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How to Add a Career-Accelerator Program to Your DEI Strategy

Last week, the Ad Council launched its first cohort of our new Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program, which aims to provide recent BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) graduates with in-depth experiences, mentorship and targeted training across a range of business functions that will help them advance in their new careers.

The five-week program reflects the Ad Council’s diversity, equity and inclusion commitments to not only become a truly equitable organization at every level, but also to create industry-leading programs for the marketplace and community.

Building a program like this is a powerful way to uplift members of marginalized communities, address representation, diversify the pipeline and build bridges all at once. If you’re considering launching a similar program for young professionals within your own organization, here are four recommendations to consider.

1. Use a six-pillar approach to programming.

Our initial three-pillar approach to programming quickly grew to six: mentoring sessions, speakers, “Ask Me Anything” conversations, group projects, professional development education and time for structured reflection.

The last pillar is important. While each section offers powerful resources for fellows to take into their careers, building in time and structure for reflection along the way encourages them to understand that taking the time to process is a critical component of taking action.

2. Your DEI strategy should go beyond the walls of your organization. This is one way to do it.

At the Ad Council we look at DEI initiatives through four lenses: the workforce, the workplace, the marketplace and the community. Your workforce is about eliminating bias in your hiring practices, and workplace efforts focus on culture and retention. So, what about those last two? Building programs such as this are a great way to reach out, lift up and give back.

3. There are no competitors, only partners.

Programs like this are only possible with the support of a wide network of partners. They take everything from securing financial support at the organizational level to finding people who commit their time and resources to show up as educators and supporters.

And, of course, there are all the people behind the scenes, and the outreach that must be done to build the programming and find the participants who would benefit from the support. A program like this is no small feat, but the ripple effect it can have on a career—and even generational wealth—is immeasurable. In other words, there are no competitors here. When we come together to support historically marginalized groups, everyone wins.

4. Use the initiative to examine your own practices.

You’ve built the program, you’ve found your fellows, everything goes well—roll credits, right? Not exactly. Take the time to ask yourself and those around you: Would one of these fellows have been considered for a position at your organization? If not, why not?

The tools you’ve used to build a productive program are the very same tools you can use to dismantle institutionalized practices that may be biased, inequitable or racist, and these are the tools we must continue to use as we work together to build a truly equitable workforce where everyone can thrive.

This post was originally published by Ad Age. Photoby WOCInTech / Nappy


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