This letter from an executive shows one simple way to ensure diversity

Can diversity happen naturally?
Can diversity happen naturally?
Image: Hewlett-Packard
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Diversity in the workplace only occurs when bosses demand it. That’s the lesson US marketers are learning after accusations of sexist and racist behavior at major agencies put diversity back in the spotlight recently.

Last week, Hewlett-Packard’s chief marketer Antonio Lucio sent a letter (paywall) to Hewlett-Packard’s US advertising agencies asking them to ensure that at least half of the top marketing roles on its account are held by women, which is the current gender makeup of Hewlett-Packard’s own internal marketing team.

Lucio asked the agencies to submit formal plans for increasing the number of women in key creative and strategy roles within 30 days, and to make good on those plans over the next 12 months. If the agencies don’t comply, “we will re-evaluate our relationship and we won’t hesitate to make a change if it’s needed,” a spokesman for the company said.

“Including women and people of color in key roles is not only a values issue, but a significant business imperative,” Lucio said in the letter, which was sent Aug. 30.  ”We make printers and personal computers. Who buys them? Women: 53 percent for computers, 45 percent for printers,” Lucio wrote. He added that Hewlett-Packard will take different approaches to diversity in different countries, and is starting by addressing women.

Meanwhile, General Mills is reviewing its US creative and content agencies, and requiring that participating agencies have at least 50% women and 20% people of color staffed in their creative departments, Ad Age reported.

And, in June, the Association of National Advertisers, a US advertising trade group, similarly called on advertisers to use their buying power to encourage diversity in media as part of its #SeeHer initiative, which aims to increase accurate portrayals of women and girls in the media.

Companies outside of the advertising industry have had encouraging success with diversity after executives required it.

After the Directors Guild of America’s 2014-2015 report on diversity in TV revealed that FX was the least diverse US TV network in terms of directors, network president John Landgraf sent a letter to its showrunners—the people who hire directors—asking them to make a change. Citing internal numbers in August, Landgraf said that less than half of the directing slots at FX went to white men, and 51% belonged to women and people of color.

Technology company Intel also increased the share of its diverse hires nearly two-fold from 2014 to 2015 by mandating that women or people of color make up 40% of its hires in 2015. The US technology company more than met its goal; diverse hires made up 43% of hires last year, which boosted the number of women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans across career levels, the company reported.

Mandates from important clients, like those from Hewlett-Packard and General Mills, could have a similar affect on advertising agencies.

To be sure, some studies suggest that hiring quotas aren’t the best way to diversify workforces, because they don’t encourage workers to remain in their roles. Experts argue that companies should instead focus on finding diverse voices to organically improve diversity in the long run.

Whatever the case, it’s encouraging to see brands like Hewlett-Packard and General Mills take it upon themselves to spread diversity beyond their own ranks.

The full letter Hewlett-Packard sent to its agency partners is below.

A Challenge to Agency Leadership

August 30

Dear Friends,

Earlier this month I spoke with you — the CEOs of all of HP’s advertising and marketing agency partners — to ask that we all join in making an important commitment to radically improve the percentage of women and people of color in leadership roles in our organizations. I’m delighted that without exception you gave your enthusiastic support for this pledge.

How successful we are will define our legacies. So, as you set your goals and make your plans, I ask you to keep these points in mind:

At HP, our vision is to make technology that makes the world a better place for everyone, everywhere. But we recognize that we can’t realize our vision if our business leaders don’t represent everyone, in color, gender, and geography. We take great pride that HP has the most diverse board of directors in the technology industry, and that we make diversity an explicit business goal. Yet I know we can do even more. I know we must do more.

Including women and people of color in key roles is not only a values issue, but a significant business imperative. HP thrives on innovation. Study after study confirms that innovation is improved and accelerated by broad perspectives and diversity of thought. Marketers are expected to have deep understanding and insight about their markets, about decision makers, and about customers.

We are more likely to create solutions that amaze our customers if our workforce represents the communities we serve. As a global company, we need to take a broad view of diversity as increased representation will take different forms in different countries. We have decided to start by addressing women.

We make printers and personal computers. Who buys them? Women: 53 percent for computers, 45 percent for printers. We are focused on ensuring that our marketing department has the right talent composition to capture our business opportunities. Over the last 12 months we have invested in programs designed to ensure that at least half of our top marketing jobs are held by women. It is important to understand that these were not random moves to increase representation. Instead, they were new opportunities for high-potential people and strategic hires and the quality of our team output has never been better.

To measure our own efforts, we are creating a scorecard that will track multiple levels of diversity of our own global marketing organization. We are far from perfect, and I know there will be challenges, but I am committed to immediate, global, impact, rigorously measuring our performance and being transparent about the gaps to overcome.

I am asking the same of each of you. My expectation is that in the next 30 days, you will deliver formal plans – and within 12 months make good on those plans. Thank you for working to significantly increase the percentage of women in top creative and strategic roles on our account.

We owe this to ourselves, to each other and to future generations. By making the important and necessary changes today, together we can bend the arc of history in favor of inclusion and opportunity.

Now comes the proof of our commitment. Thank you for joining us.


Antonio Lucio

Chief Marketing & Communications Officer

HP Inc.