Thanks to Harry Picken founder and director of Wave Marketing for this reflection piece on the teams Diversity and Inclusion training. 

We all have biases. Every single one of us and we don’t often know that we’re doing it or why. We also have the ability to run checks and balances on our own bias. Therefore it’s important to recognise this. Everyone on Earth is a product of their environment, and humans are like sponges – we absorb much of what we see from our parents and peers’ wisdom and values to teachers at school or the shopkeeper down the road.

This means that inadvertently we have developed biases. Some good, some bad. Recognising this is a great first step towards creating a more tolerant, open world. It is also an essential consideration for any organisation who values their clients, partners and prospects. Marketers play a fundamental role in this journey as they produce the subliminal messages that culturally we absorb on a daily basis. 

This is why the team at Wave Marketing Agency took part in four weeks of Diversity, Inclusion, Cohesion and Equity (DICE) Training with Bristol-based diversity and inclusion company, BCohCo. During the process, every member of the team faced their biases, challenged assumptions and learned how to champion diversity and equality in the workplace and beyond. 

Taking the steps to confront internal bias

“We want to make sure our team members are open, loving, tolerant people who can acknowledge their shortcomings and make changes to overcome them – myself included”, says Harry Picken, Founder and Director of Wave, summarising their ambition behind this process.

BCohCo was launched in early 2020 and is spearheaded by Katie Donovan-Adekanmbi who teaches organisations about Cross-Cultural LiteracyTM. The daughter of a White English/Irish mother and Black Jamaican father, Katie often found herself as the only ethnic minority person living and socialising in White spaces. There was always a sense she was different and that something was happening in the world that she needed to understand. Through her company, Katie now teaches individuals and organisations about that very same understanding. 

Delivered as four 2-hour training sessions, Katie taught everyone at Wave about the history and purpose of the Equality Act, then had Wave interrogate its own biases. Katie then taught the team how to overcome these biases and become diversity, inclusion, cohesion and equity (DICE) champions.

“Sometimes, people don’t know what to say to each other. They don’t know if their actions feature bias. They worry about causing offence. They don’t know how to handle open discrimination, explains Katie. “But, we are all learners. BCohCo’s DICE programme gives people the ability to have brave, uncomfortable conversations underpinned by trust and respect.

“We create DICE champions who will build communities as the workforce grows and welcome everyone to the fold, regardless of their background, age, race, ability or religion. This is the only way to beat back cognitive dissonance and fight your organisation’s bias.”

Biases prevent smart decisions and accelerate stereotypes 

But there is also another fundamental reason Wave took part in the diversity training. On a day to day basis marketers make data-informed decisions on marketing strategies and collateral. Biases prevent smart decisions and biases also accelerate stereotypes.

For example, without being able to confront bias, we might assume that all IT, finance and business leaders are white men and that women are PAs. We might assume that someone in a position of power with a unisex name such as Alex is white man, when Alex could be short for Alexa or Alejandro too. 

This is clearly an inaccurate version of the world. As a marketing agency, Wave felt the importance to dig beyond stereotypes to understand audiences and provide progressive and inclusive work for its clients. 

Following the training, the agency implemented some immediate changes to its roster of clients. For their American preschool client Kids Konnect, they now use inclusive language like referring to parents as “grown ups”, “parents” or “family” instead of as “mum and dad” as a potential customer could be part of a same-sex couple. For UK-based mountain bike brand Contour Collective, Wave worked with them to promote diversity in the sport with the successful “Women in Mountain Biking” series. 

By undertaking the training, companies like Wave now have the ability to think critically about their marketing efforts regarding race, sexuality, gender, disability, marriage, sex and religion, and make sure our efforts are sensitive, inclusive and spread tolerance. 

As a result of their training with BCohCo, Wave has since pledged to have active equality, equity and diversity practices and policies in place for company operations. When hiring, they will broaden searches and actively look to hire from protected demographics and they now promote inclusive content to their clients when preparing strategies and developing brands.