As we near the close of 2023, it is important to take a moment to reaffirm our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as core principles and strategic imperatives at G&S Business Communications. We recognize that work in this area does not exist in a silo. Rather, it must be woven throughout the fabric of our business and community.
A key part of our commitment is annually sharing an update on DE&I at G&S today and key priorities for the year ahead. As we progress further on our DE&I journey, it is inevitable that we will encounter both successes and challenges along the way. That balance can be difficult to navigate, yet it helps to keep us clear-eyed and focused as we work to build a vibrant future for G&S and our industry.
G&S launched our first DE&I initiative in 2015. In 2020, we took a hard look at all that still needed to be done at our agency and across the industry as a whole. We pledged to significantly elevate and consistently re-evaluate our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. Since that time, through the work of our DE&I Task Force and many individuals throughout G&S, we have been able to collectively raise the tide of awareness, equitable policy and action within our organization.
In 2023, we have all watched as economic instability, global crises and a wave of legislative changes threatened the collective progress made in this area over the last few years. DE&I programs across the nation continue to be impacted by these outside pressures, but we recognize that this means our internal work at G&S is more important now than ever. Our commitment to fostering equity, safety and a sense of belonging for our workforce is authentically born out of our agency values. That commitment to more accountable leadership, inclusive practices and empowerment for historically marginalized communities remains unwavering.
As we have shared in past external updates, we have long taken an intentionally matrixed approach to DE&I at G&S. This work is underpinned by intersecting individuals and groups with responsibilities to help advance DE&I. They include:
Our Principals and Managing Directors – who must be accountable to and promote this work as leaders of the agency.
G&S DE&I Task Force – comprised of staff members who span levels, disciplines, races, ethnicities, locations and other points of identity, and who collaborate to lead the work of our seven Task Force pillars.
TDT Teams – our office-based Think Differently Together teams who create intersectional spaces for discussion, exploration, celebration and courageous conversations.
HR, Growth, Administrative, Operations and other teams who contribute critical insights and capabilities and are key to ensuring that initiatives are executed.
In 2023, G&S added a critical new dimension of leadership, appointing me as the agency’s first Vice President of DE&I. I am honored to step into this role and for the opportunity to make meaningful change alongside other agency leaders and individuals who are deeply passionate about this work. The creation of this role has allowed us to further organize our DE&I strategies across teams, helping to bring more intentionality and focus to our planning, engagement and advocacy efforts.
Where We Stand Today – G&S Demographics
Throughout the year, we admittedly saw some disappointing shifts in representation across both senior and associate levels of the agency. These trends aligned with economic headwinds impacting our clients, which meant fewer new hires at G&S than the prior 12 months – and fewer opportunities for the kind of intentional recruiting that has fueled greater representation across our staff in the past.
In 2020, we set a goal of increasing representation of people of color (POC) and underrepresented communities in leadership* to 16%. That number reached 12% at the mid-point of 2022 and although we hoped to realize that goal this year, we saw that number fall to 5% due to attrition. Of this total leadership group, 10% chose not to self-report their racial or ethnic background.
In terms of our total staff**, at the end of Q3 of 2023, 24% identified as Black or Non-Black People of Color (based on self-reporting). This is down from 27% as measured in 2022. It is important to note that in 2023, we began tracking the percentage of employees who chose not to self-report, which is 21% of our total workforce.
Our core reporting metrics are included in the following series of animated charts, showing changes from 2020 to 2023.
* Leadership roles are represented by titles of Director and above.
** Any staffing changes occurring since September 30, 2023, are not reflected in this data and will be captured in future reporting.
G&S DE&I Task Force – Updates on Key Accomplishments
Beyond the critical issue of team representation, we were focused on a wide range of actions based on the seven pillars of our DE&I Task Force. Here are examples of key accomplishments from 2023:
Connecting & Learning – Throughout the year, the agency offered numerous opportunities for learning and the open exchange of ideas on key issues through each office’s Think Differently Together (TDT) committee. Our colleagues also engaged in training through external partners and resources such as the PR Council, LinkedIn Learning and local in-person events.
G&S DE&I Portal– G&S launched a new DE&I Portal for employees to support their individual learning journeys and to centralize DE&I resources for easier access and greater awareness.
Inclusive Leadership Campaign – The DE&I Task Force Policies and Practices pillar developed detailed guidance for G&S managers on how to recognize and interrupt bias in order to give inclusive feedback. A phased launch campaign will include training sessions and ongoing education and engagement for both managers and associates in 2024.
Equitable Compensation and Pay Equity Practices– G&S continued to refine our compensation, performance review and other practices aligned with the Pay Equity Analysis previously conducted by an outside third party. Our long-term goal is to embed equitable practices in all aspects of people management and benefits offerings.
Internships & Partnerships – G&S welcomed several students from historically marginalized communities for internships in our New York, Chicago and Raleigh offices. Our HBCU university partnerships continue to grow beyond our internship programs and this year we participated in several student events including resume reviews, mock interviews and guest lectures in the spring and fall semesters at North Carolina Central University.
Lambert Legacy Scholarship & Internship - In honor of the esteemed legacy of G&S Business Communications CEO Luke Lambert, who will retire from the agency at the end of 2023, the new Lambert Legacy Scholarship and Internship is designed to support the education and empowerment of students from historically marginalized communities in the field of integrated marketing communications. The first scholarship and internship will be awarded in 2024 and the annual recipient will receive a one-time award of $5,000 and a paid, in-person internship in one of our three office locations – New York City, NY, Chicago, IL, or Raleigh, NC.
DAA Signatory – In 2023, G&S recommitted as a signatory with the Diversity Action Alliance to advocate for an equitable future for communicators of color.
In 2024, our main DE&I focus will be enhancing the experience of current staff to positively impact professional growth, success and retention. Our strategy will include significant emphasis on actively embedding inclusive leadership practices throughout the agency, particularly through the internal campaign noted above. While tied to our DE&I efforts and goals, we expect the benefits of this work to positively impact everything we do.
Hiring was slower in 2023 due to the economic climate and other challenges faced by our clients. In the year ahead, we look forward to the opportunity to welcome more new team members to G&S. And when we have open roles to fill, we intend to double-down on our ongoing commitment to building a diverse recruitment pipeline.