Verizon launches paid fellowship focused on diversity
- Verizon has launched a paid fellowship program called AdFellows that offers 20 young marketers from diverse background the chance to work in its corporate offices and partner agencies for eight months, according to The Drum.
- Last year, Verizon CMO Diego Scotti asked 11 of the agencies Verizon works with to provide information on how many women and minorities they employed in roles including senior leadership positions. After hearing feedback, he requested they create action plans to increase those numbers, leading to the genesis of AdFellows.
- Verizon says 59% of its workforce is women or people of color, and its agency partners are working to meet its demands with 31% of agency leadership positions held by people of color, up from 22% last year. Fifty-one percent of its leadership positions are held by women, up from 48% in 2016.
With AdFellows, Verizon joins a growing number of big-name U.S. brands that are adopting a more proactive approach to diversifying their workforce. The telecom's push to showcase diversity has been apparent in recent advertising efforts as well, such as a TV spot that ran around the Video Music Awards that was almost entirely in Spanish.
The Drum noted that General Mills and HP have also taken a harder line in demanding more women and people of color at their agency partners. In May, Airbnb CMO Jonathan Mildenhall announced a call-to-action for more diverse hiring practices in the advertising industry, and his company used the Cannes Lions advertising festival the following month to recruit diverse talent.
Diversity in the marketing and ad industry has remained a pressing topic for some time, as a changing U.S. consumer demographic makeup requires equal representation; however, homogeneity in agency and brand workforces can stifle those efforts, or otherwise prevent them from getting off the ground, on top of making those corporate structures appear to be stuck in the past. Last year, industry trade group the 4A's put out a report at its [email protected] Conference that stated 74% of its members thought diversity hiring practices were "mediocre or worse" at ad agencies. Twenty percent said industry approaches to diversity were "terrible." And while around 50% of respondents said agencies have a discriminatory culture, it was little consolation that 60% said agencies weren't as racist as in the past.
Findings like these, while alarming, have helped spur efforts to tackle a lack of representation both in consumer-facing marketing and behind-the-scenes. The Association of National Advertisers in October last year launched an Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing, a group made up of industry leaders from African American, Hispanic, Asian and LGBT backgrounds.