Insights From the Journey Toward Greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Insights From the Journey Toward Greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Our very own Cori Brown joined Event Marketer magazine to share her unique perspectives on the plans, actions, and progress our industry is making.

Few industries will have a greater impact on diversity, equity, and inclusion than event professionals and experiential marketers. From the employees we hire to the vendors we partner with to the talent we put on stage, and the marketing messages we communicate to our audiences—every single decision an event marketer makes is an opportunity to change the landscape in favor of more diversity.

Opus Agency’s own Cori Brown, Director of Experience, was asked to participate in the Roundtable. An excerpt of her quotes is below. The full Roundtable discussion is available online and in the Event Marketer print magazine.

Where are the biggest pain-points and roadblocks in the event industry when it comes to making progress towards diversity, equity and inclusion? 

Cori: For us it’s an equity issue; opportunities for upward growth and equitable pay. We see more diversity in the entry level positions in our industry than in senior and executive level positions. As a female, there is a very real and present gender pay gap and not many opportunities for me to enact real change. Salaries send a message to your employees about how much you value and perceive them. Big titles and ever-changing initiatives shouldn’t be the drivers for diversity. We need more seats at the table and fair compensation for all employees—this should be the foundation for change. Equity levels the playing field.

How should the event marketing industry support up-and-coming diverse talent? 

Cori: We all need role models and the ability to envision ourselves at higher levels within the industry. The phrase “you have to see it to be it” should be a core principle for companies, starting with their recruitment, hiring, and retention practices. People of color want to see people who look like them in the company. Experiment with less rigid hiring criteria, like not requiring a hospitality degree for entry level jobs. We all know what we do takes strategy, the ability to work quickly under pressure, good judgement, and a strong work ethic. I’m more than just a diploma. I have a B.S. in Biology and an MBA—I would have never gotten a call back for an events or marketing job back in the day. Being more accessible will bring us a variety of additional talent. Also, offer mentoring enabling underrepresented groups to access information and key relationships that will foster an environment of and for success. Seems silly, but ask employees what they need. It’s easy to assume we know what’s best for our employees, based on our own experiences and insights, but you know what happens when you assume things.

How can event organizations do a better job of hiring more diverse talent? 

Cori: There’s clearly a hiring gap when it comes to diverse talent, otherwise we wouldn’t be answering this question. So let’s start with defining what diversity means to your company. One big “lightbulb moment’’ that many companies have failed to deliver on: highlight the diversity within your company on external channels, create a diversity recruitment video, and add personal quotes from your employees. Think beyond the traditional channels of recruitment. Get creative and go beyond LinkedIn, Indeed, etc. Advertise in publications, on websites and forums with more diverse audiences. Create and offer targeted internships and job opportunities for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) who have more diverse student bases. We have to provide an environment for inclusion if we want to attract diverse talent .

How can event organizations promote or leverage their DEI Initiatives in an appropriate way? 

Cori: Make diversity and inclusion a priority from the top down. First, we have to take ownership of the lack of diversity in our industry. Secondly, acknowledge that workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion constitutes an ongoing effort. And third, reevaluate your diversity and inclusion strategy regularly and make changes if you aren’t meeting your goals. Brands/event companies need to showcase their culture and commitment to action openly and proudly. Be intentional with on- and off the-clock events. Nothing sets a greater precedent for employees and potential employees than constant and consistent awareness when it comes to diversity .

Several studies have shown that diverse executive teams and workforces generate more revenue. Has your company experienced a positive business benefit due to its focus on diversity and inclusion? 

Cori: We have definitely seen positive reactions from—and deeper relationships with—the clients and prospects we are serving. Our ability to talk openly about our position on equity and diversity has reflected positively. With little exception, nearly every proposal we submit includes specific language and examples of how Opus is focused on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. We also talk specifically about our own company initiatives and diverse tapestry. Brands today want to only do business with companies who embrace their role in this important movement .

Let’s talk about diversity at the point of activation: How can event marketers ensure their events and campaigns are diverse, equitable, and inclusive? 

Cori: Following the tragic death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter global protests, it’s important to recognize there has been some progress. However, we have to keep doing the work! This is only the beginning. Revisit these topics as part of the mainstream conversation (such as keynote or town hall) rather than in breakout sessions, where most attendees are already interested in DEI topics. Feature speakers who resonate with your diverse (and not-so-diverse) audiences. Create meaningful content that aligns with your core message of diversity and inclusivity. Together, we can strengthen our efforts to continue to move the needle to where it should be: diversity as the norm rather than the exception .

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