- Walter Frye - Vice President, Global Brand Engagement & Design, American Express
- Judy Toland - VP & Head of Scaled Solutions, Global Business Marketing and Head of Office, Facebook Chicago
- John Dioso - Editor, Ad Age Studio 30
On Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 11:30 EST, Ad Age and Facebook premiered Generation Next, a new live event series jointly produced by The List and Facebook Elevate. In Episode 1, "What Will It Take to Create a Truly Diverse Workforce," host Judy Toland, VP and Head of Scaled Solutions, Global Business Marketing, at Facebook, was joined by List member Walter Frye, VP of Global Brand Engagement at American Express. Ad Age Studio 30 Editor John Dioso moderated.
Although American Express is well known as a corporate leader in diversity and inclusion initiatives, Frye, whose global brand responsibilities include oversight of American Express' multicultural marketing strategy, is well aware of the enormous historical and systemic challenges surrounding any attempts at improving the diverse talent crisis in the industry:
"The first step for any organization is acknowledging that we live in a society where racism is the norm, and where unconscious bias is ingrained into our society and therefore naturally seeps into any organization," he said. "That means you have to be proactive to build a diverse workforce and to build an inclusive culture. It's important to start in any organization with where are you in terms of diverse representation? When you have that baseline understanding, then you can start to put goals around programs that can be designed to specifically meet those goals and those needs."
In addition to her responsibilities at Facebook, Toland is also the executive sponsor of Elevate, the company's DE&I initiative to support Black and Latinx and Hispanic communities by providing access to capital and resources for business development, as well as providing space for Black voices and stories, and internally, building a more diverse and inclusive workplace.
"I have the strong opinion that we are the diversity that we see. And if you are an early-career diverse, Black or Brown individual in an organization, and you don't see anyone at the senior levels that look like you, that can be problematic," Toland said when answering an audience question about that very subject. "The way diverse workforces truly come to life is by retaining [diverse talent]. It's DE&I: diversity, equity and inclusion. If once you get there, you don't feel included and you feel marginalized, and it's microaggressions after microaggressions, then you won't stay. It's like a leaky bucket. Making sure that you have a truly inclusive workforce when diverse candidates arrive will help really make an impact."
Last summer, during the height of the pandemic lockdown, the 2020 edition of The List—the group of 30-odd marketing, advertising and media leaders, assembled by Ad Age in partnership with Facebook—declared its core mission to confront unconscious bias by working to address the diverse talent crisis. To accomplish this goal, The List announced the upcoming launch of a pilot mentorship program aimed at the mid-career BIPOC professionals who are most in need of guidance to help them progress to the executive level, and eventually to ensure companies have that truly inclusive and representational workforce that Toland referenced.
The List recently welcomed the incoming class of 2021, which includes executives from brands including Walgreens, Procter & Gamble, Burger King, Frito-Lay, The New York Times and Anheuser-Busch InBev and agencies including Wunderman Thompson, FCB, Mindshare and Highdive. Both classes are joining forces with Elevate to build the online platform for the mentorship platform. Visit AdAge.com/thelist, AdAgeTheList.com and facebook.com/fbelevate for more information on Generation Next, as well as other upcoming events and content.