Diversity Chief Aims to Make Ogilvy 'Employer of Choice'

Donna Pedro Says Need to Focus on Hiring, Retention Not Unique to Ad Industry

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As newly tapped chief diversity officer at Ogilvy North America's New York office, Donna Pedro is charged with developing and implementing its diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Donna Pedro
Donna Pedro
She's a principal player in helping the WPP Group agency become an employer of choice for candidates of all backgrounds and key to helping the agency meet goals it set with the New York City Commission on Human Rights to achieve greater workforce diversity over a three-year period. (Ogilvy was one of 16 agencies that last September signed agreements with the commission pledging to improve hiring and retention of minorities.)

Ms. Pedro talked with Ad Age reporter Lisa Sanders about her background, her reasons for joining Ogilvy, and her goals as chief diversity officer.

Advertising Age: How did you become an expert in this area?

Ms. Pedro: I started my career in human resources, working at companies including American Broadcasting Cos. in New York, New Jersey and Chicago; Chemical Bank; and Nabisco. In 1989, I moved to Sony Music Entertainment, and, from a job focused on hiring information-technology specialists, moved into other roles, ultimately becoming corporate head of diversity and staffing. In the late '80s, a lot of conversation focused on the workforce of 2000, which predicted an increase in women and people of color in the workplace. Companies were trying to get ahead of the curve. At Sony, I was presented with the opportunity to start a new department. Since then, working with corporations around the issues of diversity and inclusion has become my life's work.

AA: Why join Ogilvy?

Ms. Pedro: I first met with Ogilvy nearly two years ago as consultant with the Future Work Institute, which I joined in 2002 after Sony. My focus then was to conduct diversity training, which were half-day sessions that focused on discussion about what makes each individual diverse as well as examinations of the messages about differences that are communicated in various places -- home, school or on the job. By May 2006, I became an executive-on-loan to Ogilvy, working two days a week at the agency. I believe Ogilvy understands that diversity and inclusion is important, and their goals can be achieved.

AA: What does Ogilvy need to emphasize?

Ms. Pedro: It isn't a question of emphasis. It is really about having an overall strategy that focuses on recruitment, retention and development. Specifically, it taps into the drivers of change -- communication, education and training, leadership, and measurement and accountability.

AA: Why hire a chief diversity officer?

Ms. Pedro: Basically, it's to keep the focus on diversity and inclusion. When diversity is in HR or is done strictly by a consultant, it can be lost. Most Fortune 500 companies have someone on staff like me.

AA: Agencies in New York have gotten a lot of heat in recent years for their lack of minority employees at all levels -- entry, middle and senior. Is the industry unique in this?

Ms. Pedro: I don't think the ad industry is any different from many others. When I first went to Sony, I found that young people didn't understand that there are other jobs in the music industry like information technology, marketing or finance. People need to know there are many opportunities within the ad industry that they're not aware of, in addition to creative ones, like copywriter or art director. That way, young people can say, 'Hey, there's an organization I didn't know of, and I might fit in.'

AA: How will Ogilvy attack the mid-level executive problem?

Ms. Pedro: We're working on it. We have a recruitment strategy that includes mid-level professionals as well as a pipeline. But I'd prefer not to comment because it is proprietary.

AA: Executive accountability is part of Ogilvy's diversity initiative. What specifically are you asking executives to do, and what will they be held accountable for?

Ms. Pedro: I don't want to be specific because the plan is not fully in place yet and communicated internally. It's not just hiring and retention. I've seen organizations fail when time and time again they look at representation only. It is the big picture. Diversity is about everyone. What I've found in the years that I've been doing this is that if you take a narrow focus, that's all it will be: narrow. Don't exclude anyone, including white men. Our issue here is being an employer of choice. It is a journey for Ogilvy.
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