D&I Lessons Learnt from Building a Community
Rejoice Ojiaku Content Strategist
7 min read
Monday, 3rd October 2022
Why should we discuss this?
Prior to moving on to the teachings, we must first address the issue. In this session, we do so from a Black perspective. Being Black in digital marketing (or any other sector) can be challenging due to the stigmatisation of Black hair, the lack of exposure to Black talent, and the opportunity gap within the business. For these reasons, B-DigitalUK was created. It was soon realised that diversity and inclusion for us meant more than just expanding Black people's visibility and representation - it also meant fostering a feeling of community where people feel free to express who they truly are. We applied the rule "Diversity answers the WHAT (for example, your workforce) whereas Inclusion answers the HOW (your activities)" after this issue was found to structure our community. Utilising this informed how we cautiously navigated around this fascinating issue.
How to not get it WRONG
We saw many examples of companies trying to participate in the conversation about D&I and getting things completely wrong which led to a lot of backlash on social media as well as loss of credibility.
Consider the #BlackOutTuesday movement in support of Black Lives Matter. Numerous well known brands and many of the biggest record labels, suspended operations in response to the protests spurred by George Floyd's death. The problem with this is that many of the participating brands came across as being very hypocritical because it became clear from evaluating Black experiences within those organisations that not much is being done for Black employees who had to deal with microaggression and lack of representation, among other things.
When developing B-DigitalUK, we had to take into account a few crucial call-outs after seeing these examples of D&I inclusion errors:
Tokenism is FORCED diversity
According to Merriam-Webster, tokenism is "the practice of doing something (such as hiring a person from a minority group) only to prevent criticism and give the appearance that people are being treated fairly." As previously stated, this is deceptive and does not actually include the inclusion part of the entire conversation because doing things for the optics means you have not fully evaluated how you make people feel like they belong or honed your inclusion strategies.
D&I is NOT a marketing campaign
Thus, we cannot use these problems as a way to increase clicks, impressions, etc. The stories of underrepresented groups must be told honestly because they matter and not as a tactic for boosting brand visibility since real lives are affected.
You won't achieve anything by making isolated attempts
We must work together and rationally to address D&I concerns. To solve D&I difficulties, we combine many efforts rather than making a single, haphazard attempt since there must be comprehension of the issue.
You are making a serious error by not raising enough inquiries, which results in assumptions about an underrepresented group that you do not belong to.
By posing questions, you can better grasp the community's problems and receive insight into the best ways to genuinely aid that community.
So what are the lessons learnt?
We have now reached the section where I discuss the key lessons we have discovered over the course of the last two years as we built B-DigitalUK. Some of these lessons were difficult to accept, but we were unable to take failure or mistakes personally. It's all about learning from our mistakes, sincerely apologising when we've fallen short, and being open and honest about our progress. We have gained credibility and confidence among our allies and the Black community as a result of these lessons, which has enabled us to identify those who are sincere about resolving D&I issues with us.
Lesson 1 - Be authentic in EVERYTHING
Authenticity can be difficult to find, especially from the perspective of the Black community. This isn't due to stubbornness, but rather to the historical trauma of being taken advantage of. Because of this, we had to recognise and demonstrate our authenticity in our work, mission, and vision. When talking about and addressing D&I concerns, you need to use an approach that makes others feel comfortable because, without it, you are not credible and consequently cannot be believed.
Lesson 2: ALWAYS seek feedback
We check in with others to see if we are on the right track or not, just like we do every day in our lives. Requesting feedback is neither a sign of inexperience nor a lack of confidence in your abilities. The truth is that you are aware of the significance of what you are doing and want to give the group or community you are targeting a voice in how you represent them and speak on their behalf. Nothing is worse than believing you are an expert in D&I and that feedback is an afterthought. Feedback-seeking leads to fewer errors and improvement, and those are never negative things.
Lesson 4: ALLYSHIP is a community effort
I had to incorporate allyship into the fundamental lessons because we have witnessed that allyship goes horribly wrong when "allies" become so self-centred that they cease caring about the minority group and start caring just about themselves. You comprehend that D&I is a responsibility that rests on everyone when you recognise that allyship is a collective endeavour. Everyone has the potential to be an ally, so being one is a lifelong process of establishing relationships and being held accountable for how you navigate within that community while remembering that you are merely a guest given the privilege of trust. According to Forbes, allyship is defined as "...any person that actively promotes and aspires to advance the culture of inclusion through intentional, positive, and conscious efforts that benefit people as a whole." Since everyone has this potential, it follows that being an ally is noble.
Lesson 5: Lack of CONTINUITY is a destroyer
Keep in mind that we are discussing D&I concerns because they are not just a topic for discussion's sake; they bring up issues that have an impact on the lives of underrepresented groups, necessitating ongoing D&I efforts. I discovered this very early in life since there will be days when I feel discouraged, and since I am a Black woman, I never take a break from being black. Therefore, my work with B-DigitalUK and my speaking about D&I issues via a Black lens must adhere to the same slogan, "NO DAYS OFF." Since we are constantly exposed to problems we are unaware of and this presents an opportunity for effect, continuity implies you don't see D&I as a one-stop shop. Although it can be exhausting, change does not occur when one is comfortable.
Lesson 6: Every achievement big or small CELEBRATE IT
As was previously stated, progression transparency is a lovely thing that should be cherished, therefore what I discovered was that my accomplishments must therefore be honoured. You don't need to wait for something big to happen before you enjoy it; by appreciating the small victories as well, we can see how far you have gone. For me, the small things may be getting two people to their first industry event or one person starting their journey in digital marketing. Celebrating the accomplishments with the people in the community you are assisting, fosters appreciation and serves as a good source of motivation to keep going. Members of B-DigitalUK are also urged to share their triumphs so that others can cheer them on and recognise them.
That’s All…For Now
I made a commitment not to discuss B-DigitalUK in detail, but I can't help it — I'm too proud of what Wilhemina and I have accomplished. Black digital marketers may feel safe and share knowledge in the community of B-DigitalUK. A community that supports Black voices and acknowledges Black suffering in the workplace, and we do this by having open and sincere discussions, offering assistance with career prospects, and offering resources. I'm not advocating starting your own community because that is difficult to do, but those who are unable to start one can still support it.
There are a variety of methods to assist a community, including financial, time, training, and other alternatives. Make sure your intentions are clear, show up for that community, and interact with its members because, to quote the hit song from High School Musical, "WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER"!
At the forthcoming BrightonSEO on October 7, 2022, catch myself and Wilhemina discuss these very same lessons learnt and give more awareness to our accomplishments and the reasons behind who we are.