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    Food For Thought About Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI)

    Family, friends, IG followers, and a few SMPS members know that I love to cook. Since everyone needs to eat, I share often. However, I’m not an accomplished baker. Rather than struggle, I committed to increase my skills and spent the past months making easy, one-bowl cakes. The range of cakes I’ve made includes orange ricotta, pear upside down, banana, and apple. All this cooking got me thinking about the limitations and pigeonholing of the one-bowl method and how it relates to us as marketers. I also reflected on coded language in food idioms sneakily used to get away with exclusionary practices we are sometimes subjected to.

    Let’s chop it up and examine a few:
    Mise En Place: French for everything in its place. Positioning.
    "Mise En Place is the religion of all competent marketers.”

    Boiling The Ocean: To undertake a daunting, often negative task.
    “Why is the marketing department trying to Boil the Ocean with their insistence on focusing on DEI initiatives. Do our clients really care?”

    Bad Apples & Mustard:  A bad or corrupt person in a group, typically one whose behavior is likely to have a detrimental influence on their business.
    "Minority and women-owned consultants are bad apples; they never cut the mustard.”

    Seat at the Table: Often reserved for those who are considered to have influence and power to make decisions and effect change. The table has become a symbol of power over or power with.
    “I don’t understand why the Marketing Director has asked to attend the executive board meeting…she’s always going on about having a seat at the table.”

    Many would agree that 2020 blew all the circuit breakers, my oven included. When asked to serve as SMPS Chapter Diversity & Inclusion Advisor, I had no idea what I wanted to accomplish when the world was reeling from Covid-19, social reckoning, and hopelessness. What I did want to do was advocate for bringing awareness to our members so they could go beyond the noble achievement of composing a nifty DEI statement and check off a compliance box for the principals. Soliciting opinions, creating events, and encouraging engagement was about leveraging our power as essential professionals. No, we are not just overhead or support staff. Firms comfortable with outdated perspectives about marketing and DEI as a necessary evil may continue to have the home field advantage but their expiration date is looming. Jumping into the DEI arena calls for a new type of leadership and mindset that we as marketers must embrace.

    If we are serious about DEI here are some ideas to consider (not exclusive):

    • Everyone has to start somewhere; nobody has it all figured out.
    • DEI is not a marketing initiative.
    • Communicate to understand, not to be right.
    • Be willing to learn about DEI and take action. People will remember.
    • Revamp your company workplace culture. Toss out the rotten eggs.
    • Start with one DEI initiative and stick to it; tiny tweaks become big changes.
    • DEI will not restrict success nor is it a distraction. It’s a priority.
    • Track your DEI progress because it will take time. Use data.
    • DEI is the top driver of innovation and a critical component of inclusive leadership.
    • There’s an opportunity cost of ignoring DEI. Believe the Marketing and BD people.
    • Dedicate time and resources and acknowledge DEI accomplishments.
    • Revise and implement company policies so they work for everyone. Be mindful of punitive fine print.
    • Practice the art of listening; it’s a key to success.
    • If DEI tasks make you anxious, hire an expert – going it alone could get you in a pickle.

    2021 is the time for a reset and learning to bake a Bundt or multi-layered cake. It may seem a tall order, much like me mastering the one-bowl cake, but DEI makes a company fruitful.

    Kim Pipkin is the SMPS SFBAC Chapter Advisor For Diversity & Inclusion.

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