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The State of African American Males in Senior Level Position in the Advertising Industry

May 2015 will be a total of 18 months that I’ve spent at the City College of New York taking part in the BIC Masters program as a Creative. During my time in the program I’ve had the opportunity to interact with a number of full service advertising agencies and I’ve observed something extremely disturbing in the communications industry; a lack of African American males with global senior leadership positions. This being the case, it was only right that I attend the long awaited round table conversation regarding the state of African American males in the communication industry.

The Chairman & CEO of the LAGRANT Foundation, Kim Hunter along with Burson Marsteller’s Worldwide Vice Chair, Patrick Ford, hosted the round table.
In attendance were a number of other industry execs along with a long list of African American males presently working in the industry at various Ad/PR agencies.
The disturbing part was, of all of the execs in attendance none looked like me.  Clearly, the time had come for young African American males working in the industry to confront the issue of diversity in the leadership roles at different agencies.       

During the round table discussion, there were multiple questions raised about the lack of African American males in high-level positions in ad/PR agencies.   This may have set a tone of uneasiness however; the purpose of the round table was not to create an awkward environment for the individuals in attendance, but to seek clarity on issues involving diversity in high-leveled positions at different Ad/PR firms.

Many African American professionals that have worked in the industry have dedicated an ample amount of time and creativity toward the growth of their perspective agencies.  The issue is many African American males have become bound by what I would like to refer to as ‘ceiling level positions’.  Executives at the round table cited statistics of African American men who are employed with various advertising agencies holding senior level positions; nonetheless, the numbers were exceptionally low.  In acknowledging the topic at hand, the execs at the round table agreed to examine and further evaluate the lack of African American males at their respective agencies occupying senior level positions.  With that being the case, we agreed to continue the conversation at a later date.

Moving forward, during the next round table discussion, which was held on April 10, 2015 at the same location as the previous round table, I was happy to learn that Burson Marsteller’s Worldwide Vice Chair, Patrick Ford had encouraged the HR department of Burson Marsteller to adopt a new approach for promoting minorities from within the organization. Although some attendees felt that his effort were not enough. I on the other hand felt that his efforts were a great start as well as sincere. In addition he’s working with Kim Hunter and other African American males to developed new ideas on how agencies can effectively work on creating opportunities for African American men to advance from within the firms they work for. Others in attendance agreed that we all must do our part to become apart of a new wave of opening doors for the growth of minorities in the Ad/Pr industry. Our next meeting is set to take place some time in August, I’ll keep you guys posted on the condition of men of color in senior level position at the different agencies.  


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