times to retreat. To say, we will tackle this later when things return to normal. But there is no normal when there’s been such little progress. 2020 showed us that in heartbreaking detail. So, as we continue to navigate through these challenging times, I call on my fellow industry leaders and agency partners to pledge support and financial commitments to organizations leading the way in transforming our industry to be more inclusive, but also to take your own actions towards progress and change. This is a movement that simply cannot wait.
Karen Kahn is Chief Brand and Communications Officer at HP Inc.