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A New Path Forward For All

By Barby K. Siegel, CEO

Diversity-Equity-and-Inclusion

Today, Zeno Group is 4% Black, 10.4% Hispanic, 7.5% Asian, 1.3% Islander and 1% multiple races. We are 24.2% Non-White in the US.

These are the numbers we have communicated to our staff and to our clients.

We can look back and kick ourselves for not doing more, or we can move forward with laser-focused urgency and optimism to be part of real industry-wide change within the public relations and communications profession. We are committed to the latter, and our work begins with an honest look at ourselves, and measurable action plans to advance our current and future diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce.

Responsibility for greater diversity, equity and inclusion is embedded across the entire agency, top to bottom. Yes, it starts with me, but I have made it clear to our entire team that this is a shared responsibility. That we will ACT TOGETHER, each of us sharing and contributing ideas that set out to make a difference. We are dedicating time in our day to ensure this happens.

If 2020 has shown us anything, it is that we each have the power, opportunity and obligation to do good. Yet, Diversity, Equity + Inclusion progress will only happen if we make it a daily priority, atop our very busy to-do lists. Not once a month, or once a week, but daily as we work and engage with various stakeholders – clients, employees, potential employees, young people just starting their careers, members of the media and others to turn our words into action, and action into real outcomes. 

Since May, I have learned a great deal about racism in America and the role of white privilege. While my learning continues, I am committed to using my position and authority to drive change in partnership with my colleagues at Zeno and beyond. Over the last several months, we have accelerated our DE+I efforts with a plan that is more direct, more intentional, more impactful and more inclusive. 

Last week, I sent a letter to each of our clients outlining our ACT TOGETHER plan that is now in motion. It includes:

Hire more Black and Brown people to create a more diverse workforce at Zeno:

  • Require anonymized presentation of candidates to mitigate unconscious biases and help ensure that diverse candidates are on a level playing field
  • Conduct interview skills training to ensure hiring managers screen all candidates equitably
  • Establish a fellowship program that helps people of color overcome socio-economic obstacles that would otherwise prevent them from taking internships, that provide real-world training to succeed in our industry
  • Deepen our working relationships with student and alumni networks at historically Black colleges and universities to recruit candidates at all levels
  • Assign more dedicated resources for recruitment of diverse candidates, entry-level through more senior hires 

Implement robust DE+I training and regular programming to retain, develop and support our diverse workforce:

  • Engage a leading authority on implicit biases, to facilitate training across North America
  • Establish Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) for people of color across Zeno. Our ERG for Black employees is already underway in North America and the UK
  • Appoint Zeno agency leaders to serve as sponsors to diverse employees for ongoing advocacy and support
  • Continue our safe space dialogue to encourage candid, honest conversation about DE+I

Do our part to help eradicate systemic racism and promote diversity in all ways:

  • Build on our existing pro-bono work with Year Up and DuSable Museum of African American History to support additional organizations that drive real change for people of color and their communities
  • Continue to participate in and financially support communications/PR industry initiatives including Diversity Advocacy Alliance, Page, LaGrant Foundation and more
  • Commit to use more diverse partners and suppliers 

Collaborate with clients to help advance their DE+I goals: 

  • Further implement DE+I into our consumer influencer selection process, including a new proprietary “inclusivity + values score” as well as a commitment to supply clients with a 1:1 ratio of BIPOC to white creators for general market campaigns 
  • Continue to ensure we provide clients with work that represents a diverse point of view
  • Advise clients on establishing stronger DE&I goals and strategies, and encourage them to support initiatives that promote advancement of Black and Brown people

Our namesake Zeno of Citium famously said “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen more than we speak.” So, naturally our work begins with listening to many important voices. But, systemic change requires speaking up, speaking out and taking action. We will do this and more. And be transparent in our progress.

Together with our colleagues, clients and many agencies who share our commitment, we will be fearless in our pursuit of what is right and fair.

Published on July 30, 2020.