In late September, the mentees of The List's pilot mentorship program Generation Next gathered virtually to present their final projects: marketing campaigns that would spread the message of the value of using mentorship to improve the diverse talent crisis in the industry using the most creative and innovative tools and tech available.
The projects were the culmination of the inaugural year of Generation Next, almost a year to the day after The List—the group of advertising, marketing and media leaders assembled by Ad Age in partnership with Facebook—announced plans to create a mentorship program aimed at mid-career professionals (those with three to five years of experience) of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds. After several months of work, four groups of mentees pitched their campaigns to a panel of List judges. The prize: the opportunity to share the winning idea during a special panel—"Leveling Up: Why Diverse Mentorship Programs Can Bridge the Gap to True Equity and Inclusion"—in The Female Quotient's Virtual Equality Lounge at Advertising Week New York on Monday, Oct. 18, at 10:30 a.m. ET.
After the group presentations, the judges panel met separately to discuss the merits of each campaign idea. Although each group offered unique insights into the value of diverse mentorship and innovative proposals on how to communicate that message to the industry at large, one idea emerged as the victor: The List is proud to announce that the winner of the Generation Next 2021 project competition is group 2—which dubbed itself Team Change Agents—and its pitch for Ship It, an app that connects mentors and mentees. Congratulations!
Congratulations are also in order not just to all the teams, whose members and projects are outlined below, but to all the members of The List, the Ad Age team and our partners at Facebook and Facebook Elevate, and everyone else who volunteered their expertise and hard work to launch Generation Next—especially Management Leadership for Tomorrow and the Asian American Advertising Federation.
The long and winding road
The realization of the mentorship program affects not one but two classes of The List. Way back in early February of last year, the 2020 edition of The List met for the first time at The Modern in New York to choose its core mission for the upcoming year. After discussing various issues affecting the industry and society, including climate change and equitable family leave policies (the mission of the 2019 List), the incoming cohort quickly and unanimously decided to dedicate the year’s efforts to tackling unconscious bias and improving diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.
The subject of unconscious bias and the continuing failure of the industry at large to confront the diverse talent crisis, especially the lack of BIPOC senior leaders, inspired a vigorous discussion. The members dispersed after this inaugural meeting determined to come up with an actionable plan that could effect real change.
And then 2020 happened.
COVID-19 turned the entire country upside down, and as businesses and people gathered their wits and figured out to exist in and deal with the creeping fear of the new normal, List members' ambitious plans were put on hold. Initially, the pandemic followed by the social justice protests against systemic racism and police brutality against Black people in the wake of George Floyd's murder seemed like a one-two punch that could threaten The List's plans for 2020 indefinitely.
But when The List re-gathered—virtually for the first time—in late April, it was quickly apparent that the news had only steeled members' resolve to continue. The pandemic disruption and the social justice movement brought the core issues behind The List's DE&I mission even further into relief. The group soon decided that the best way to address the industry's diverse talent crisis was to create a mentorship program that specifically aimed at BIPOC professionals with three to five years of experience—which multiple members had identified as the group of diverse workers most at risk of dropping out of the workforce due to lack of opportunities of moving up the senior management ladder.
With that, the seeds of the Generation Next mentorship program were planted. On Oct. 8, 2020, The List announced the creation of a pilot mentorship program, and on Oct. 21, reps from the group unveiled the ideas and goals behind the program at AWNewYork 2020. As The List began planning the program and seeking partnerships with industry groups to help recruit mentees, late 2020 was on the verge of becoming 2021—and time for Ad Age and Facebook to select a new class for The List.
The List 2020, Ad Age and Facebook agreed that the mission was too important to abandon midstream, so the 2021 cohort was recruited with the idea that they would continue to work toward building and launching the mentorship program, which they agreed to do wholeheartedly. Many core members of the 2020 List agreed to stay on throughout 2021 and continued to be leaders in creating and running the program. (One 2019 List member was so excited when she heard about the program that she asked to rejoin the group.)