In an industry that is traditionally predominantly white and middle class, media agency network MediaCom UK is striving to build a workforce that reflects the makeup of British society.
Currently, its 1,400 employees, based across London, the north of England, Edinburgh and Dublin, are 54% female and 19% black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame).
When it comes to ethnicity, in particular, the journey is still ongoing, says Nancy Lengthorn, head of diversity and inclusion at MediaCom UK: “When we drill down into the levels, our two most junior levels are at 30% [representation of Bame groups], and it’s my job to keep pushing that so it keeps going through the ranks.
“Diverse teams, and teams that are authentic, produce better work and are more creative. Diversity for us is not a [corporate social responsibility] thing, it’s not a nice, fluffy thing, it’s absolutely a business essential.”
For Lengthorn, ensuring an employee feels heard, through elements such as reverse mentoring and resource groups, is in itself part of boosting wellbeing, but the organisation also has specific projects that focus on the cross-section between inclusion and wellness. At the heart of this is mental health.
Towards the end of 2017, MediaCom implemented a network of allies, trained by Mental Health at Work. The two-day training course included collaborative sessions among the 50 or so attendees, during which they devised the organisation’s ongoing mental wellbeing strategy.
This strategy has evolved with diversity at its core. For example, Stonewall ran a talk for employees in late 2017 on mental health issues among the LGBT+ community, and the organisation hosted various sessions around mental wellbeing specifically for Bame individuals in October 2018.
“We want people to get an insight into other people’s lives all the time, to enable them to better understand and to challenge the way they think,” Lengthorn explains.
As part of this ongoing journey, in August 2018 MediaCom undertook qualitative research into the needs of its people, particularly those in the LGBT+ and Bame communities.
“We sat for an hour and we spoke about what their life is like, about the challenges they face and what their experience was like in the building,” says Lengthorn. “[The aim was to] really understand exactly what’s going on, instead of making assumptions.
“We didn’t want to put in [wellbeing supports] that were really generic. It’s a massive cliché, but you just have to talk to people.”