Mapping Our Future: Upcoming D&I Action at Fenton

As a mission-driven agency, Fenton’s client work is intensely focused on rights and equity. Our current work each day includes campaigns and clients fighting racism, sexism, anti-semitism, anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant policy. This work is increasingly intersectional, as many of our campaigns rally diverse communities to push for solutions that help multiple communities: access to health care, equal access to education, voting rights and climate justice.

This work is who we are, and what brought many of us to Fenton.

Like many progressive organizations, though, we’ve had to take a hard look at ourselves and ask tough questions – not just about the clients we take on and the work we do, but who we are as a company. We may work for justice, but are we a diverse, inclusive organization that truly welcomes and supports people of color, women and LGBT people?

I read every day about “Diversity & Inclusion” (D&I) in the workplace, and about how to build an organization where D&I is more than a buzzword. It’s not easy. Many business leaders still struggle to explain what D&I really means. The issue isn’t concrete or uniform; it’s broad and takes on different meanings and contexts for different organizations, based on their history, values, current diversity and inclusivity of staff. Among the sectors we serve, D&I is a key imperative but often lacks a long-term roadmap or a formal organizational structure.

So how are we doing?

Fenton finds itself in a unique position. Through the commitment and focus of our Managing Directors, and as an organization that works deeply in racial, social and gender justice we’ve been able to attract and build a genuinely diverse staff. Currently, Fenton’s staff is nearly half People of Color (43%). Women hold 53% and people of color hold 38% of the company’s leadership positions, with substantial representation among LGBT people and various cultural backgrounds. Particularly for the PR industry (which is overall 88% white), I’m proud of this diversity. Ultimately, it’s a strong foundation to build from.

But having a diverse staff is not enough. We need core staff to see more diversity reflected in Fenton’s leadership. We’ve long-employed an “ad hoc” approach to D&I, but have no formal policy. And while we are proud of our diversity recruitment and hiring, there is more we can do to improve retention, both for People of Color and employees across the board. A programmatic roadmap may be challenging to establish, but that’s no excuse not to make one.

Much of this has crystallized for me over the last 6 months as we’ve been proud to support as a client initiative “CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion,” founded by PwC CEO Tim Ryan. I’ve been moved by Ryan’s response to the awful killing of Botham Jean, a PwC employee, and by CEO Action’s openness to guidance from grassroots organizations and racial justice leaders.

With over 650 signatories, CEO Action comprises the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance diversity in the workplace. Joining this community has connected me with hundreds of other business leaders and with tools to enact meaningful, intentional steps toward inclusion. As an independent agency, the share of resources and best practices between CEOs can be instrumental in developing a D&I frameworks.

In joining CEO Action, I wanted to make some firm commitments for Fenton. By the end of 2019, we’re committed to:

  • Holding unconscious bias training for all employees, starting this summer. In recognizing our own biases and identifying our cultural “blind spots,” This training will be one as of the required “courses” in our new organizational training program.
  • A clear, actionable Diversity & Inclusion policy, program and roadmap for Fenton.
  • Specific metrics and goals for recruitment, hiring and overall staffing at Fenton.
  • An increased focus on diversity retention in our professional development work.
  • We also hope to drive meaningful conversations from guest speakers, “Day of Learning,” retreats and other Fenton programming.

At the heart of our work for equity are clients like Color of Change, Facing History & Ourselves, March On, National Women’s Law Center, PrEP for All and many of the foundations making racial justice an imperative: W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kresge Foundation, the Irvine Foundation, California Community Foundation, Seattle Foundation and others. Our most important work for justice runs through them.

As we grow and learn alongside our clients, we’re excited to explore CEO Action, and to hold ourselves accountable for real, meaningful commitments to Diversity & Inclusion.