Are Your Agency Systems Equitable?Feb 20, 2023
As a culture, we spend a lot of time talking about systemic issues within our businesses, governments, and institutions. Terms like systemic racism and sexism are often discussed as issues we need to address, but seem so macro that we leave it to the people “in charge” to affect change.
The term systemic is used when discussing something that affects the whole, and consequently, cannot be changed by just one person, but by many. Agency leaders and owners are a key part of the entire business ecosystem and the equitability of the systems they have in place significantly affects the business landscape as a whole. Trying to make sure agency systems aren’t promoting systemic exclusion is not enough. It’s time to build our systems in a way that is systemically inclusive.
At Advocation, we’re focused on building the systems, processes, and best practices agencies of the future need today. After working with countless agency leaders, we’ve uncovered a number of ways in which agencies can create systemic inclusion within their operations and processes.
Salary transparency. Pay inequity is still a top concern for women across the country, especially for women of color. According to an August 2021 report from the Economic Policy Institute, Black women in jobs critical to COVID-19 recovery earn 11 percent to 27 percent less than white men. Studies suggest that if we stay on this trajectory, the United States won’t reach pay equity until 2059.
Fortunately, salary transparency is coming whether business owners and executives want it or not. Not only have several states recently passed laws requiring that organizations share a salary range with job postings, but surveys have shown that 60 percent of employees would consider switching jobs to have more salary transparency than they have with their current company. It's only a matter of time before the rest of the country follows suit, and even in states without these laws in place, companies will have to accommodate the growing demand to retain top talent.
To make a meaningful shift, we need radical transparency. Agency leaders can start by sharing salaries and creating pay scales with clear guidelines on how employees can achieve raises and promotions, instead of leaving pay equality up to chance. Clearly defining each salary level with the qualifications for achieving it ensures that there are no biases in the decision-making process.
Parental Leave. The United States is the only developed country in the world that doesn't offer paid parental leave. For women who often take on the bulk of household and child-rearing responsibilities, this dramatically affects their ability to maintain the professional growth trajectory of their male counterparts. While many companies are taking matters into their own hands on this front and working it into their PTO programs, there is a long way to go.
For agency leaders, especially those operating boutique to mid-sized agencies, this requires upfront planning to allow for time off and fund a parental leave program. However, we see these policies pay dividends in employee morale, job engagement, and retention when parents come back from time off with their families.
To ensure these systems are equitable, agencies should include policies for all types of parents including mothers, fathers, and those adopting. We have even seen agencies offer a form of this time off in order to care for aging parents.
Recruitment. One of the most common questions we hear agencies ask is how they can attract more diverse applicants to their job openings. A few ways to do this include:
- Incorporate historically Black colleges and universities into the recruitment pipeline. Many universities are not as diverse as they should be and recruiting from HBCUs will diversify an agency’s pool of candidates.
- Post to job boards that reach a more diverse candidate pool. A few examples we love include:
- Publicly speak about diversity on the agency’s channels, including the website and social media. It’s important that candidates from all backgrounds recognize that it's a priority to the company and that if they applied to join the team, it would be a safe company for them to be a part of. This is especially important for companies that are working towards building a more diverse team and perhaps don't already have a diverse team to demonstrate this as a priority on the about page. These companies must communicate that diversity is a priority in other ways.
- Ensure that once candidates get to your company, you’re walking the talk, and there are policies in place to ensure the agency doesn’t just say it’s welcoming to diversity but is actually a safe space where employees from all walks of life can thrive.
Immediate action items. There are a number of ways that agency leaders can implement quick changes to take the first steps toward making their systems more equitable.
- Update company signatures to include pronouns.
- Conduct diversity, equity, and inclusion training for agency teams. One of Advocation’s most treasured clients, Piper & Gold, offers DEI training for other companies and is a shining example of an agency that understands the role and importance of DEI in the agency landscape.
- Regularly check in on how the agency’s policies, strategies & operations stack up on diversity, equality and inclusion. Since agencies are often abreast of holidays and observances for pitching, trends, social content, etc., we recommend using this as a guidepost for checking up on the agency’s own internal systems. For example, how is the agency recognizing Transgender Awareness Week, Pride Month, Black History Month, National Hispanic Heritage Month, AAPI History Month, and National Disabilities Awareness Month?
- Keep track of progress. Creating a more equitable company will not happen overnight. Identify measurable metrics on how you will track progress, and check in on improvements year over year.
As agency leaders, we can all do our part to ensure that agency systems are equitable and promote inclusion. While we have a long way to go as a culture and country, these are the steps that add up to make real, impactful change.