A recent McKinsey & Co. study found that 41% of employees who have recently quit their jobs cite lack of career development or advancement opportunities as the reason for their decision. In fact, this is the No. 1 reason people are leaving their jobs, even more so than inadequate compensation and work-life balance. And research shows that this problem is particularly prevalent for employees from underrepresented backgrounds.
The List—a select group of marketing, advertising and media leaders assembled by Ad Age in partnership with Meta—has been working toward addressing underrepresentation and work-life balance in the industry since its inception in 2019. In 2021, The List set out to further the 2020 List’s mission to increase diversity, equity and inclusion in senior leadership up to and including the C-suite. Most notably, the 2021 class launched its pilot mentorship program Generation Next, focused on diverse advertising and marketing professionals with three to five years of experience—because this was the cohort that studies had consistently revealed were most in danger of leaving the industry due to lack of advancement opportunities.
The List created Generation Next in collaboration with the diversity organizations Management Leadership for Tomorrow and the Asian American Advertising Federation. Mentees of diverse backgrounds from MLT and the 3AF were paired with List mentors. The List 2022's mission: growing Generation Next.
Introducing The List 2022
On July 19 in New York, for the first time since February 2020, the incoming class of The List had its inaugural meeting the old-fashioned way: in person. In addition to the 30 or so attendees at the Meta Partnership Center in Hudson Yards, more than a dozen List members joined virtually. Similar to The List's gathering in Cannes, representatives from all three previous List classes—who have volunteered to rejoin The List as Generation Next mentors—were present.
The List 2022 includes Elicia Azali, chief marketing officer, American Family Insurance; Karan Dang, former director of creative, The Walt Disney Co.; Ryan Detert, CEO, Influential; Gonzalo Del Fa, president, GroupM Multicultural; Esi Eggleston Bracey, executive VP and chief operating officer of personal care, Unilever North America; Wiliam Esparza, founder and CEO, Hyphenated; Seth Freeman, VP, marketing and communications, BlueLinx; Jackie Gagne, senior VP, multicultural marketing, Warner Bros. Discovery; Ahmad Islam, founder and CEO, Ten35; Soyoung Kang, CMO, Eos; Isaac Mizrahi, CEO, Alma; Charlyn Okigbo, former head of sales and business development, Amazon; Jen Passaniti, head of production, Highdive; Christena Pyle, chief equity officer, Dentsu; Ryan Robertson, senior VP, marketing, Group Black; Danny Robinson, chief creative officer, The Martin Agency; Randy Romero, social media director, GSD&M; Sheereen Russell, senior VP, ad sales and inclusive content monetization strategy, Warner Bros. Discovery; Detavio Samuels, CEO, Revolt TV; Mo Said, founder and creative director, Mojo Supermarket; Kwame Taylor-Hayford, co-founder, Kin; Titania Tran, copywriter, Wieden + Kennedy Portland; Erik Wade, North America brand director, MLB, Nike; KK Walker, group creative director, Google Brand Studio; Aaron Walton, co-founder and CEO, Walton Isaacson; Bonnie Wan, head of brand strategy, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners; Melanie Washington, senior VP, Media Link; and Kai D. Wright, author and Columbia University lecturer.
Joining the incoming class for this meeting were List 2021 members Whitney Headen, CEO, 19th & Park; Jovan Martin, U.S. head of beauty and personal care media, Unilever; Carmen Rodriguez, chief client officer, Gut; List 2020 members E. Garrett Bewkes IV, publisher, National Review; Lauren Franklin, founder and CEO, Summerjax; Shannon Jones, co-founder, Verb; Harry Román-Torres, chief brand strategy officer and managing director, Droga5; Krystle Watler, head of creative agency partnerships, North America, TikTok; and List 2019 members Catherine Davis, consultant and advisor, Think.First, and Meredith Guerriero, chief operating officer, Klover.
Also in attendance were partners and friends of The List such as Indrajit Majumdar, Zee Entertainment head of content, marketing and brand partnerships for North America and Latin America and president of the 3AF; Sylvia Zhou, global industry strategy and partnerships lead, Meta; Alena Chiang, global marketing solutions industry manager, Meta; and Tiana Idoni-Koppel, global marketing lead, Meta Blueprint—as well as Generation Next mentees Glenys Fernandez, senior manager, brand marketing, Atwell Suites, InterContinental Hotels Group, and Rafiat Kasumu, product marketing intern at Instagram.
The meeting was hosted by Ad Age President and Editor-in-Chief Dan Peres and Meta Global Director of Industry and Community Marketing Shauna Sweeney. Peres kicked things off by sharing his personal connection with being both mentor and mentee during his career.
“Years ago, there was someone I’d call on for advice," Peres recalled. "He’d push me in different directions and was an amazing sounding board. Years later, while I was having lunch with him, I asked ‘How come even when I wasn't working for you, you were always there?' He said ‘Because I'm invested in you.’ It was an amazing thing to hear. Now as I work with people in journalism, I understand what it means to be invested in someone. If there’s anything I can say about the mentor-mentee relationship, it’s you need to make the investment. You need to show up. You have to put in the time."
Sweeney clarified the unique talent comprising The List—as well as the unique opportunity such a gathering presented.
“This is the group that changes and transforms business, has an incredible capacity to tell stories, and has huge platforms to spread powerful messages," Sweeney said. "What happens when you focus that on really changing someone's life—one individual's life? What magic can come from that we have yet to see.”
The List 2019, 2020 and 2021: The road so far
The meeting agenda was moderated by Ad Age Studio 30 Editor John Dioso and Contributing Editor Natalie Zfat, who together have been The List's project managers since its inception in 2019. Dioso and Zfat updated the 2022 class about their predecessors' achievements, including launching the Ask About It campaign and naming the companies with the best family leave policies in 2019.
List 2020 member Garrett Bewkes explained how after months of one-on-one meetings the 2020 and 2021 classes banded together to create the Generation Next mentorship. Bewkes and fellow 2020 member Lauren Franklin partnered to create and curate a robust educational curriculum that focused on four main pillars: business fundamentals, work environment and culture, networking and presenting, and management and leadership. Under each pillar were individual lessons.
“We created these North Star statements for each lesson so that when the mentees walked away they would have one key takeaway," Bewkes explained. “This industry is incredibly challenging and there’s a lot to overcome, and we wanted to help combat the unconscious bias that sometimes manifests itself in the mentorship itself.”
List 2021 member Whitney Headen discussed how the program culminated in a group project in which mentees worked together to develop a holistic marketing campaign to drive inclusion in the workforce and promote mentorship. One team was then selected to share their proposal at Advertising Week New York last October. One group pitched an idea for a mentorship matching app (think Hinge or Bumble for mentors and mentees).