Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Assembling a symphony of leaders as we push for progress

August 16, 2018

Enhancing idea generation, bringing forth differentiated perspectives, and improving business outcomes are all reasons businesses focus on their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. As a communications consultancy, and on behalf of our clients, these motivating factors play a role, but the most important consideration is our commitment to the employees who work here.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion - Ketchum DE&I Board

As a CEO, one of my greatest responsibilities is to provide our employees with a richer work experience, one that embraces the differences that make each of them special. I want all of our employees to feel empowered to bring their whole selves to work, every day. Only when they feel supported fully for who they are, will they thrive and do their best work.  

I am proud of where Ketchum is today as a business, and the many steps we’ve taken along the path to DE&I, but I admit we have more work to do – for our employees, our clients, our business and for the industry. As we continue to evolve our consultancy, both our model and our culture, I believe so strongly that in order to champion diversity, equity and inclusion we need not one leader, but rather a symphony of leadership with strong opinions influencing our approaches, programs and policies.

Today we announced the creation of a Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Advisory Board at Ketchum – eight individuals drawn from inside our company and out; from multiple countries; with diverse backgrounds, opinions and experiences.  They represent a cross-section of ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles, and together they will help set our strategy for the future.  They are business leaders and creatives, academics, client directors and talent specialists who do great work, collaborate with their teams and always push for progress.  They are role models for us all.

Here’s what our advisory board members have to say about what they each bring to the table, and why they are so committed to advancing DE&I:

I am a blessed Black man. Against enormous odds with respect to my family background and prospects for economic mobility, I have received great opportunities in my life. Those opportunities have afforded me a good living, a respectable profile in the public square, and a resolute passion to serve others that I have always taken very seriously.

That’s why I will always continue to push for change… change comes with intention. We can’t ‘be the change we want to see in the world and have complacency win the day. We owe it to our craft, our clients and our communities to do better, every day, in every way. Ketchum is taking the right steps, and I look forward to being involved.

 

 

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I’m in my 22nd year with Ketchum, in the aggregate.  I spent the first 11 of those years convinced that what made me different might hold me back. Worried that if I brought my true self to the agency, to clients, to the work, that I might not get ahead… might not be welcomed.  I was exceptionally wrong.  I didn’t realize then that it’s only when we invite each other to be weird, wonderful, open, opinionated and unique that we will deliver our best work and show up with clients with the best we’ve got.  For me, Ketchum’s where I’m still building my career.  And the work we’ll do to create the most welcoming and authentic culture and community is part of my calling.

Empathy is one of the most important character traits a leader at any level needs to possess – particularly in service of cultivating and encouraging a diverse and inclusive community.  Over the years, I’ve learned two things about empathy…  first, never assume you’ve got it nailed.  There’s always more work to be done to demonstrate it.  And second, see #1.  My hope is to bring that commitment to greater empathy to the Board and to the agency at-large.

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I’m a researcher by trade, and by heart I’m a force for diversity, equity and inclusion, keeper of culture and employee engagement champion. As a child, my family moved around a lot. Between the ages of 4 and 12, I lived in different states and in another country (Japan). While it was exciting to meet new people and learn new cultures, I often struggled to feel like I belong. I was black, skinny and tall to the point of lanky, wore oversized glasses, and liked “alternative things.” At some point I got used to being the odd one out, the token, the one who didn’t belong.  But I realized that wasn’t right. As I got older, I started to figure out that I belong wherever I am, because I’m choosing to be there. That goes for everything, including my work life. I want that realization for everyone in our industry, and particularly those who have never felt, for any reason, they belong.

There’s something so special to me to about having the opportunity to help set the course for how a large corporation makes DE&I a part of its core; its DNA. I look forward to using my research expertise to ensure that, as a board, we do our homework first, and create a strategy that is informed by insights from a truly diverse array of perspectives: from leaders in the DE&I space, to Ketchum employees of all levels.

I hope this is just the beginning of something that will ultimately be very powerful, that will inspire, challenge and encourage. Having just one positive impact on someone around DE&I… that would make me proud beyond belief.

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In my career at Ketchum, particularly working with teams in London and across the globe, I have time and again seen that the best ideas and solutions to client challenges can come from anywhere or anyone, irrespective of background or status. My day-to-day role encourages and welcomes inclusiveness by nurturing and supporting individuals as we move towards being a consultancy of the future and continue to be a force for good for each other and for our clients.

Being responsible for growth and development means that I work with people across many different areas of the business, both in terms of sector expertise and skillset. I fully recognise where our strengths and gaps are, and having this insight enables me to add value to the DE&I board, with the view to ensuring our clients continue to benefit from a wide spectrum of knowledge and perspectives.

People lie at the heart of our business. As a member of Ketchum’s DE&I board, I will strive to embed a culture that embraces inclusiveness, fosters respect for diversity and reinforces equality of opportunity for all.

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In my role, I’m in the unique position of ensuring the agency continues to bring diverse talent into the organization. I believe we need to continuously evolve ourselves and the process by which we identify, engage, interview, and hire talent to ensure we’re inclusive and appeal to a diverse talent pool. However, “diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance” which, to me, means that hiring diverse talent is only the first step in creating an environment where all employees feel included and have a sense of belonging.

My passion for DE&I stems from being a woman who has observed the effects of the glass ceiling, along with a deep understanding of the financial inequalities and ageism that exist today. And yet, I also understand the privilege I hold as a white woman. Having a person of color in my family has opened my eyes to the many injustices that occur for people of color on a daily basis. It has made me a passionate ally in my personal life and drives me in my professional career to make sure I am deploying recruiting and engagement programs and strategies that foster diversity and inclusion within Ketchum.

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As a lifelong creative, first in the arts and then in business, I’ve always understood that welcoming diverse, representative voices into the conversation enhances creativity and results in greater empathy and understanding. But the birth of my son seven years ago made me stop taking my own privilege for granted, as I saw that the advantages he would be growing up with weren’t automatically available to all. In raising him to be a force for good, I’ve had to study my own biases and blind spots and really learn to listen, which has required a closer engagement with the challenges faced by others.

I feel strongly that putting a strong focus on DE&I is not only good for business – it’s the right thing to do ethically and morally. My Ketchum career started with (and still closely involves) internal communications and employee engagement. The opportunity to connect with the widest possible range of our colleagues – from the most junior to the most senior, in every corner of the globe, reflecting all forms of expertise and ways of thinking – has shown me that we need to elevate and inspire every voice in order to flourish.

Our world can’t evolve, and we can’t make life better for all people, by putting up walls – the only way we can grow to face the problems we’ve created as a species is to ensure opportunity and resources for all. The struggle to make this happen begins wherever we stand – and in my case, that’s Ketchum.

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Diversity efforts need to move beyond representation. We need to combine our diverse perspectives to develop new ways of thinking. We need to combine our diverse experiences to develop new ways of learning. We need to combine our diverse approaches to develop new ways of doing.

Convening an advisory board, where multiple leaders collaboratively guide the company’s diversity strategy, Ketchum is really ahead of the field and positioned well to synthesize perspectives, experiences and approaches to ignite change; to create something new.

I’ve dedicated my career to understanding and building inclusive cultures and delivering long-term value through workforce engagement, and I am thrilled to play a role in assuring Ketchum’s DE&I board is a success.

 

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As part of the global HR community here at Ketchum, the formation of this board, our leaders’ devotion to this cause and the personal opportunity to take part in this global initiative, makes me very proud. People are my passion and I have been working in Human Resources for almost 30 years, 10 of which have been at this agency. I truly believe that diversity & inclusion is the key to success in any company. And I’m convinced that the idea of a mixed and diverse global team results in higher creative output and drives innovation.

Being married to a woman myself, I find myself benefitting from the inclusivity and diversity of the people I work with every day.

 

 

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Barri Rafferty is CEO of Ketchum, one of the world’s top communication firms, with offices and affiliates in 130 markets in more than 70 countries.

Outside of Ketchum, she participates in a number of groups including the sustainability task-force for the World Economic Forum and is a member of Arthur W. Page Society Page Up program. Rafferty sits on the board of StepUp, an organization with the mission of empowering girls from under-resourced communities to become confident, college-bound, and career focused and she is also a member of the governing body of OmniWomen, Omnicom’s Leading Women’s Network, for which she holds quarterly panel discussions featuring prominent women. She is the recipient of the Plank Center Milestones in Mentoring Award.

Barri is a graduate of Boston University (M.A) and Tulane University and enjoys watching soccer, volleyball, and dance – especially when her son and daughter are involved! Connect with her on Twitter: @barrirafferty