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Agency Life

Closing the Diversity Gap

Closing the Diversity Gap

Michael Carnevale

Michael Carnevale

February 5, 2019

Havas Chicago’s Pilar McQuirter on the importance of bringing culture to the table.

"To ensure equity, you must create space for the advancement of those who are affected by the circumstances of inequality in diverse environments."

Pilar McQuirter, Strategist at Havas Chicago and Diversity Inclusion Lead, talks about #BlackAtWork, the importance of not only diversity and inclusion, but equity, and shares some of the initiatives coming out of the Havas Faces program.

 

How’d you get your start as a strategist?

I started out in the ad world as an AAE, and I hustled to get my hands on any strategic work I could—pro-bono work, proactive competitive, and trend reports for my team in my spare time. Outside of work, I was consulting as a brand strategist for the artist/activist/educator Malcolm London. It was the combination of both of those jobs that landed me a full-time strategy role at the Annex Chicago.

How do your work skills in strategy help with your personal projects?

The journey for deeper understanding that I embark on as a strategist allows me to feel more connected with people and the world around me. My personal projects have the same depth. The side projects I embark on are always rooted in community with the hopes that it’ll be something that anyone can learn and grow from by using empathy as a bridge to bring folks closer together.

You’ve been called “a culturally conscious strategist.” Tell us about that.

It was through the MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program) where I truly understood the power of culture. I was immersed in an environment where people were encouraged to be their whole selves. It’s important for me to bring culture to the table in a meeting so that we can discuss the nuances of intersectionality and create work that sparks a connection that feels effortless.

What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?

At Havas Chicago, we worked with Malcolm London to define diversity and inclusion as he is co-leading this effort alongside me.

Diversity is defined as the structural and social differences that form the basis of inequality and potential for bias, including, for example, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, socioeconomic class, disability, religion, citizenship status, and country of origin. Inclusion is an understanding that the intersectionality of all these identifiers creates unique circumstances for our individual struggles and ensures that everyone feels accepted, safe, valued, and supported at work. I’d also like to add in equity, which shouldn’t be confused with equality because equity is the work that it takes to reach equality. To ensure equity, you must create space for the advancement of those who are affected by the circumstances of inequality in diverse environments.

How’d you come to head up the D&I initiatives at Havas Chicago?

BLACK AT WORK started it all. My boss, Michael Fair, is a Strategy Director and a part of the initial Black At Work squad. He created space for me to co-lead the February 2018 activation with him.

I continued to collaborate with Malcolm London in the development of our D&I programming and together we worked to come up with internal programming that coincided with the conversation taking place in our lobby, which included: a screening of Black Panther and a panel discussion that restated the importance of representation in media. We also launched an employee-led internal resources group called Havas Faces, which meets weekly.

"I’d encourage everyone to burst their social bubble and learn from people who live differently than them. Hopefully, it expands your worldview."

What’s your process for creating specific initiatives?

I defined a process called cultural engineering, which is a culture-first approach to diversity and inclusion—an active practice of transforming our culture to meet the needs of our people at every level through curated programming informed by authentic, interpersonal relationships with employees.

Tell us a little about the “Black at Work” campaign.

Black at Work started as an experiential activation that sheds light on the microaggressive and racially awkward moments that Black People experience in the workplace. In its inception, it existed as an experiential activation in our lobby that explored what it’s like to navigate work as a black person. We’ve continued this central theme through each activation since we’ve launched, and expanded upon it with programming and specific recruitment efforts. Since its inception in 2017, we’ve had three pop-up activations, one of which took place in November at the 3% Conference in Chicago.

What are some of your most successful initiatives, so far?

I’m most proud of the development of an employee-led D&I group called Havas Faces, which encourages us to face every challenge head-on and challenge every face to be a part of a more inclusive environment. Each week, we face a new topic and discuss it amongst the group. Some discussions become internal activations for the agency.  

We’ve launched some awesome programming this year. One example took place during Suicide Prevention Month and Mental Health Month. Havas Faces redesigned our fulltime healthcare benefits around our offerings specific to Mental Health & Wellness, and we also offered complimentary art therapy sessions at the Chicago office and Annex.

What do you hope people get from of these?

First and foremost, a sense of community, belonging, and inspiration. I hope that people can form deeper connections with those around them, and learn something new about the world in a way that inspires them to transform their work and day-to-day experience with those around them.

What’s a trend that you’ve identified recently that’s related to diversity and inclusion?

The words diversity and inclusion… just even saying it is trendy. On a serious note, I’ve seen more women in positions of power, which is phenomenal, but I want us to all push toward intersectionality in this work to ensure that, even among women at the top, we see a range of women from different backgrounds and lived experiences.

Diversity and inclusion are obviously hot topics in the industry today—so why is it still hard for many to talk about it?

Diversity and inclusion are centered in someone’s lived experience. It’s hard to talk about it mainly because it’s so closely intertwined with personhood, and if you don’t live it, then it’s hard for people to speak about it unless they educate themselves. Secondly, I also think people don’t do enough self-education. Often times the ones who do the educating are the same people who are negatively impacted by inequity, which, quite honestly, can be exhausting. I’d encourage everyone to burst their social bubble and learn from people who live differently than them. Hopefully, it expands your worldview. I’ve learned a lot from LGBTQIA Activists, such as Chella Man and Indya Moore, as well as people younger than myself, such as Yara Shahidi, people who unpack the everyday experience, such as Rachel Cargle, and those who always work with their local community for the better, such as Malcolm London.

There are so many more amazing people/publications that talk about this work, and the more you learn about it, the closer you can connect with those around you. I encourage you to do so as I have benefited from it immensely as I continue to learn and unlearn every day.

"To ensure equity, you must create space for the advancement of those who are affected by the circumstances of inequality in diverse environments."

Pilar McQuirter, Strategist at Havas Chicago and Diversity Inclusion Lead, talks about #BlackAtWork, the importance of not only diversity and inclusion, but equity, and shares some of the initiatives coming out of the Havas Faces program.

 

How’d you get your start as a strategist?

I started out in the ad world as an AAE, and I hustled to get my hands on any strategic work I could—pro-bono work, proactive competitive, and trend reports for my team in my spare time. Outside of work, I was consulting as a brand strategist for the artist/activist/educator Malcolm London. It was the combination of both of those jobs that landed me a full-time strategy role at the Annex Chicago.

How do your work skills in strategy help with your personal projects?

The journey for deeper understanding that I embark on as a strategist allows me to feel more connected with people and the world around me. My personal projects have the same depth. The side projects I embark on are always rooted in community with the hopes that it’ll be something that anyone can learn and grow from by using empathy as a bridge to bring folks closer together.

You’ve been called “a culturally conscious strategist.” Tell us about that.

It was through the MAIP (Multicultural Advertising Internship Program) where I truly understood the power of culture. I was immersed in an environment where people were encouraged to be their whole selves. It’s important for me to bring culture to the table in a meeting so that we can discuss the nuances of intersectionality and create work that sparks a connection that feels effortless.

What’s the difference between diversity and inclusion?

At Havas Chicago, we worked with Malcolm London to define diversity and inclusion as he is co-leading this effort alongside me.

Diversity is defined as the structural and social differences that form the basis of inequality and potential for bias, including, for example, race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexuality, socioeconomic class, disability, religion, citizenship status, and country of origin. Inclusion is an understanding that the intersectionality of all these identifiers creates unique circumstances for our individual struggles and ensures that everyone feels accepted, safe, valued, and supported at work. I’d also like to add in equity, which shouldn’t be confused with equality because equity is the work that it takes to reach equality. To ensure equity, you must create space for the advancement of those who are affected by the circumstances of inequality in diverse environments.

How’d you come to head up the D&I initiatives at Havas Chicago?

BLACK AT WORK started it all. My boss, Michael Fair, is a Strategy Director and a part of the initial Black At Work squad. He created space for me to co-lead the February 2018 activation with him.

I continued to collaborate with Malcolm London in the development of our D&I programming and together we worked to come up with internal programming that coincided with the conversation taking place in our lobby, which included: a screening of Black Panther and a panel discussion that restated the importance of representation in media. We also launched an employee-led internal resources group called Havas Faces, which meets weekly.

"I’d encourage everyone to burst their social bubble and learn from people who live differently than them. Hopefully, it expands your worldview."

What’s your process for creating specific initiatives?

I defined a process called cultural engineering, which is a culture-first approach to diversity and inclusion—an active practice of transforming our culture to meet the needs of our people at every level through curated programming informed by authentic, interpersonal relationships with employees.

Tell us a little about the “Black at Work” campaign.

Black at Work started as an experiential activation that sheds light on the microaggressive and racially awkward moments that Black People experience in the workplace. In its inception, it existed as an experiential activation in our lobby that explored what it’s like to navigate work as a black person. We’ve continued this central theme through each activation since we’ve launched, and expanded upon it with programming and specific recruitment efforts. Since its inception in 2017, we’ve had three pop-up activations, one of which took place in November at the 3% Conference in Chicago.

What are some of your most successful initiatives, so far?

I’m most proud of the development of an employee-led D&I group called Havas Faces, which encourages us to face every challenge head-on and challenge every face to be a part of a more inclusive environment. Each week, we face a new topic and discuss it amongst the group. Some discussions become internal activations for the agency.  

We’ve launched some awesome programming this year. One example took place during Suicide Prevention Month and Mental Health Month. Havas Faces redesigned our fulltime healthcare benefits around our offerings specific to Mental Health & Wellness, and we also offered complimentary art therapy sessions at the Chicago office and Annex.

What do you hope people get from of these?

First and foremost, a sense of community, belonging, and inspiration. I hope that people can form deeper connections with those around them, and learn something new about the world in a way that inspires them to transform their work and day-to-day experience with those around them.

What’s a trend that you’ve identified recently that’s related to diversity and inclusion?

The words diversity and inclusion… just even saying it is trendy. On a serious note, I’ve seen more women in positions of power, which is phenomenal, but I want us to all push toward intersectionality in this work to ensure that, even among women at the top, we see a range of women from different backgrounds and lived experiences.

Diversity and inclusion are obviously hot topics in the industry today—so why is it still hard for many to talk about it?

Diversity and inclusion are centered in someone’s lived experience. It’s hard to talk about it mainly because it’s so closely intertwined with personhood, and if you don’t live it, then it’s hard for people to speak about it unless they educate themselves. Secondly, I also think people don’t do enough self-education. Often times the ones who do the educating are the same people who are negatively impacted by inequity, which, quite honestly, can be exhausting. I’d encourage everyone to burst their social bubble and learn from people who live differently than them. Hopefully, it expands your worldview. I’ve learned a lot from LGBTQIA Activists, such as Chella Man and Indya Moore, as well as people younger than myself, such as Yara Shahidi, people who unpack the everyday experience, such as Rachel Cargle, and those who always work with their local community for the better, such as Malcolm London.

There are so many more amazing people/publications that talk about this work, and the more you learn about it, the closer you can connect with those around you. I encourage you to do so as I have benefited from it immensely as I continue to learn and unlearn every day.

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