DEI+B In Action: Thrive 2023 Recap

Agency

Read Time: 10 Min

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about how Thrive — our DEI+B initiative at AOR — is going. I’m sure you’re curious what we’ve been up to, and it’s quite a lot. You see, we entered 2023 with new faces, new ideas, and a fresh perspective. We knew it was up to us to grow our committee of eager individuals, people interested in bettering themselves and making a difference in the advertising industry, and the world. As each year ends and a new one begins, we start by reassessing where we’ve been and looking at where we want to be exactly one year later.

Let’s Back Up — What is Thrive?

“As a People First agency, our vision is to create an environment that brings connection and community to everything we do — allowing people, relationships, and our best work to thrive.” (From AOR’s Thrive Initiative Downloadable PDF) We can’t build a genuine and open workplace without the full commitment of all our employees to a diverse and inclusive culture — and that is why Thrive was born.

To help hone our discussions and ensure we aren’t missing anything as we embark on discussions around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, we developed four initiative areas to focus on:

  1. Education
  2. Culture
  3. Recruiting & Representation
  4. Our Work

You’ll see as we dive into each quarter of 2023, how we referred back to these four guideposts to help lead our discussions and what to focus on. Let’s dig in.

Thrive: Quarter by Quarter, Change by Change

Q1: The New Year/Getting Started

We started off the new year by laying the groundwork for 2023. What is Thrive’s ‘due north?’ That’s always the biggest question at the start of Q1. What do we want to focus on this year? How will we focus on each of Thrive’s pillars? This is what we decided:

  1. Education: A focus on accessibility.
  2. Culture: Promoting the idea of ONE TEAM.
  3. Recruiting & Representation: Continuing to encourage the inclusivity and equitable hiring practices we established for Thrive from the onset.
  4. Creative Work: Become more comfortable speaking about DEI+B with our clients, and learning how to better speak and think about accessibility. (Applied education.)

In our first meetings, we all agreed that an emphasis on education was the way to go. We knew there weren’t many plans for new hires this year and we also knew that our culture and creative work pillars could be heavily influenced by our education pillar, so we got to work coming up with presentations, guests, and internal discussions related to accessibility.

First up was The City and County of Denver’s Division of Disability Rights. They came into the office for a Lunch & Learn and gave us an in-depth look at accessibility from the perspective of the City. This is just a bit of what we took away:

  • We should be considering ADA guidelines in all that we do, both online and physically.
  • Discussion around tools we can integrate to provide more accessibility to our clients. Such as: Zoom and PowerPoint can auto-generate captions in an easy way, making it more inclusive for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
  • It’s better to ask questions rather than make assumptions.
  • Language we are moving away from: Handicapped, Impaired, Special Needs, Suffering From.
  • Language we are moving toward: People-First Language (Though it is personal preference, but lead with person-first), Mental Health Condition, Substance Use Disorder.

When it came to our focus on AOR, we decided on the mantra ‘ONE TEAM’ (yes, in all caps for emphasis), because without cohesive teamwork and support, we wouldn’t be as successful. It became our goal to lift each other up, consider each other’s strengths, and make sure to work for the greater good of AOR.

the team at bowling

Q2: Leaning Into Our Initiative

Accessibility can mean a lot of things, and we tried to keep it as broad as possible this year to accommodate a unique set of topics. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so we took the opportunity to talk about accessible ways to get mental health counseling or other Mental Health needs met. This is what we pulled together:

  • Free Yoga/Workouts/Meditation on YouTube
  • Wellpower: A Local Resource for Mental Health
  • How to Find Mental Health Professionals:
    • SonderMind
    • Alma
    • Headway
    • Psychology Today
    • ZocDoc
  • Listening to NPR Episodes or Other Podcase Episodes about Mental Health
    • We discussed NPR Lifekit’s Episode, How to Break Up With Your Therapist, at length.
  • The City and County of Denver Resources

We also sent out a survey to employees in order to collect other ways we practice mental health wellness in our personal lives.

AOR prioritizes the mental health of our employees, and making mental health counseling accessible to everyone is a top priority. If all our employees need is a day off to reset, we make that happen. If they need to adjust their schedules to accommodate weekly appointments, we make that happen. If they just need a friend to talk to, we have plenty of those too.

Talking about mental health and supporting each other as a team brought us right back to our ONE TEAM initiative for 2023. We took a hard look at the way we talk to each other and discuss work and decided it was important that we remember how much impact positive feedback has on an individual. Advertising and creative marketing in general can be an extremely grueling and isolating career. Oftentimes, positive feedback is few and far between — that’s not always anyone’s fault, we are trying to make sure the best work gets made. To stress ONE TEAM, and consider mental health, we started a channel on our Slack application called ‘Our Cool Shit’ as a way to highlight great work and give our employees some recognition for their hard work.

To top off the quarter, we attended our hands-down favorite event of the year, DENVER PRIDE!!! It’s always a fun time to get the crew together, sprinkle each other in rainbow, and march along the streets of Denver spreading kindness and cheer. Our agency has the privilege of marching in the parade and showcasing our love for the LGBT+ community. This event always reignites our excitement for Thrive at the mid-year mark, and this past year was no exception.

the team marching at a pride parage

Q3: Considering Our Peers

At the beginning of this quarter, we started an insight series on digital accessibility. We thought, why keep all of the great education we’ve been absorbing throughout the year to ourselves? We hope that our clients and those reading our insights will learn something from these pieces, as well as understand our dedication to accessibility. Check them out:

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As those insights were rolling out, we continued our accessibility and inclusion learning in our Thrive meetings. In August, one of our fellow AORians presented on International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples. We mainly focused on Native American stereotypes in the media by viewing various short films and videos on the topic. We discussed misconceptions about Native American People and the ways we can make sure we are not perpetuating them in our work at AOR.

We also discussed actions we can take as individuals to educate ourselves and support Indigenous communities:

  1. Find out whose land we are on. A great first step is becoming aware of who settled the land we are on before we arrived. An easy-to-use tool: Native-Land.ca.
  2. Support Indigenous Rights by donating, sharing information, or getting involved. Cultural Survival is an Indigenous-led NGO advocating for Indigenous Peoples’ rights and supporting Indigenous communities’ self-determination, cultures, and political resilience.
  3. Keep educating ourselves. This site is full of good information, events, and other resources.

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, so one of our fellow AORians gave our Thrive team a briefing on the difference between the terms Latino, Hispanic, and Spanish, as well as talked to us about pop culture and the unfortunate commonly heard critiques Latinos born/raised in the U.S. often get when they don’t seem ‘Latino enough.’

Here are some of the resources they provided:

  • TikTok explaining Latino, Hispanic, and Spanish
  • This podcast describes the hate the band Yahritza y su Esencia is getting and their take on the situation.
    • TikTok summary of the podcast episode
    • TikTok showing what comments the band made about Mexico (turn on subtitles)

The discussion was eye-opening and certainly new for many of our AORians. Thank you to our teammate who briefed us and gave us new knowledge to take into consideration when creating work for our clients.

Q4: Finishing Off Strong

We finished off the year with a compelling presentation on Caroline Criado Perez’s book Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men. We started by discussing the book, for those who read it, and the topics the book covered, supported by some articles we read before our meeting. You can check them out here:

In the book, “Criado Perez emphasizes that the “male unless indicated otherwise” approach to all aspects of life and the myth of “male universality” are not malicious or even deliberate, but are the product of thinking that has been around for millennia.” (via International Monetary Fund).

We broke down Perez’s writing in our meeting but also discussed bias against women in the workplace, and how we can combat it in our workplace. It was a lengthy, eye-opening discussion and certainly helped us appreciate the women at our company a little bit more.

As the year ended, we used the last of our time together before 2024 to discuss our plans for the next year of Thrive. We recently read an interesting article about Underestimated Audiences in AdWeek. The term piqued our interest, and after looking into it and considering its impact on our industry, we decided to focus on the topic for our 2024 meetings. You’ll find out a lot more next time we check in.

Accessibility & AOR

Well, that was a lot! But that’s good! We had a lot to talk about this year and our conversations were full, sophisticated, and inspiring, and we entered into them with open hearts and minds. I think it’s safe to say our entire Thrive crew walked out of 2023 with new ways of looking at the world, and new tools to better understand how other groups of people exist day-to-day.

We start each Thrive meeting with these group agreements (which mirror our AOR values):

  • All are always welcome here!
  • Protect each other’s confidentiality.
  • Dare To…Open your mind, see things from another perspective, and embrace change and growth.
  • Keep it Real…All are invited to come as they are. Respect those present (and those not present).
  • Believe in We…We are stronger together! How can we make each other successful?
  • Own It…Take initiative. Admit when you are wrong or can do better.

And the hope is that after all is said and done, we take those group agreements and bring them out into the world.

Thanks for listening to our 2023 recap! It was a fun year, and we can’t wait to see what we’ll learn in 2024. Stay tuned!

 

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