From its origin in Galveston, Texas in 1865, Juneteenth commemorates African American emancipation in the US. Why do you think it has taken so long for this day to become a holiday?
When you consider the history of African Americans in the U.S., it is no surprise that it has taken so long for Juneteenth to become a national holiday. Despite the emancipation, the legacy of slavery persists today and continues to cloud our collective consciousness around the issues impacting African Americans. For far too long, we have found solace under the guise of progress and largely ignored the inequities that continue to plague the lives of African Americans in this country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until George Floyd’s murder in May 2020, that our nation was forced to wake up and confront the harsh reality that there is a long way to go to achieve a post-racial society. Juneteenth as a national holiday begs American citizens and its leaders to open the wound of our nation’s dark history and acknowledge the many remedies needed to promote healing.
Will you be giving space to people who wish to celebrate? How does observing this day create more awareness?
All GMR Marketing employees will be given Friday, June 17 off in recognition of the Juneteenth holiday. GMR’s Black employee resource group (ERG) will also be spearheading an internal Juneteenth celebration. It was imperative that we empowered Black employees to decide how to best celebrate this day. As a result, the ERG will be inviting the agency to come together to raise awareness of the history and historical implications of slavery and Juneteenth. At GMR, we have found tremendous value in surfacing issues that have long been swept under the rug. As an experience agency born of humanity, we lean into all aspects of what it means to be human. And at this moment in time, we know that many humans are hurting and yearning to be seen and heard. That’s why we will elevate the historical significance of Juneteenth through the eyes of our Black employees.
Equal opportunity starts at the grassroots level and the structure of the advertising industry makes it extremely challenging for BIPOC to enter, without the right network. Do you have any programs in place to make it possible for underserved communities to access the industry?
At GMR we believe that there is an overflow of talent within BIPOC communities; however, structural, and systemic barriers present an unfair hurdle for future BIPOC professionals. To combat this inequity, our Human Resources and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) teams have collaborated to implement several talent initiatives including a diverse interview slates program, nationwide talent sourcing and recruitment outside of our hub locations, and partnerships with local and national talent organizations – such as SEEN Together (Sports & Entertainment Equity Network). We have also found tremendous value in keeping our executive leadership team connected on issues impacting our DEI efforts and have created an Executive DEI Council composed of our agency’s most senior leaders. This group of 13 individuals continuously ensure that our DEI goals are embedded within all aspects of business.
Do you think our industry is progressing well enough towards greater diversity at the executive level?
We are pleased to have made significant progress in the way of gender representation at leadership levels, with female leadership equaling that of male leadership in mid-manager roles. We have also doubled Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in executive leadership levels and seen an encouraging increase in overall BIPOC representation at the agency as well BIPOC in mid-manager roles.