Diversity Programs Work ... And They're Necessary

The Reports of the Death of Diversity Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

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Tiffany Warren Tiffany R. Warren
I, like many others, took pause after reading the Wall Street Journal editorial page deputy editor Daniel Henninger declare that diversity is dead. His unsettling declaration is based on the findings of a recent Harvard University study by Professor Robert Putnam. I fervently disagree. Diversity, in fact, is not dead and is the very thing that breathed life into not only my education but also my career.

To provide perspective as to why my commitment for equality in all its forms (employment, GLBT, marketing, compensation) in advertising runs so deep, allow me to share with you my journey and why diversity programs are not a hand out but a hand up.

Thirty-three years ago my mother set aside her dreams in order to make mine come true.

When I was three years old, she enrolled me in St. James Head Start, a government sponsored program that gave multicultural, inner-city children in Boston a solid foundation to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. She then enrolled me in The Fresh Air Fund, where I spent a summer as a 3 ½-year old in Maine. In order to advance my education, she enrolled me in advance 4th and 5th grade classes at Curtis Guild Elementary School in East Boston miles from my home in Roxbury. In order to manifest the dreams she privately held for me, she urged me to apply to The Winsor School, where I received 100% financial aid for seven years and became part of the biggest incoming class of Black students in Winsor's history. I was one of five Black girls out of sixty White girls.

During my senior year, my mother helped me fill out my application for Inroads, where I spent three summers as a marketing intern for Verizon. During my last year in college, I attended a presentation by Elizabeth Talerman, an AEF speaker, who was a group director on CVS at Ingalls, Quinn and Johnson. Elizabeth became one of my earliest mentors and encouraged me to apply to a new program funded by The Ad Club of Boston. Because of Elizabeth, I became absolutely certain that the advertising industry is where I belonged and I left Inroads where I was making $8,000 per summer (far more than I would have earned as a summer intern in advertising) to become part of the first group of interns to receive The Arnold Rosoff Ad Club Foundation scholarship. This scholarship program was founded in honor of Arnold Z. Rosoff, founder of Arnold Worldwide. As an Ad Club Foundation intern, I spent my last summer in college as a traffic intern at Ingalls, Quinn and Johnson. I had the best summer of my life and Bink Garrison, CEO of IQ&J, assured me I had a bright future in the business. At the end of my internship, I was nominated for and became part of the first class of the AAF Promising Minority Students Program. The following year I started my first job in advertising at Hill Holliday.

At every turn during the last thirty years, diversity programs provided me with an opportunity to succeed but I could not have succeeded if I was not prepared. People have often said to me, "You are so lucky!" If "lucky" means I was prepared to take advantage of opportunities that came my way then I accept that I am lucky.

As a beneficiary of diversity programs, I have had to sacrifice a lot but in the end my "luck" provided me with the opportunities of a lifetime that in turn assured me a lifetime of opportunities.
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