[Editor's note: I've asked our Big Tent contributors to respond to the news that famed civil-rights attorney Cyrus Mehri -- who's brought discrimination suits against Coke and Texaco and played a part in getting the NFL to hire more African-American coaches -- has commissioned a study to look at the lack of diversity in ad agencies. We'd also love to hear your take on the subject, so respond in comments or answer our poll question.]
It is unfortunate that these actions are necessary to really see attention placed where it is needed. I agree with Mr. Mehri's assessment. Many of the businesses (such as Coke and Texaco) that have gone through this process have been forced to adopt real change initiatives that have resulted in significant success in diversity leadership from all underrepresented ethnicity groups, not just African Americans. And that legal action has also resulted in competitive advantages and innovation that have financially benefited those companies and industries.
Hopefully, the smart agencies will see the challenge as an opportunity to address persistent talent-development deficiencies and will make middle management more accountable for career development and creating an inclusive environment. One of the biggest barriers is the perceived challenge in transitioning high-achieving marketing talent without agency experience. Agencies must deal with the challenge of "perceived lack of supply" and attack it head-on. Identifying those who have been successful making the transition will be good for agencies and, more importantly, will offer new thinking and innovative solutions to client problems brought from a fresh perspective.